L'espace du dedans – SeeDjerba Biennal

8’39” Short Film Projection

This project has been realized during See Djerba International Media Art Biennal’s and Residency, with the support of the Artistic Directors of the Biennal Bettina Pelz and Aymen Gharbi, the curators Katja Štesl and Salma Kossentini from Amalgam Studio, the technical support of Youssef Skhiri, the assistance of Fedia Ben Saiid and Malek Chlibi, and the financial support of iPortunus.

L’espace du dedans, Fondouk Lehsayer, Houmt Souk, Djerba, 2019. Picture by Corrie Francis Parks.

Des branchages assemblez et les nouez voici une hutte, dénouez-les vous aurez la plaine comme devant (trad. Gathering and tying several branches you will get a hut, untying them you will see the plains ahead)

While conceiving the projection L’espace du dedans I was searching for some precise spatial and temporal conditions, I wanted to create a situation of nothingness, a suspended and contemplative atmosphere. The title of the projection itself recalls the architecture of the site, Fondouk Lehsayer, which is a closed space in open air, one of the few private fondouk of Djerba. During the daytime Fondouk Lehsayer is a place of passage, a hallway between two streets: the projection invites people to gather and to stay for a while. L’espace du dedans means the inner space, as an inner place in the city, but also the interior dimension of somebody, as the distorted camera view wandering around Djerba’s details tries to suggest. I’m not used to work only on images: most of the time I think of images according to a specific installation, but in Djerba the city itself became the stage for the work; the architecture, the medium for the projection. While walking around during the first few days, trying to better understand Houmt Souk and its behavior, I uncovered a certain feeling that lies between the city and the coast, especially walking through the market and towards the fortress. Finally I realized it was the sensation of the Souk as an enveloping structure, where historically people came to trade, sell and buy, which is also the main fonction of fondouks themselves. There are no proper walls delimitating the city but one can feel strongly when inside and when outside of the Souk. For this reason I’ve decided to work on a short film narrating a wandering in Houmt Souk’s environment, gathering heterogeneous details and merging them through the rhythm of the editing. I’ve been working with curators Salma Kossentini and Katja Štesl from Amalgam Studio, and from the idea of amalgam I decided to develop the aspect of becoming and emerging of several independent elements, which by their encounter give birth to a new entity. In this entity – in my film, the city itself – we can still recognize all the previous components, all the little details that remain independent from the result. Still in the film it is more about the processes and its evolution, rather than the result, which is important. For this reason, in the projection, we see plenty of Djerbia’s details (artisans objets, tides, dresses hung in front of the shops, spices, hands handling the products) throughout this analog “zoom” and deforming paper that envelops the camera’s lenses. The starting and ending points coinciding, the video tells of a cycle which leaves the seaside and, after having explored the city, returns back to it again. It was important to me to create this circle of sea-city-sea, where every image fades into another scene, as a fluid and silent wander of the sight. 

The video starts from the seaside, enters the city and explores its details, then the rhythm accelerates and at the culminating point from the objects we are brought in front of some writings filmed within the city: the word home in arab and latin alphabets appears, the two languages mixing themselves, and that’s when the wandering eye goes on the rooftop to search for the urban horizon. The sun is going down, the Coran prayer in the air, and little by little the horizon of the city becomes the horizon of the sea again. The loop has been fulfilled. 

Finally, during this endless loop playing on and on, we swing between two ways of seeing: the first is a black and white, wide and sound-filled reality, while the second one is oneiric, distorted, colorful and silent dimension. These two states describe the idea of the Biennal’s theme Mixed Realities, but also Djerba as the metonymy of the city itself: when we’re immersed in the city, in all its inputs and vibrations, we might easily forget that the seaside is just over there. And this is what L’espace du dedans finally points at: not to forget to leave the city to go to see the seaside sometimes. 

© Martina Stella 2019

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