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of FATMI Mounir

FRANCE, 2017, 00:10:20

Production : FATMI Mounir
Genre : Video art
Keyword : Love, Relation, Couple

Summary :

« The desire of man finds its meaning in the desire of the other » Lacan

Between mad desire and despair, the question of the possibility – or the impossibility – of authentic intercultural sharing is a theme that runs all through the work of mounir fatmi. In fact, the artist was ahead of the curve on one of today’s burning issues – another (im)possibility: the meeting of genders. Consider, for example, his rarely seen video Something is possible, made back in 2006.

Today, with the video and photographic series Langage des Fleurs (2017), fatmi rephrases the question: what kind of meeting, what exchanges, what common languages are possible between men and women? Here, fatmi approaches flowers as if they were human beings, a woman and man, in search both of themselves and of the other. Immobility. Silence. The indifference of the forest and of nature to the scene unfolding in its midst. The forest, a space as impenetrable as the nature of the union between two people, between two worlds.

Plants, it is said, are endowed with hundreds of sensors that allow them to adapt, in a manner as discreet as it is effective, to external threats, to encounters of all types. For example, plants attacked by predators produce more tannin, to fight against these predators, then send out a chemical signal by emitting ethylene gas. This spreads in the air in order to alert the other plants which will in turn produce more tannin. Plants thus save themselves and each other without moving a leaf.

Language and metaphor: fatmi’s flowers, woman and man, communicate as orchids might do. Black orchids: the clothes worn by the two actors – suit and dress – are black and seem almost interchangeable, even if they are defined and constrained by their “gender.” Another crucial notion in fatmi’s work, the possibility of exchange, is addressed via a constant play of mirrors: the two flowers, the woman and the man, together and with ourselves as spectators, each of us serving as a mirror to the other.

Forced into the immobility that comes from being overwhelmed by feelings, human beings, just like plants, put in place defensive strategies – physical and chemical signs, a whole language of the body. fatmi’s “flowers” thus observe each other and move close then apart in a dance that is minimalist, moving, intriguing and sensual. Perhaps this body language, this “natural” language, is the only one that, in the best of cases, is able to represent the common language that fatmi calls for. And yet, there are long minutes in this video when fatmi's despairing realism, his enlightened despair, tend toward the verdict of impossibility: woman and man will never meet. They approach each other (the flowers come close), then move away, turn their backs on each other, go from colour to black and white, rustle the leaves of the ground where their gaze goes missing, then come back, and try again, to cling to one another.

In the end, is it hope that materializes in the happy ending of the kiss? Not so sure. First of all, we cannot tell how much of this violent happy ending is parody. After all, The Kiss is a theme that fatmi knows well: he has even published a book called The Kissing Precise. In fatmi’s language of flowers, the kiss is not the expression of enchanted desire that we see in another of his photographic series, Casablanca Circles. This kissing of flowers is more a disturbing devouring than a desirable union. Cannibal flowers? Is union impossible precisely because it would mean the dissolution of one of the protagonists? With this possibly unhappy happy ending, fatmi does indeed seem to be reminding us that possession of the other is impossible, even via eros – that in fact it is not even to be wished for. The union-fusion of two human beings is an illusion and only the discovery of otherness is at once possible, desirable and sublime. It is only in this discovery that the communication between two bodies becomes almost palpable. This impasse of relationships was the subject of fatmi’s very first video, Fragile (1997), made more than twenty years ago now. "If two things unite, either both remain and then stay two separate realities, or they disappear to become a third different thing, or only one of the two remains and the other ceases to exist ».

Might this Langage des Fleurs also be about another unresolved question, the (im)possible union of East and West? That is far from sure. We are still a long way from real desire, from genuine mutual discovery in the relation between these two worlds, East and West. Whereas in the forest inhabited by fatmi’s flowers, it really does seem that the complexity of the world is transcribed in the flesh. For what it is. The intensity of the gazes alternates with their absence. The bodies exist. If they have yet to become aware of each other yet, one thing is certain: the artist, for his part, is fully aware of them.

In fact, the real “possibility,” the real hope distilled in this work by mounir fatmi, ultimately seems to be contained in the poetics that the artist brings to life through his creative work. Create, search, imagine (make an image), transform (give shape): this is hope in action. Come what may. A hope we must take the time to sense, under the surface, in this video and these photographs. Both deep and sensitive. Sensitive and not sentimental. Because fatmi never yields to sentimentality, even in the depths of despair, and his flowers and their language remain up to the very end and beyond – because in reality there is no end – both erotic and mysterious.

And so desire grows: the desire to look again. To discover for ourselves and, perhaps, to understand.

Barbara Polla, March 2018

puce to print

Original language : _wordless
Original format : HD Video
Aspect ratio : HD – 1920X1080
Chroma : Couleur
Available version(s) : Sans paroles

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