|In Search of Paradise 01, 2007, colour photo, nr. 1/5, 90 x 160,5 cm|
Fatmi’s work represents and defends the fecundity of the conjunction of cultures. For instance, on the biennale of Dakar he showed an installation “Out of History”, in which David Hilliard exposed the history and ideology of the Black Panthers against a background of censured FBI-documents. Fatmi decided to show this part of “African” politics, which emerged outside Africa and on the basis of European schools of thought, as an inspiration for Africans.
In the first series of “Save Manhattan” books about 9/11 are arranged upon a table so that they their shadow take on the shape of the skyline of New York. The only two books that form an exception are two large Korans, the Twin Towers in the skyline.
The theme of the exhibition “In Search of Paradise” is of a more existential nature. The works in the exhibition denote dimensions, for which the word and the image in themselves are insufficient. The limitations of the image – symbolised in Fatmi’s work by the unreeled video cassette – is related to us as transcending these limitations ourselves. The image of Pope John Paul II speaking with Mehmet Ali Agca is silent, because nobody knows what was said, it leaves open which words of forgiveness were spoken.
His art investigates the coming together of the bearers of signs, as a means to explore the dynamics of cultures under influence of their conjunction with others. The fact that most of his work is related to his own Islamic background introduces a supplementary tension in this oeuvre. The explored dynamics are denied by a vast majority in Islamic countries, who long for an eternal unchanging origin of their world.
But Fatmi’s work contains also a tacit opposition to the western self-esteem of these times. His strategy implies a notion of historical development, in an era where the predominant thinking opposes on the one hand the world, as a given “mechanism” outside us, and on the other the “true” individual (e.g. artist) as a free subject, who designs another world or at least morality at will. It is interesting to study the way that the many art-critics who defend Fatmi in France and the USA have to stretch their post-structuralist vocabulary to the utmost to give his work its due.
In the end, Mounir Fatmi’s work is, perhaps, more a challenge to the western world than the Islamic.