Bochra Taboubi — Esthetics of a Stranger

Written by Farah Sayem. Published on 13 December 2022.

”Through my art, I want to highlight the common imaginary, the way our mind observes and interprets” says Bochra Taboubi.

It was magical to have an art and science debate with an emerging artist investigating the real meaning of the art narrative and mediation through designing a hybrid and surrealistic world. Bochra Taboubi born in 1993, is a visual artist mainly interested in organic shapes, biomimicry and the relationship between the human and the nonhuman. Her passion for creating hybrid universes based on Natural aspects and the human imagination started with her first academic project about biomimetism . Her search for her true purpose in life, as well as her interest in nature, lead her to start her first residency in ‘’ Centre des arts vivants Rades ‘’, there she presented her first art project called “Human Abyss”, a surrealistic experience through drawing, animated images, sound effects and music.

Photos: Bochra Taboubi.

My purpose is to bring the audience into the interpretation, it’s about curiosity and investigation of the hidden facts behind my drawings.[…] I Distinguish the language between commun understanding and individual analysis through a visual lexicon based on fiction and unordinary creatures”, says Bochra. As a designer and cultural operator, I think that we are living in a world based on fictional designs embedding our common imagination, distracting humans from their real needs and desires and leading them to a blind consumption and to an endless flow of dependencies. Bochra, a designer by background, thinks that design is no longer creating and investigating the world, it’s about selling the world, increasing industries and ignoring ethics.”There are also designers who are trying to go more for the local creation, based on our culture and heritage as an alternative medium of resistance”, adds Bochra. Her artistic process in highlighting the imaginary, tends towards the use of conceptual approach in storytelling.Through this method, she aims at merging humans and their environment but without transforming nature into machine, nor the human into an exploiter. “It is the aesthetic that speaks to me, the form and texture and what is hidden behind it …. “, says Bochra, “humans can’t perceive things out of their daily context. I made fiction the crucial element between the context of art/science and human observation.

Photos: Bochra Taboubi.

Cluster of Matter – Between the archeological legacy, natural heritage and Local habitats

When I asked her “What about talking about the artist’s commitment to change?”, she answered: “It’s to speculate about our heritage and create alternative mediation…. Once I asked a question to my audience, what do you feel in front of an artwork that seems strange to you?[rather it’s you or it belongs to you] …. and now, I want to ask another question, how do we feel stranger in front of our heritage and archeological legacy? Currently, Bochra is working on Cluster of Matter, a research based Art project. It focuses on material as an organic specimen, challenging our collective memory. Taboubi worked closely with the nature reserves in Metlaoui,Gafsa,Tunisia and created an index of fictional and natural creatures and chimerical forms to evoke a potential fauna and flora that might have existed in the past. “Once, I was in a museum in Paris and I discovered a specimen. I started reading the text , it was a native species from Metlaoui,Gafsa in Tunisia. At that time, I had many questions running through my mind. First I started researching about the specimens and then museums in Gafsa. After that, fossils and archeological legacy as a natural heritage and resources of Metlaoui”, says Bochra.

Photos: Bochra Taboubi.

Landscape and Movement

During her research, Bochra discovered ‘Le musée des mines’, a museum that was founded in the colonial period, and which contains the archaeological heritage of the region. Thus, she noticed that the museum is the focal point of her art project. She thinks that history is the crucial element to investigate collective memory. Fossils are considered as the history of humanity, they belong to all humankind and especially local inhabitants.

The ideology of lands, identity and dignity highly influences the reflection on landscapes and territories. Gafsa, is a city in the southwest of Tunisia, its history and archeological legacy was appropriated by foreigners at a certain point in time. Metlaoui, Gafsa is known for its phosphorus resources. It has an impressive archeological heritage based on fossils and mining. As a matter of fact, the museum was a part of the ecosystem that French residents made to suit their needs in the colonial era of Tunisia. During the tunisian revolution, local inhabitants burned and destroyed ‘Le Musée des mines’.

Photos: Bochra Taboubi.

“Archeological legacy isn’t a resource, that doesn’t bring us money to live” -a citizen of Gafsa. The colonization was a means to control countries, resources and people in order to ‘civilize the uncivilized lands’ which their inhabitants called native. Also to Exploit the natural resources of the ‘discovered territories’ and to control trade in and out of the territories. Even though, Instruct non industrial communities by exploring nature’s resources and sociocultural privacies. Meanwhile, acculturation ranged from the education systems to dissociating local citizens from their own culture and traditions.Even colonialism’s legacy is still felt with material and cultural consequences and especially on natural resources. The destruction of nature is based on economic, social and cultural inequalities.

“I try to create the anatomical balance in my creation which reflects our reality with an archetypal and morbid appearance”, says Bochra.

Photos: Bochra Taboubi.

Taboubi gives space to the cognitive and especially emotional dimensions of knowledge. As she always believes, nature is based on a variety of species, which are almost destroyed by several industrial practices that transform the atmosphere and critical zones. She wants to reflect this reality through her drawings, using a critical approach to change reality with her art. She was collecting materials, examining morphologies and the shapes of fossils to invent her visual glossary. “Cluster of matter project conveys the situation of the human and non-human inhabitants of Matloui gafsa, suffering from daily phosphate mine explosions. This industrialized method, created for a more efficient production and a faster extraction of phosphate, has destroyed fossils and specimens.” Explains the artist.
Taboubi finds that this situation is similar to the natural phenomenon of sedimentation ; the economic system is digging up history and culture. Bochra embraces a particular aesthetic that interprets the imaginary world in very fine lines of organic and natural forms.

The scientific line is distinctive in the artist’s work. Bochra Taboubi affirms that she doesn’t frequently use colors in her drawings for purely artistic choices. “We do not introduce colors for the purpose of entertainment, or to amuse (…), but to assist the mind in its research after truth, to increase the facilities of instruction, and to diffuse. When she draws” Ernst Haeckel. She’s always mindful of form and texture and often works on morphology and form more than drawing and silhouette. The shapes are usually born from her own experience and observation. She tries to translate her thoughts to a system of morphogenesis , from an analogy to a logic of creating a life cycle. Meanwhile, she is very sensitive to pencil and ink. She prefers to highlight the contrast between black and white to emphasize the shadow to the light by making the analogy to the human mind.

Where did we go from here?

After the anthropocene there’s a symbiocéne . For Bochra, humankind should be aware that our species can’t exist without the other variety of species. It is fundamental that species cohabitate, connect but do not dominate.. Bochra thinks that humanity is going toward collective societies, she added that “We need to switch from the ideology of the individual societies and its impact on our cultures, on nature and as a power system that dominates us. Also the labor meaning and control rules contaminate human psychology and behavior.” I think that humankind needs to be fully engaged to look for the change in our societies as a collective and united mass, instead of trying to embellish the ugly truth individually.


© Malek Abderrahmane | Exhibition “Cluster of Matter” by Bochra Taboubi at the Caserne El Attarine, Tunis, May 2023