Bouchra Khalili / Stories Within Stories

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BILDMUSEET 16/10 202106/03 2022 ENGLISH

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BOUCHRA KHALILI / STORIES WITHIN STORIES

INTRODUCTION

The speech act is central to the work of Bouchra Khalili. In front of her camera, members of minorities who are excluded from citizenry talk about their own experiences, about both historical and current events, about what they themselves have been involved in or what they have witnessed. The works in the exhibition Stories Within Stories encompass a diverse range of stories about citizenship, new forms of civic imagination, resistance, solidarity and collective emancipation. In filmic practice the artist combines the many different micro-narratives with photographs, moving image, animations, and sounds, from multiple sources and eras, into a multifaceted whole. The exhibition also reflects her interest in grassroots’ media and how speech, typography, poetry and street theatre have amplified voices that would not otherwise be heard. Bouchra Khalili (b. 1975, Casablanca, Morocco) is a FrenchMoroccan artist based in Berlin, Germany. Khalili works most notably in film, photography, installation and publications. She has had solo exhibitions at MoMA, New York; MACBA, Barcelona; Jeu de Paume, Paris, and Secession, Vienna, and participated in international festivals such as the Venice Biennale, Documenta, the Sharjah Biennale and the Sydney Biennale. Khalili is professor and head of Artistic Strategies Studies at Die Angewandte Universität, Vienna, and she is one of the founders of the Moroccan artist-run organisation La Cinémathèque de Tangier. The exhibition is produced by Bildmuseet. With support from the Institut français de Suède.

Bildmuseet / 40 Years of International Contemporary Art in Umeå, Sweden


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BOUCHRA KHALILI / STORIES WITHIN STORIES

ARTWORKS IN THE EXHIBITION

Twenty-Two Hours, 2018 Video, 45 min The film Twenty-Two Hours depicts the French poet and playwright Jean Genet’s [1910-1986] trip to the United States in the spring of 1970, at the invitation of the Black Panther Party in order to support their campaign for the liberation of Bobby Seale, Chairman of the Party, at that time arbitrarily detained in New Haven. The film conveys the story through the two young activists Quiana Pontes and Vanessa Silva, who ask questions and immerse themselves in what happened. Photographs, sounds, film clips, witness accounts, reflections, questions and answers shape the story. Douglas Miranda, who was Captain of the Boston and the New Haven chapters of the Black Panther Party, and responsible for the campaign of liberation of Bobby Seale and the one who organized Genet’s tour on the East Coast, is also instrumental in the film, bearing witness to his commitment to a revolutionary movement and to his own role today. The piece touches on issues of ethics of solidarity: not speaking on behalf, nor en lieu, but as a witness. Yet it also raises questions about witness accounts – who is a witness? What does it mean to bear witness? The Twenty-Two Hours title references Jean Genet’s 1970 meeting in Jordan with the young freedom fighter Hamza, a person who came to inspire both his literary work and his politics. Twenty-two hours with Hamza was sufficient time to spark Genet’s involvement and to persuade him to choose to ally himself in support of the Palestinians’ struggle.


BILDMUSEET FLOOR 3

The Tempest Society, 2017 Video, 60 min In The Tempest Society we meet Isavella, Giannis and Elias, three residents of Athens from different backgrounds who share a will to understand more about the Greece and Europe of today. They call themselves “The Tempest Society” as a tribute to the activist theatre group Al-Assifa (“The Storm” in Arabic), which operated in Paris during the 1970s. Al-Assifa was founded by North African workers and French students who banded together and used theatre to raise awareness of migrant workers’ struggles for equal rights and against racism. In the film, the members of The Tempest Society appear alongside their guests, each of them expressing their own struggle for equal rights and calling for new forms of civic community. They express their thoughts on belonging, citizenship, inequality and solidarity. The accounts address collective protest movements arising from transformative events in the country – migrant workers’ protests, hunger strikes by Syrian refugees, and protests against the economic austerity measures imposed on Greece in 2010-2017 by the EU and the IMF (International Monetary Fund). Along with literary depictions, photographs, music and notes on a blackboard, these voices provide a complex view of contemporary Greece and Europe.


THE SPEECHES SERIES

The Speeches Series consists of three video works that all focus on speech acts, forms of self-representation, agency, and strategies of visibility of members of migrant communities in Europe and the United States.

The Speeches Series Chapter 1: Mother Tongue, 2012 Video, 23 min In preparation for filming her work Mother Tongue, Bouchra Khalili invited the involvement of five people living in exile in Paris. She asked them to choose, translate, memorise and perform sections of texts on colonialism, racism and identity written by Malcolm X, Abdelkrim El Khattabi, Édouard Glissant, Patrick Chamoiseau, Aimé Césaire and Mahmoud Darwish. The texts are recited in the speaker’s own native language, with great conviction. Despite the words being those of another, it is easy to take them for the speaker’s own.

The Speeches Series Chapter 2: Words on Streets, 2013 Video, 18 min In the film Words on Streets, five immigrants in Genoa, Italy present manifestos they themselves authored on nationality, citizenship and belonging. Performed in public spaces throughout the city, the participants in Words on Streets re-activates


the position of the “civic poet” as defined by Italian poet and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini: the singular voice standing in the public space calling for a new collective to come into being.

The Speeches Series Chapter 3: Living Labor, 2013 Video, 25 min In the work Living Labor, five undocumented workers in New York articulate the mechanisms of the racial and social exclusion in the United States, interrogating notions of citizen membership and class belonging. The work illuminates the core subject of The Speeches Series: the agency of migrants, advocating for social and political transformation.


The Typographer, 2019 16 mm black and white film without sound, 3:30 min In the poetic work The Typographer, we watch as a text is typeset. At the end, the finished text emerges: “Put all the images in language in a place of safety and make use of them, for they are in the desert, and it’s in the desert we must go and look for them.” These words are said to be the last sentence Jean Genet wrote during his lifetime. Following his last will, the sentence became the epigraph of his posthumously published book Prisoner of Love. As a young man, Genet studied to become a typographer. It was a career path that was primarily offered to talented orphans from the working class. Typographers were considered to have high status among blue collar workers, and this clout could give them the opportunity to convey revolutionary ideas within the working class. Jean Genet never completed his studies, but throughout his life he attributed great importance to typography and used it as a figurative expression of literary creation. Bouchra Khalili chose to make The Typographer as a blackand-white, 16 mm film because this underscores the idea of filmmaking as a technique where you start with a “negative” to print a “positive”.


The Radical Ally, 2017 Artist publication The publication The Radical Ally examines material that Bouchra Khalili collected in connection with the creation of her video work Twenty-Two Hours. Source material is combined with texts reflecting on the central subject – how Jean Genet demonstrated solidarity by highlighting other people’s stories and acting as a witness and an ally, rather than speaking for them himself. The publication includes reproduced archival material such as the Ten-Point Program of the Black Panther Party and newspaper articles about Genet’s visit to the United States, as well as contributions written specifically for this publication by black studies scholar and poet Jackie Wang, curator and writer Bonaventure Ndikung, Professor of Law and Humanities Patricia J. Williams, and Bouchra Khalili herself.


A Small Suitcase, 2019 Photographs The photo series A Small Suitcase shows fragments of the working material for Jean Genet’s final book, Prisoner of Love. Here, Bouchra Khalili has chosen to focus on the revolutionary context in which the book came about, the Black Panthers’ struggle for civil rights in the United States and the Palestinians’ struggle for a state of their own. The title of the series references something that Jean Genet allegedly said when he was invited to the United States by the Black Panthers, and which is quoted in the film Twenty-Two Hours. He is said to have said yes on the spot, saying “All I have in this world is one small suitcase”. In 2019, two suitcases belonging to Jean Genet that his lawyer had taken care of after his death were donated to the IMEC – Institut mémoires de l’édition contemporaine [the Institute for Contemporary Publishing Archives] in Paris. Khalili was invited to photograph the suitcases as part of her long investigation on Genet’s work and ethics of solidarity. The series suggests a meditation on the “reverse side of archival material” – their ghostly presence/absence –eventually asking us the question: what is left to remember the essential connection between poetry and revolution?



ARCHITECTURES OF TRANSITION /

ZINEB SEDIRA / STANDING HERE WONDERING WHICH WAY TO GO

PETER ÖHRNELL / PAINTINGS

BOUCHRA KHALILI / STORIES WITHIN STORIES

CREATIVE WORKSHOP

RECEPTION

ENTRANCE

NAEEM MOHAIEMEN / TWO MEETINGS AND A FUNERAL

ENTRANCE

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