Nadia Kaabi-Linke — Stranded


Curadoria: Isabel Carlos
13 de fevereiro a 18 de maio 2014
CAM – Galeria de Exposições Temporárias


Nadia Kaabi-Linke was born in 1978 in Tunis (Tunisia), and her works make us reflect on the fact that the greatest violence is in what is neither filmed nor photographed, that which doesn’t make the television news headlines or the front page of the press or appear on computer screens. It makes us consider contemporary society’s invisible mechanisms of control, from the cameras which watch over us in cities to mobile phones: we are being observed and listened to without knowing who is observing and listening to us.

The starting point for No (2012) is the artist’s personal experience of being a Tunisian national living in Berlin who, as revolution and unrest take hold in the country of her birth, comes under inquisitorial scrutiny at the borders of European countries while simply applying for a visa for the United Kingdom, where she has been invited to give a talk.

In No, the artist creates images for what lacks images. She shifts the process of interrogation by the immigration and border police to a scene of religious liturgy: an Anglican church full of Tunisians saying ‘no’ in a sweet and mechanical litany in response to the words which are spoken by a faceless mouth who intones the visa application form.

Nadia Kaabi-Linke, the Tunisian daughter of a Tunisian father and a Ukrainian mother, a resident in Berlin, where she now has her own family, does not deal with problems or themes that emerge from research and investigation – very common methods in contemporary practice –, but rather uses her personal experience, a reality that is felt and perceived in the first person, as her starting point.

Even when, as in Tunisian Americans and Smooth Criminal, both from 2012, or even in the more recent Sniper (2014), the artist draws on past historical contexts and conflicts that she didn’t experience in person; the place of her work, and in which she sets it, is always that of her own experience: a place between cultures, between languages, between countries, between powers.

It seems to me that the words exile or emigration are not appropriate for a generation of nomadic creators from places where contemporary creation is more difficult or impossible, who choose to live and create in places that are more comfortable for and conducive to the production of contemporary culture but who, nevertheless, never forget where they have come from – and this is the most important thing: wherever they live, they never forget where they have come from.

Bound by ties in two senses: bound to the place from which they have come, in terms of memory, and history; and bound within the place in which they now live since they must adapt to new ways of life and laws. They are outsiders, always outsiders.

In Kaabi-Linke’s works, from sculptures to video, a conceptual and thoughtful sophistication is allied with a seductive visual sensoriality. Note how the sculpture Smooth Criminal appears as fragile and precious as a jewel, yet we later become aware – if we are curious, of course –, that it was made by fishermen in the Gulf for use as a fish trap.

Initially appealing, these works then establish a place of reflection on a series of ‘inconveniences’ of the modern world and current reality: from the breakdown of borders within the European Union to the Tunisian campaign, from post-colonialism to the Middle East conflict, from the holocaust to the revolution in Tunisia, we are always left with more questions. And hopefully we are also left more open and tolerant, since these are works which make us think beyond the froth of images, the froth of news, and the froth of daily life.


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