Exhibition of Neïl Beloufa entitled “Soft(a)ware” is on display at K11 Art Foundation.

Works by Neïl Beloufa are on display at K11 Art Foundation Shanghai until 8 December 2016. Art Radar takes a look at the artist’s practice and talks to curator Victor Wang about “Soft(a)ware” and the exhibition’s use of retail display modes.

Neïl Beloufa, ‘Superlatives and Resolution, People Passion, Movement and Life’, 2014. Installation view of “Neïl Beloufa: Soft(a)ware, chi K11 art museum, 2016. Image courtesy Victor Wang.

Neïl Beloufa, ‘Superlatives and Resolution, People Passion, Movement and Life’, 2014. Installation view of “Neïl Beloufa: Soft(a)ware”, chi K11 art museum, 2016. Image courtesy Victor Wang.

Neïl Beloufa: “I don’t believe in democracy, I just display what it means”

The video at the centre of the presentation, People’s passion, lifestyle, beautiful wine, gigantic glass towers, all surrounded by water (2011) (which forms part of the installation Superlatives and Resolution, People Passion, Movement and Life at K11) features a group of people in an unnamed city enthusiastically describing their experience there. Beloufa often works collaboratively, and in this instance he teamed up with actors to generate scripts that imitate popular genres, including infomercials and science fiction films.

Neïl Belouda, ‘Kempinski, 2007, Video, 14 min, still. Image courtesy Galerie LHK.

Neïl Beloufa, ‘Kempinski’, 2007, video, 14:00 min, still. Image courtesy Galerie LHK.

In one of his earliest works, the 14-minute video Kempinski (2007) shot in Mali, Beloufa lights his subjects with neons that are visible onscreen while he asks his interviewees to talk about the future in the present tense. The effect is a rupturing of cinematic, linguistic and aesthetic expectations as science-fiction meets documentary, the present meets the future, static meet voyage. Kempinski clearly subverts traditional “ethnographic” documentary logic whereby the relationship between subject and camera, interviewer and interviewee is stable. Thus the work could perhaps be read in the context of a lineage of experimental ethnographers looking to transform what is traditionally the passive subject of documentation into an active theme that subsequently has a determining influence on the form the film takes such as early cine verite projects Jean Rouch’s Chronique d’un été or Guy Debord’s Critique de la Séparation.

Neïl Beloufa, 'Production Value', 2013. Installation view of "Neïl Beloufa" at Hammer Projects. Image courtesy Hammer Museum.

Neïl Beloufa, ‘Production Value’, 2013. Installation view of “Neïl Beloufa” at Hammer Projects. Image courtesy Hammer Museum.

Yet Beloufa’s Kempinski is of a slightly different breed: it is not the self-reflexivity of the interviewer (or artist) that is foregrounded in order to give way to the agency of the interviewee but rather the artist finds an equation through which the interviewee can explore the grammar and logic of futurity of film itself. As Beloufa stated in artspace in reference to another work entitled LA Production (in which the artist worked with minority communities in Los Angeles who were each given the same budget to make a film of self- and collective representation),

In that way it’s a democratic movie, but I don’t believe in democracy. I just display what it means.

A trailer of Kempinski (2007) can be seen here.

Neïl Beloufa, ‘Superlatives and Resolution, People Passion, Movement and Life’, 2014. Installation view of “Neïl Beloufa: Soft(a)ware, chi K11 art museum, 2016. Image courtesy Victor Wang.

Neïl Beloufa, ‘Superlatives and Resolution, People Passion, Movement and Life’, 2014. Installation view of “Neïl Beloufa: Soft(a)ware”, chi K11 art museum, 2016. Image courtesy Victor Wang.

Neïl Beloufa’s work moves between the critical and the fatigued, the anti-authoritarian and the apathetic. As the artist moves between the two, he creates projects that successfully map the contours of the materials and grammars of systems of exploitation, currently couched in the vocabulary of software (that which we can’t see, as opposed to the visible hardware) and hidden in the language of clouds.

Rebecca Close

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Related topics: Algerian artist, Mixed MediaInstallation, Museum shows, events in Shanghai

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Brittney

By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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