Interview with Nam June Paik Award nominee Neïl Beloufa

Amelie gr. Darrelmann/KubaParis
In your video work Kempinski (2007) different amateur actors speak at night outdoors in the periphery of Bamako, the capital of Mali, in the light of fluorescent lamps about their vision of the future in the present tense. Your work Superlatives and Resolution, People Passion, Movement and Life from 2014 consists also of a series of staged interviews. What are the main topics of your work and why do you fall back on the format interview or questioning?

Neïl Beloufa
It happened; I don’t really know why. I know I don’t write well, I know that I’m interested in people, in how people represent themselves. I also know that there is quality of ideas, and questioning that I wouldn’t be able to produce if it wasn’t without basing on what people say even if asked to play and fake answers. Also, I believe that there is no point making a work if I know what it is going to be beforehand. So this might be how I ended up with those formats. The works are about me trying to control or understand or ask questions on things I don’t know about and the participants trying to fight my authority. In a way my work is always about system of power.

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Neïl Beloufa, Kempinski, 2007, Video still © Neil Beloufa

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Neïl Beloufa, Kempinski, 2007, Video still © Neil Beloufa

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Neïl Beloufa, Hopes for the Best, Installation view, Schinkel Pavillon, Superlatives and Resolution, People Passion, Movement and Life, 2014, courtesy Schinkel Pavillon

Amelie
For your exhibition at Capri in Düsseldorf last year you’ve built a wall of epoxy resin, where two screens were embedded. An estate agent explains the advantages of a sterile design apartment. What came first? The film or the sculpture? Could your films and sculptures or superstructures be considered separately?

Neïl
The films comes always before, usually I shoot several movies in a row about issues that interest me, then I develop a physical vocabulary around it in order to question parasite and undermine their authority and their meaning.

The films could exist alone, in a theater but not in the art, I’m not interested in displacement of rules from one field to another. I can agree, that cinema, as an entertainment art would consider his space as an invisible church that you can’t question, but I believe the role of art in society is to have no rules and should permanently question itself. Therefore I like to build my own system of presentation thus, questioning systems of representation, and in a way (mostly in my brain) fight communication, and authority of the medium I use.

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Neïl Beloufa, Installation view, CAPRI, Düsseldorf, courtesy by Neïl Beloufa, photo: Achim Kukulies

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Neïl Beloufa, Installation view, CAPRI, Düsseldorf, courtesy by Neïl Beloufa, photo: Achim Kukulies

Amelie
Which role does the aspect of the space play for you?

Neïl
Space is one of the most important commodities of our world, and also something rare to have access to (cf. housing). It is also the only thing with time that most humans have a similar relation to. And our field « Art » uses a lot of space – this might be why I like to play with them, because the way we articulate a space replies to political/social agendas or thinking. A large empty space with a high ceiling is a structure of power (church/politicians buildings/luxury).
When you reorganize it, you touch to those structures and relations that present in our everyday life. I like to feel them as much as I can because I guess, I don’t want my work to get power based on how it’s showed.

Amelie
This summer you showed a detailed and complex installation at Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles, USA. Tell us about your work process and how it develops. Are you working with drafts?

Neïl
I don’t really have a clear way of working, I do as it goes. For this show I wanted to represent simple object to more stupidly I could, that would make them appealing while not bringing anything to them, so we built a lot of those without hierarchy between their provenance whether it was a table or a computer. Then we reassembled them randomly into rooms which had meanings on their own and on which I wouldn’t have control. The same way as in some of my videos where I don’t really know what material I’ll have before I have it.

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Neïl Beloufa, Democracy, installation view, Ghebaly Gallery, 2016. Courtesy the artist and Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Jeff McLane

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Neïl Beloufa, Democracy, installation view, Ghebaly Gallery, 2016. Courtesy the artist and Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Jeff McLane

Amelie
You enjoy working by hand and reuse material. How does it effect your films?

Neïl
I like to produce everything. I like it because it’s a way of fighting the industrial way of thinking, even though that making stuff in quantity I make them sometimes look like a handmade industrial replica; but that still interests me.
As for the films; it gives them sometimes this feeling of not having being achieved or that they aren’t well done, which I actually like. I’ve shot 18 films including, 1 normal feature film to be released soon; and I like to see them as attempts experiments that don’t try to be more than that. At the end the problem is that they often suffer of that position.

Amelie
This year, you are nominated for the Nume June Paik Award. What do you associate with the eponymous artist?

Neïl
Critic of the media, free experiment and no hierarchy between an object, a tv-show, TV and films; things I guess I’ve reused.

Amelie
You assume that a work by Robert Bresson is not more intelligent than the French TV show Julie Lescaut and emphasize that you don’t believe in the idea of originality and singularity. Who influenced or inspired you in your work?

Neïl
I say a lot of stupid things. I love Bresson.
I guess what I meant by that also is that the difference between those is not based on the format it has or the way it is presented, its rules are rules and shouldn’t say whether one thing is better than another. But the only difference between them, is that one is good and one is bad; but sometimes and many times an « artsy film or arthouse image « isn’t better than a standard TV show or at least, I don’t believe its value is granted by its form or its field.

I guess I have the same influence as everyone.

Amelie
What are some upcoming or current projects you are working on?

Neïl
I’m shooting a film in Iran in November. And I am super excited. I know nothing about Iran and the project reflects it. The thing I mainly know from it, is how the west is describing it.
Therefore the idea of the project is out of those assumptions. Briefly: For the west Iran is criticized for its isolation (political …) but that isolation is organized through an embargo. This form of political isolation could be seen in on of the west new form a representation ; Reality TV (Big Brother and so one) which are « signs » of openness, but still lock people that don’t specially agree together in a spot and let them being judged by the outside. Therefore the base of the project is to consider the Iranian embargo as an entertainment production. So we’re going to be producing a reality TV show (a fake one) in Teheran to mirror those phenomenon, having in it non actors, leading the films where they want political since at one point the « voice of the production » that talk to the participants will disappear and leave the film with no script and no rules; I’m not clear but at the end it might be.

Amelie
We are looking forward to seeing more about this project. Thank you so much for your time!

 

Nam June Paik Award 2016
Museum Folkwang