Drawing on her personal experience as an artist living at the geo-political crucible of North Africa and Europe, Moscow born Algerian Zoulikha Bouabdellah creates subtly playful yet provocative videos and installations. These works expose cultural stereotypes and question the preconceived ideas about the Arab and Islamic cultures. She turns the gravity of such topics as relationships between men and women, nationalities or religions into humorous and surprising gestures. Her videos are made of simple frameworks and have an extremely visual and accessible impact.
Zoulikha Bouabdellah draws her inspiration from the "concept of social and cultural change." This concept has become, over time, the lead that guides all her artistic practice. Her work symbolizes widely the interaction, exchange and even the rejection that one can express facing a given situation. It also demonstrates, through anecdotic messages questioning traditional cultural systems, how contradictions, when they are well managed, promote transfer and allow change.
Bouabdellah titled her first solo exhibition, in Germany, “Silence” as the definition for the word and its relation to space, seem to her an interesting terrain to explore.
The first thing that comes immediately to mind refers to the religious space where only the breath of whispering worshippers in the aisles and corners, disclose the invisible, this non-visible being that hides, far away, heavenwards. This inspired silence, or that one finds vital or essential, calls up on the absence that confirms the presence a sense of hierophany.
Amongst other works, “Silence”, 2008, an installation of praying carpets and women shoes, and “Chéri”, 2007, 365 words in Arabic in red lack on paper, describe, while respectful, the silence or the mysterious border between two spaces of different type, the sacred and the secular. These two spaces that need each other to exist in their difference, but at the same time, protect one another, is always threatening.
Another opposition that Bouabdellah likes to piggyback on the question of the sacred and the profane, are the opposites, very traditional in the religion, the Feminine and the Masculine. What is surprising but no less indicative of a society dominated by men, is that among Ancients, representations of gods were generally androgynous. Today, the three monotheistic religions tend more or less, to characterize the divine through specific traits peculiar to men. Androgyny as an expression of perfection and aggregation, is now, quite unfairly, an obsolete philosophy. Therefore, it is as a manifesto, the artist likes to refer to the presence of the Feminine in her work. It’s the means to integrate it gently and without violence into the space of Hierophany.
Woman is a sacred genre par excellence because she is the image of the latter. First, as in a sacred role, she provides for a large part in the creation of the world. Like the divine that protects the four horizons of the cosmos, the woman protects her offspring. She is the relay that perpetuates the vested creation to the mighty. Isn’t she the one that perpetuates the reproduction of the species?
Zoulikha Bouaddellah’s intention here is not to make a manhunt in its sacred grounds which in part, is created by himself, but to see the woman in a place as sacred as of men and this in all areas. As a result, her art challenges us to re-examine the world it creates and, in turn, the world around us.