INTERVIEW: Double Truth by Zoulikha Bouabdellah
Zoulikha Boabdella’s exhibition at Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde in Al Quoz is impressive and imposing. Each of the instillations is beautiful, but on closer inspection they’re more than they seem. Hanging blades, a floral mirage of a fighter jet, and stilettos laid out across the floor are just a few of the peculiar yet extremely interesting works that you can see until July 17.
All of this adds up to a creative mind that has something to say, so we sat down with her to find out what that something is.
The works in Double Truth are full of hidden perspective. There must be a message?
The fundamental articulation of my works and what connects them together seems to be their duality.
I think reference should be made to Avicena and his ‘double truth’ theory, [which says two contradictory but somehow equally valid truths can be reached at via both] spirituality and reason. Avicena’s idea was fiercely disputed during his time and is still disputed today. We must never forget that a bonfire was made of his work because it bothered many people. Now, however, he is our Plato. He is the Arab philosopher par excellence. We can perceive this schizophrenia in the construction of our identity, and this is the source of many conflicts today. But, certainly, it is this notion of double truth that interests me and that I want to reflect on through the various works here.
Tell us about the shoes places in a rectangle. Is there symbolism there?
It is an installation of stencils, reminiscent of small rugs used for prayer, that have a pair of women’s high-heeled shoes placed in their centre. The work questions the process whereby such inanimate objects, each essentially ornamentations in their own right, are designated as sacred or profane.
There are lots of contrasts in the exhibition. Was this a deliberate juxtaposition?
The elements do command a whole but that is a conceptual view – an ensemble – that presides over the details. This approach has guided my work since I reached a certain maturity and is grounded in my reading of Albert Camus’ The Rebel and a confrontation with his idea of the absurd. Indeed, Camus said that the absurd results from a clash between two antagonisms.
We can say then that if man revolts it is reaction to an absurdity, whether that is the wish to stop being exploited, or to move from one state of consciousness to another. In the small moment between these two distinct steps, there lies the possibility of rebel. These thoughts carried me for several years. I find some analogy in what Marcel Duchamp called “infra-thin", that moment just when an idea is formalised, which he illustrated perfectly with his metaphor of the door resting on the door frame, and which we cannot say is open or closed. Such a space offers abundant opportunities for one to surreptitiously rush into.
You have created something beautiful out of the likes of bullets and fighter jets. Sometimes you have to look hard to see what the piece actually displays.
I play with ornamentation, a unit repeats and permutes to create a motif, however, in the works these apparently benign elaborations bury some subversions. It is in this ambiguity that the work plays its role. Each of my work represents a questioning, it is for each one to come up with their answer.
What do you hope people take from your exhibition?
I am very inspired by poets and thinkers that promote mutual understandings, like Mohamed Talbi for instance. He has a discourse, supported by scientific arguments, that is both critical positive towards the West. Such people exist. We have to let them speak and also we have to want to hear them. Talbi confronts each position equally, and puts things back in order, but never through hatred.