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← Meriem Bennani: In Between Languages | Art21 "New York Close Up"

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Showing Revision 1 created 03/04/2020 by Amara Bot.

  1. We're in the middle of installing
    "Party on the CAPS".
  2. So this curved wall that we
    picked up in three parts,
  3. it's going to be put together,
  4. painted,
  5. and then eventually installed.
  6. That will be, actually,
    a screen.
  7. I have these parameters,
  8. which is the sound,
  9. the editing,
    the animation.
  10. Everything is designed for the film.
  11. Then I add the space--
  12. how many screens,
  13. the scale.
  14. So, everything is coming together,
  15. and then the final touch is:
  16. the video finally makes it onto
    the surfaces that we built for it.
  17. The problem is,
    things that are level never look straight.
  18. This is the step where I get to edit my film,
  19. but using space instead of time.
  20. I go shot by shot,
  21. and for each shot,
    decide what do you see where.
  22. I can make cuts,
  23. but I can also show something
    in different places.
  24. That has an effect on
    how you experience the film.
  25. ["Meriem Bennani: In Between Languages"]
  26. The sculptures started happening
    with the films in mind.
  27. So I never made a sculpture that's not
    paired with a film.
  28. You bring into it things that are
  29. characteristics of another way of thinking.
  30. You learn something from animation
  31. that has to do with humor.
  32. And then you can make sculptures
    that are funny.
  33. So I'll have the master version of the video--
  34. that is what you would watch as a film--
  35. and then the sculptures,
  36. they come from a digital world
  37. that I imagine.
  38. Then they're fabricated.
  39. So they all come from opposite places
    and they meet in the middle.
  40. [SOUND OF SCHOOL BELL RINGING]
  41. I went to the high school I went to
    in Rabat, Morocco,
  42. and I filmed a group of teenagers.
  43. ["Mission Teens"]
  44. The subject of "MISSION TEENS" is
    the French-speaking culture in Morocco.
  45. [WOMAN, IN FRENCH]
    --So I've been in the French system
  46. --since...
  47. --basically since kindergarten.
  48. [BENNANI]
    The biggest tool for the way
  49. that French maintain this power
  50. is education.
  51. [SHEEP, IN FRENCH]
    --Having your kids at the Mission is...
  52. --is prestigious!
  53. [BENNANI]
    The film is not about how
  54. French is not a Moroccan language,
  55. but it's more so about why French is political
  56. and also a soft power tool.
  57. [TEACHER, OFF-SCREEN, IN FRENCH]
    --So, the definition of Third World is
  58. something you need to master!
  59. [BENNANI]
    I was French educated.
  60. I learned about French history,
  61. French geography.
  62. The ways that I thought are
  63. like the way that I developed
    being able to be critical--
  64. all these things are
    complete products of French school.
  65. I had to emancipate myself from that
  66. to be able to talk about it.
  67. [WOMAN, IN FRENCH]
    --The French Mission it's that we don't focus
  68. --so much on the country we live in.
  69. --Knowing that, even if it's a French school,
    but it's like,
  70. --we're in Morocco and I would like it if
  71. --they focused more on Morocco and Islam and everything.
  72. [HOUSE, SINGING]
    --I'm a fancy house in Rabat...
  73. [BENNANI]
    Also, I filmed houses from the neighborhoods
  74. where most people who
    go to French school live.
  75. [HOUSE, SINGING]
    --Got me up a golden door.
  76. --I'm very much what everyone admires.
  77. [BENNANI]
    From the architecture,
  78. you can see what lifestyle people aspire to.
  79. "MISSION TEENS,"
  80. it's first been shown here at
    the Whitney Biennial,
  81. inside these sculptures on the terrace.
  82. I called them "viewing stations."
  83. [HOUSE, SINGING]
    --Palm trees.
  84. --Marble floors.
  85. [BENNANI]
    When you press the button,
  86. it actually steals the video
    from the other side.
  87. The other person on the other side
    presses the button as well.
  88. So it becomes about having to coexist.
  89. [LAUGHS]
  90. The themes I choose for my work,
  91. I don't make a conscious choice of being like,
  92. "I want to talk about post-colonialism."
  93. I try to...
  94. follow what I spontaneously am drawn to.
  95. In "Party on the CAPS,"
  96. I imagined a world where
    teleportation is possible.
  97. [ALLIGATOR]
    --Remember when teleportation replaced airplanes?
  98. [BENNANI]
    It's kind of like thinking about
    immigration in the future.
  99. ["America's bouncer"]
    --You can't come in.
  100. --You can't come in.
  101. [BENNANI]
    Europe and America would freak out
    about their borders
  102. if teleportation was possible.
  103. The Caps is an island
    in the middle of the Atlantic.
  104. That is a place where American troopers--
  105. which is like a new version of I.C.E.,
    kind of--
  106. has put people that have been intercepted
    from Africa trying to teleport to America.
  107. And then the place has become
    a place of its own.
  108. The whole island of The Caps
  109. is a physical analogy
    for the idea of diaspora--
  110. how people think of diaspora as either
    having to fully assimilate
  111. or return to the land they come from.
  112. But that actually there's a third alternative,
  113. which is in that in-between.
  114. --Can you have the starting point be where
    the lens would be?
  115. --See, the screen should come here.
  116. Usually when something interests me,
  117. I'm not able to clarify at first
    why I'm interested in it.
  118. So that effort to articulate that interest,
  119. that's the work.
  120. I haven't been able to express myself
  121. or articulate myself with words
    as well as I would like to.
  122. I think that has to do with
    being here for ten years
  123. and being English-as-a-second-language,
  124. and feeling like I'm losing
    a bit of my first language,
  125. which is a very strange feeling.
  126. I've always been in between languages.
  127. I found that developing this practice
    that pulls from so many different languages--
  128. of TV,
  129. cinema,
  130. sculpture and installation--
  131. mixing it all together has allowed me
    to hit the right note,
  132. in my own way.