Farah Sayem — Activate more than invent

Written by Farah Sayem. Published on 20 June 2023.

“Lesson to be learned: In a universe characterized by circulation, works of art and mobilizing approaches can also drown in the flow, become passing forms and not, as traditional art understands the artwork, station forms. The destiny of art, not without coherence, joins here the destiny of humanity, which is characterized as much by fixation as by nomadism.” (Paul Ardenne, Art in Context)

Photos: Gabès Cinéma Fen

The common space, the shared space, beyond being a geographical space, is a political and physical space. Appropriating, mastering and frequenting it is the artist’s right in a democratic creative process. The artist is a cornerstone in the relationship between dominant and marginalized actors. This power relationship is a story of struggle against the issues and conflicts of the geopolitical location of space, planning and economic agglomeration. Policies have their systems that allow them to subordinate social actions and events they influence to their strategies. On the other hand, free and independent artistic creation will in turn be able to acquire its own system of meaning. K OFF 2023 is a selection of works to question the contribution of the artist in a world of common experiences, in a shared space. Does experience remain an artistic rule? How do context, place, or even space define the artwork?

River water and borders are at the origin of the creation of artist Saif Fraj’s video, “The Imperfect Past of Water Lapping”. The artist asks questions about time, death, and life during a walk with his daughter in a museum in Sousse. A walk punctuated by the movement of the sea waves emphasizing the origins of the father and daughter, the south and the north.

In Nefta, in southern Tunisia, artist Elma Riza tells the story of a spring, “AIN,” that is drying up. We see the palm grove of Nefta, this unique place full of stories, a source of inspiration for literature, a source of natural resources for a city… It is a metaphor for the spring, its search, its loss, around an object, the date palm branch stripped of its attributes. And as one searches with a stick for a water source, this journey takes the audience from one landscape to another, from the dying Oasis to the desert, with the hope of finding another path, another horizon.

In the popular suburbs of Tunis, “The Tide Will Carry Us,” a free documentary and aesthetic essay, videographer Walid Ben Ghezala reconstructs in a unique space-time countless hours of cassette recording from his nighttime wanderings. One night, on the beach, tongues loosen and spirits are liberated, then the portrait of a generation, its taboos and hopes, takes shape. Here, there is no fine sandy beach; the rocky space of this seaside is unique, it is a space “in between.” Between land and sea.Between city and nature. Between the ordinary and the extraordinary. Between reality and dream. Between here and elsewhere…

For artist Malek Boukadida, water is a rare source of life and escapes the inhabitants. In “Beyond the Visible” Metlaoui is devoid of its water, its inhabitants. The city has become a ghost! Frequent cuts that hit its inhabitants hard. Meanwhile, the phosphate factory is drinking up this vital resource for washing its ore. Water, a vague memory and the inhabitants’ migrants.

In the train of life, the artist Hamza Madfai shows in “The Eternal Recurrence” that the human is in absolute immobility. The train modifies time and space. Set in its path, it reaches a permanent state where time seems suspended. At constant speed, it becomes internally as if immobile, but, at the same time, of a pure mobility. Outside, space tightens while time softens. The traveler, alone with himself, makes the existential experience of the time.

In her work “Desacorps”, Dora Hichri addresses the subject of self-acceptance. Accepting and reconciling with her body. In a personal approach, the young artist traces and anchors her reconciliation with her body. Observe, touch, and take the time to understand herself. The artist transforms this artistic medium to reconnect with her features, her flesh, and her identity in a kind of personal ablution.

Through interaction between the observer and the common space of the exhibition, K OFF invites the public to discover a multiform reality, a real repositioning of current events, and an awareness of the transformations of today’s society. Everyday situations that stand out, are to be experienced, rethought, and appreciated. This video art section of the Gabes Cinema Fen festival focuses on the theme “Activate, more than invent” with an emphasis on flows and waves, space and time, the nomadic and the stable…. On water, land, and human.


International Festival of Cinematic Arts
27 APR — 2 MAY 2023

GABES CINEMA FEN is an annual festival aiming to create a dialogue between cinema, videoart, and virtual reality. With its diversified sections, the festival offers an alternative program. It also provides a place to meet and exchange ideas about film works and the themes that arise from them. The festival takes place every year in Gabes. This city of the Tunisian South-East faces ecological problems related to the phosphate transformation industry. GABES CINEMA FEN, in collaboration with the cultural and environmental associations of the region, seeks to create new synergies that will help rethink the city and its challenges through art. >>


K OFF is a “carte blanche” to young Tunisian curators, allowing them to express their artistic choices and to be authors of a full exhibition. The K OFF section does not subscribe to any particular orientation or predefined theme. It thus marks the commitment of GABES CINEMA FEN to encourage the young artistic scene in Tunisia and to accompany it in its nascent journey. It is developed in with LA BOÎTE, a structure of support, dissemination and mediation of contemporary art in Tunisia. >>

K OFF Curators

2022 Kenza Jemmali
2021 Salma Kossemtini


K OFF curated by Farah Sayem