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Fade to white By Jan Van Woensel
“Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience. A rustling in the leaves drives him away.” (1)
Quietness. Serenity. Melancholy.
The feeling of solitude is omnipresent in the work of the emerging Brussels based Moroccan artist Hamza Halloubi. His videos have a sensitive, gentle, and light breath: as if they appear spontaneously and humbly in the complexity of everyday life, without any signs of pressure and difficulty. Their short narratives are set in places we’re familiar with: a living room, a classroom, and a library. Recognizable spaces that have transitory qualities or potentialities: from this, uncondensed world to the immaterial world of thought, knowledge, commemoration, and memory. In the case of Halloubi’s videos, such transitions from the exterior to the interior space are no attempts to escape or flee from the unpleasant busyness and hastiness of contemporary life; they don’t spur off a personal urgency to find solace in a better, safer, more balanced, imagined, ideal universe; and don’t seem to take their departure from a situation of dissatisfaction or distress. Instead, they have the quality of natural slip of the minds, unmediated leaps of attention, as if the situation in the video merges unobtrusively with the situation of the viewer.
A classroom. A man sits and writes concentrated. He repeats the same sentence over and over again, like he is forced to write lines for punishment, or like he is writing his personal mantra. He writes, “It is too late for me to hope being an angel”. The repetitiveness of his activity and the intensity of this written statement generate feelings of sadness, regret, absolution, and acceptance. Many of Halloubi’s works circle around the appearance of enduring internal pain, or internalized pain, and the silently longing for relief. Meditatively, and individually. They have the quality of well-observed, subjective, and anthropologically and ontologically inspired video-poems, statements, and raw ideas. Halloubi’s films don’t pretend to be something they aren’t. Their messages are intimate, subtly readable, clear-cut and effective, without unnecessary complexities or associations.
“Au lieu de creuser en moi, j’ai préféré faire une trouée dans le monde”, which translates as: “Instead of digging inside me, I preferred to make a hole in the world”, is a recent installation by Halloubi. The work exists out of the sentence written in capitals on the awning of a public building in Brussels, Belgium. Similar as in the artist’s videos, a single statement forms the heart of the work. Yet, any created narrative (to give a specific, artistic context to the statement) is kept aside, and replaced by the uncontrollable and energetic narrative of daily, city life. Again, the interior is put in contrast with the exterior: the internal space of the author, the artist versus the external space of the world. Labor of the mind is put in contrast with physical labor; digging a hole in the world, an activity often used as a metaphor for self-reflection, self-isolation, and protection.
Some of the statements that Halloubi uses in his artworks, including this one, come across as farewell messages. A longing for silence, harmony, balance, relief, release and liberation seems to shine through the artist’s messages, melancholically, but never desperate. They appear, disappear, and reappear throughout the emerging oeuvre of Halloubi, as if the creator himself searches for the sublime, but knows and accepts that no such thing exists. “A rustling in the leaves drives him away”, and he continues his journey, creating sculptures, installations, and videos. The final fade to white is impossible. It’s already done.
Jan Van Woensel, NYC, USA, October 2010
(1) Walter Benjamin. The Storyteller. Observations on the Works of Nikolai Leskov. 1936