Cutting what cuts, by Alain Berland, 2013
Where do we speak from? Where do our portrayals of
the world come from? Which territories do we move
about in? These are the questions underlying Djamel
Kokene's work. At the Friche Belle de Mai, the artist
interrogates several themes through an installation
named Double Bind.
Double Bind is a piece of artwork that was developed
as a result of an artist residency at Marseille's Commercial
Court. It is composed of two separate elements:
a full-sized architectural model of a cross-section of
a courtroom, and a charcoal wall drawing tracing
the sculpture's silhouette. The first is produced with
the objectivity of a geologist who samples a piece of
the earth's core to study its composition. The second has
a poet's fragile and vulnerable subjectivity. The first
could be the product of a conscientious researcher's
perfection and expertise, and the second is an
approximation – a furtive, quickly drawn line.
Djamel Kokene is clearly a new “psychogeographer”.
In line with Guy Debord's well-known definition of
this term, he focuses on identity and memory by closely
observing how geographical environments and
globalisation affect individual psychology. He selfpublishes
Checkpoint, a beautiful annual Journal in
French, English and Arabic, on an irregular basis. The
journal's last edition dealt with extending the realm of
dreams and utopias. More recently, in 2012, he produced
a superb piece of architectural artwork, Restance (little
patch of yellow wall), where he painted in yellow
a half-demolished hotel that migrants used to shelter in
Saint-Denis (Paris suburb). He also created the playful
installation Fontaine 2012, where visitors were
invited to make a wish by throwing coins into a red
plastic basin full of blue ink. Each time a visitor
succeeded, ink splashed onto the floor. This created a strange
artistic territory where people could no longer walk.
At the Friche la Belle de Mai (Marseille), the untreated
oak sculpture has an enigmatic presence. It is ten metres
long by fifty centimetres wide, and rests on a metallic
structure. It is like a cross-section of real life, a generic
courtroom environment. It is one of those legal bodies
that all have similar configurations, whether they are
located in deepest Africa or Western nations. It has the
force inherent to places of power, yet stages the theatrical
nature and fragility of tribunals' decisions.
Djamel Kokene likes to physically immerse himself
in places to understand their variable and invariable
elements. However, instead of being a sentinel who
watches over a specific area, he prefers to let his mind
and spirit wander to find new grounds for artistic
research and observe the frictions produced there.
For Double Bind, he uses a material that already exists
and subjects it to a deconstructive and reconstructive
process, which analyses and even contests preconceived
ideas of signs that reflect personal and collective histories.
Not without humour, he plays with the idea of justice,
which generally treats immigrants unequally despite
political speeches on openness.
“I ask questions about limits or borders because, for me,
they are one of the most essential issues for individuals
and the construction of identity. But I don't consider
identity is linked only to roots or the place we come from.
I know that the context in which you are born is of
fundamental importance and that it contributes to the
way we live, but we constantly move around, so why
always bring up the territory of origin? Instead, we
should focus on forms of globalisation and the ways
subjectivities reflect and interpret the world. With the
President at the head of the Bar of Marseille, we talked
about the different subjectivities present common place,
the way in which sensory and biased interpretations
guide some legal decisions. This is especially true given
that a Commercial Court is not run by legal professionals
but by tradesmen elected by their peers. The law decides
and separates, and I choose to cut what cuts, to cut into
what has already been cut.” Djamel Kokene.
Alain Berland was a member of the Editorial Board of the journal particles (between 2003 and 2010), he contributes regularly to the journal Movement since 2008 and is a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Questions of artists since 2010 programmer for visual arts the Bernardine College since 2010, there has been a curator for "Antony McCall- Between you and I" (2011), "Isabelle Cornaro - From near and far" (2011), "Judith Scott - secret items" (2011), "Céleste Boursier Mougenot- Videodrones" (2011), "Michel Blazy final Bouquet" (2012) and "Bruno Perramant - blind" (2012). He was Artistic Advisor of the Biennale du Havre in 2010 and Commissioner for contemporary art of the 2012 edition.
In 2014, he curated the group exhibition Men, worlds Bernardine College (February-June 2014) and has been appointed Curator for the Visual Arts at the Theatre Nanterre-the Almond.