20 April, 2011

Mustapha Benfodil

"an installation consisting of mannequins in soccer uniforms emblazoned with Arabic phrases that were deemed blasphemous. "

".... it was "sited in a very public courtyard, a place where children play after school, where families wander together on the weekend and where people pass on their way to religious services at the neighbouring mosque. This work paired language that was sexually explicit with religious references in an overt and provocative manner." "

Mustapha Benfodil — not half as well known as Persekian — has been somewhat forgotten. ARTINFO UK met him in London to discuss his work and hear his version of the story.

"The general topic of the biennial is betrayal. The title is "A Plot for a Biennial" and in the curators' minds, "plot" had two meanings: "plot" as a conspiracy, something that has to do with murder, transgression, subversion, intrigue, and "plot" as a narrative framework. From the start, I wanted to work on the relationship between the writer and society, and how a writer's output resonates with his environment. In this piece, I placed two teams of mannequins in the space like two football teams. The first team had my literary creations, theatrical and poetic works printed on their white shirts. The other team wore green and red gear, the Algerian colours, and they represented society. They wore texts borrowed from Algerian pop culture: jokes, recipes, proverbs, and folk songs. "
"Other things could have been censored in this piece. For example, I use swear words, and this could be interpreted as shocking, but in this part of the Arabic world they don't understand Algerian Arabic, and this might explain why people didn't react to the graffiti saying things like "shit government," "army, fuck off." This is all part of my work: What does it mean to be an Algerian writer in Sharjah? "
I've expressed my solidarity with Persekian from the beginning, but he hasn't reciprocated. I'm not sad that doesn't stand up for me as Mustapha Benfodil, but I think that as the director of the Sharjah Art Foundation he ought to defend the principle of freedom in art and condemn censorship in all its forms. Maybe at first he didn't have any information about me and about my artwork — he said in the statement that he couldn't control everything and I understand this. But now, I've explained my position publicly. My personal statement was widely circulated, so he cannot say that what I've done was just a mistake. This text is a condemnation of the rape of women in Algeria during the civil war. This isn't a simple affair.

full article here


Extract from petition.

On April 6th, 2011, Jack Persekian, Director of the Sharjah Art Foundation since 2005, was dismissed without notice by the ruler of Sharjah, HH. Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi. The sudden termination of Persekian’s post came after a public outcry over the perceived offensive content in an artwork exhibited in the 10th edition of the Sharjah Biennial by Algerian artist, journalist and activist Mustapha Benfodil.

The work of art in question borrows the voice of rape victims at the hands of religious extremists in Algeria, who were using religious texts to justify their crimes. The work is very specific to the Algerian context and is in no way meant as an attack on religion or Islam in general.

In the days following Mr. Persekian’s dismissal, a number of other art works have also been declared offensive, resulting in them either being taken down, altered or relegated to the status “under review”.

see full petition here



curator's statement


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