Ismaïl Bahri (Tunisia/France)

Musée National du Mali


Ismaïl Bahri employs a wide range of media, including video, photography, drawing, and installation, in order to experiment with the gestures, processes, and mechanics of cinema and photography. In his work, Bahri questions the temporal and physical qualities of images as well as their capacity to challenge or re-imagine historical narratives and contemporary debates.

Quite literally fragmenting and reframing contemporary events, each of the short, silent videos in Film shows what appears to be a black screen or background but which is actually a pool of black ink. Slowly and seemingly of its own volition, a triangular piece of newspaper begins to unroll from the top of the screen. Moving toward the viewer, the paper fragment floats on the surface of the ink, and becomes narrower with each turn. As it unfurls, small details and words become briefly visible, alternatively upside down or right side up and reflected in the ink below. These “micro-events,” as the artist calls them, are soon replaced by the next printed detail : a man’s white beard rolls into his moustache ; a woman’s screaming mouth is succeeded by her clasped hands ; a sea of protestors’ faces supplants the faces of those who came before. With this simple apparatus—a tight spiral of newspaper that unravels frustratingly slowly on an inky surface—Film subverts the rapid and constant transmission of information so often said to characterize contemporary culture. In so doing, it also stages the tensions of two- and three-dimen- sionality and of science and magic that have long animated debates about cinema and other forms of mass media as they circulate across space and time.

Born in 1978 in Tunis, Tunisia –
Lives between Lyon, Paris, and Tunisia

Institut Français
Ministère de la Culture de l’Artisanat et du Tourisme du Mali