Mounir Fatmi is a Moroccan artist living and working in Paris. He is best known for his multimedia practice encompassing video, installation, drawing, painting and sculpture. The themes in Fatmi’s works mainly involve historical matters, religion, ideologies, death and consumption. Fatmi was largely influenced by the September 11th Attacks which led him to the production of Save Manhattan. Paddle8 had the opportunity to interview Fatmi to discuss his influences, projects and exhibitions.
Paddle8: Several of your works utilize VHS tapes, antenna cables and other now obsolete materials. What are some materials that you see becoming obsolete within the next 5 or 10 years? What memories might be associated with them?
Mounir Fatmi: All technology based materials for communication are constantly becoming obsolete over time because there is so much development and innovation-the vhs cassette seems so outdated today and in a few years time so will the dvd. The iphone, smartphone, USB key etc. I imagine that those forms of communication will be so dated in 20, 30 years time if not sooner. The memories are of course both personal and collective once they leave their owner or original intention.
P8: Can you discuss your manifesto comprised of 7 sections of paradoxical, contemplative, confessional, humorous, poetic and quixotic statements?
MF: The manifestos are text based constructions that I have written down over time. Short poetry-based phrases and ideas.
P8: What are the linkages between Duchamp, Chaplin and the Qur’an and the radical ideas they each present in “Modern Times”, a video work from your recent exhibition “Oriental Accident” at Lombard Freid Projects?
MF: As the Chaplin film represented the modernization of man and industrialization, as Chaplin himself gets caught in the machine, here the texts from the Qur’an sweeping through the cogs and machine parts suggests the modernization of the Arab world. The Arab world moving into contemporary society.
P8: The Arab Spring (the subject of “Oriental Accident”) has been shaped in our imagination by the many images and videos we’ve seen of the protests unfold. How did you decide to isolate the sound from these protests?
MF: We are so saturated with imagery, often the same repeated over and over that we can become almost numb to the violence. I liked the effect and intensity of the noise and sounds generated by the protesters. It’s also violent and unnerving but perhaps more abstracted and less biased. It’s as powerful as the images can be.
P8: Can you discuss the different ways you use Arabic script in your work (from the abstract to the legible)? What are the formal attributes of “good” Arabic calligraphy?
MF: Arabic script is often used to create a contrast or conflict of images and meaning within my work. It’s beautiful to look at but often layered with aggressive or violent meaning or the opposite, an open ended meaning that when set next to some other object sets up new interpretations. To me, good calligraphy is tied to breath and breathing. creating a fluidity and movement within the language.