TUAREG, 1999

1 video projector, 4 loudspeakers,
1 sheet of glass, 1 video, PAL,
black and white, sound, 30’.
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris (France)

Tuareg challenges colonial representations as well as the media supporting them. This sound installation presents a two-sided screen-window visible from two separate rooms, each one broadcasting a different sound. A 30-second looped video shows one after another what seems to be a photograph, then this same photograph animated, of a group of Berber children filmed in the 1930s in the western Sahara. This archival image tallies with the conventions of classical documentary photographic framing: hierarchical distribution of bodies, sustained head-on pose, expressions that are fixed and serious. The photographic order lasts for seven seconds, replaced without any cut made to the shot by a cinematographic disorder, in which we see the children messing about, changing places, laughing and playing, and enjoying the unbridled pleasure of movement. Then, 27 seconds later, a subtle blur re-installs the photographic pose and makes the viewer aware of the enormous gap separating photography from film. This “photographic moment”, as Fiona Tan describes it, taken from the film, is then presented like the temporal off-screen moment of the photographic instant, and presents what happens before and after the click which has nothing more decisive about it than its death-dealing character. The film is joyous and full of life; a sort of grace emerges from this scene where the disorder of childhood contrasts with the order of colonial law, where the disorder of the real contradicts the order of representation, and where the disorder of fantasized Africa clashes with Western reason. Recycling here reintroduces a use of technologies in their representational power.
Françoise Parfait
Translated by Simon Pleasance