Foreword To Passage at De Pont museum
This exhibition at De Pont museum represents an effort made over the last couple of months, which have been a very influential and productive time for me. The body of work is the result of several journeys. Cities in which I have filmed, however, are not the subject matter of my work; but they happen to be the environments in which the narratives of my films unfold.
Only now that the works are finished and ready to be exhibited do I notice that the videos and photographs, as well as the book, have been realised and produced in different cities: Larache, New York, Jerusalem and Tunis. As I continue to develop this train of thought on my work and its relationship to the cities in which the narratives unfold, it becomes clear that an interesting story need not be situated, as Modernism has taught us, in a large metropolis.
My search for a letter that Edward Said wrote to his mother took me to his New York apartment. Though I was unable to find the letter, I did come across a photograph of Said’s hand that intrigued me. This picture formed the point of departure for a work on the late style of this intellectual whom I admire very much.
In Jerusalem I visited the mosque Al-Aqsa, a place that is shown in the video Passage formerely a few seconds, while the rest of the work consists of abstract images registered by the camera from the inside of my jacket. The video balances between a desire to show and not to show.
In With Michael in Jerusalem I am filming a man from behind.After a couple of seconds, he turns around and stares at me. Then he takes the camera and films me walking out of the shot.
In Larache, in Morocco, I visited the grave of Jean Genet. Located in a Christian cemetery, his tombstone, sober and without any inscription, overlooks the Atlantic and ‘turns its back’ to the graves of former Spanish soldiers. Here I took a few pictures and gave some money to the boy who guards the cemetery and organises visits to Genet’s grave. I thought Genet would be glad to see a kid profiting from his grave.
Based on news footage of a young man who goes out at night in Tunis to celebrate the flight of the dictator after the Tunisian revolution, I produced a book with stills taken from this video and wrote a text that I inserted among them.
After several years of producing intellectual and artistic work, I believe I have succeeded in getting rid of most clichés and images I have of a given culture. Now, when I arrive in a new city and observe a new culture, I start with a clean slate and without any preconceptions. Departing from this point makes it possible for me to create an image.