Art Has No Nationality

Art has no Nationality By Meriam Bousselmi  

 

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Art has no Nationality

By Meriam Bousselmi  
Translated from French by Salma Riahi 

 

 

I have always been afraid of defining myself as an artist. Today, it scares me even more. What does it mean to be an ARTIST? To have a magical power to move or attract an audience? Is being an Artist a power to please or to divide ? What does it mean to be an artist today, especially if we are originally from the Arab world? Is “simple creativity” enough? When I’m invited to Europe today, people are more interested in my Country than they are in my Art. I feel more like an informer than a creator. I have to report more on the political situation of my home country than on the artistic choices of one of my creations! Why is Art confused with activism when it comes to certain artists like me? As if the transgression can only be unidirectional. A sort of declared resistance that takes a deliberate enemy, most often political and makes it its subject? Can we reduce Art to a form of political resistance?   
In "What is the Creative Act?", Deleuze asserted that: « To create is to resist». As of the outraged Stéphane Hessel, he claimed that: « To create is to resist, to resist is to create ». But what does Resistance by creation mean? What is Art today? What does it mean to be an artist? These are vague flabby concepts that call for vigilance.  Art, Artist, Resistance and Engagement are concepts that can have different significations depending on the context. Perspectives depend on the geographic, political and economic situation. For instance, the margin of freedom given to the artists of the German scene and those at the international level in general is incomparable to what is expected from Arab and African artists. In our countries, we must fight against taboos and the aesthetic dictatorships that have existed for several generations. We have to get rid of these Fathers who killed both the Father and the son at the same time ! The self-proclaimed titans and the « holders of the only valuable aesthetic ». There is no THEATRE in the Arab World and in Africa, there are some « doers » who reduced THEATRE to a sort of private property. In Europe, we are reduced to informants on the political issues of our countries of origin. Those who break through are often those who know how to play `` the Arab or the nigger´´. There is a real hiatus between two Worlds: South – North, North- South, even within the same African continent.  A sort of desired and maintained misunderstanding.  
Camus wrote: "Commitment. I have the loftiest idea, and the most passionate one, of art. Much too lofty to agree to subject it to anything.”.  
No, I don’t define myself as a “committed” artist. I consider myself as an « artist », period. I hate confinement. And I refuse to reduce a complex status to a simple « protester tendency ».  It is like reducing a people’s history to some events. The whole is always greater than the sum of its parts! The artist is evidently a figure of opposition in a broad sense. « To create is to revolt », Brecht told us. I experience each one of my works as a Revolution, or almost. Yet, this doesn’t mean that I’m a committed artist. I am neither a militant nor a partisan. I don’t want to be in the service of any ideology and I’m not affiliated with any political party. Commitment in art is a false pretext for "opportunism", "clientelism" and "careerism". Especially in the Arab world, where certain internationally renowned artists exploit the «notion of commitment» as if it was a business. Their only merit is the success of their propaganda campaign. Their only talent consists of mastering the art of changing sides. However, their works are anything but transcendent. They hide their lack of creativity and sometimes even their mediocrity behind their « messianism ». It’s disgusting!  
Art is, in my opinion, a space for reflection. A space to overcome all the tensions related to inherited or attributed identity. I don’t have an instruction manual .But I’m looking for a real exchange with the other. I’m looking for the “ENCOUNTER” capable of broadening my field of vision. I see creation as a sublime way of "SHARING". This certainly involves a going back and forth between partners. And in this random motion, there is certainly a tension, a questioning, thus: a confrontation. However, originally, there is the desire to go toward the other through the self. And, conversely, the desire to go toward the self through the other. Hence I call every creation an ENCOUNTER.    
We need artists ! Yes, I tremble as I say it. But we need these « crazy » ones, able to enchant a disenchanted world. These creators of magic in a world way too rational. These « marginal » people who replace the poetic at the heart of the political. Che Guevara comes to my mind addressing Ludek Pachman saying: "You know, comrade Pachman, I don't enjoy being a Minister; I would rather play chess like you, or make a revolution in Venezuela." I’m not to judge the positions of my colleagues. What is good for me isn’t necessarily good for the others. What is good for others isn’t necessarily good for me. And I hate single thought and those who love to lecture others. I wouldn’t want to simplify the reflection and make it simplistic. I condemn this conduct that reduces certain artists to simple agitators and puppets of the public space, and I plead for a more radical resistance. More than a political speech, I demand a political art that really confronts by its form, its manner and its content, the news, the art market and the power.  To the label of « Arab» artist, I prefer just artist. Art has no nationality. I refuse to let my « artist legitimacy » be based on the persecution or political commitment. To the label of social artist, I prefer « asocial » artist. I situate art and my role as an artist in a logic of battle, in an antagonistic relationship with the established order, in a logic of resistance to politicisation and in a logic of poetic resistance. We must look for the alternative of the political instead of engaging in the political.  I prefer to remain faithful to the revolutionary duty of the artist by trying to do my best in what I do, by engaging in the production of a work in motion that searches and searches itself. Behind the displayed pseudomilitantism, there are numerous of social climbers, collaborators of yesterday, of today and of tomorrow. Behind the messianism of some « committed» artists, there is a reversed domination. Those who closely observe the current situation in Tunisia and in the Arab World can only see the `` le Dishonour of Poets´´.   
 Thereon, Benjamin Péret wrote: " But the poet does not have to perpetuate for others an illusory hope, whether human or celestial, nor disarm minds while filling them with boundless confidence in a father or a leader against whom any criticism becomes a sacrilege Quite the contrary, it is up to the poet to give voice to words always sacrilegious, to permanent blasphemies.. Thus he will be a revolutionary but not one of those who oppose today's tyrant, whom they see as baneful because he has betrayed their interests, only to praise tomorrow's oppressor, whose servants they already are."   
It is high time for the West to stop its craze for the « aesthetics of persecution and compassion ». Art in infinitely greater and more universal because it is infinitely personal and intimate. It is high time for the East to « kill its darlings» and stop restricting itself to what it knows how to produce. And perhaps above all, stop fearing what it believes itself to be incapable of producing.  It is the freedom of thought and creation that is at stake and that is the real stake. There is no more common horizon, but a multiplicity of debates around possible worlds that we have to articulate between them… The most important thing of all this, in the « becoming » in the Hegelian sense or the thinking process…  

Meriam Bousselmi

Berlin 2016 

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