________ TROPICAL CONCRETE GYM PARK
Guest artist: Hadrien Gerenton
With the participation of : Paula Adory, Théo Roux, Mahdi Sehel
This residence is the second stage of a partnership between Glassbox and SPACE. EIt follows on from Soufiane Ababri’s solo exhibition in London ♪ Here is a Strange and Bitter Crop ♪♪, an overview of his reflections on the interrelationships between sport, power and sex. These three elements are re-examined here in the light of the Parisian socio-cultural context.
American historian Todd Sheppard’s book, Mâle, Décolonisation1(1), is the starting point for this residency. The text highlight the relationship between two events: Algeria’s independence and the sexual liberation movements related to May ’68. The ” Arab man ” figure seems to crystallize the more general problems raised in the current political, sexual and identity debates. While the far right perceives May 68 as a consequence of the French defeat in Algeria (and the moral decadence it would have caused), part of the left-wing projects its political aspirations into the Algerian revolution, while claiming connivance with the Maghreb populations, often with a provocative aim against the bourgeois and patriarchal order. This is notably the case of the FHAR (Homosexual Front for Revolutionary Action), founded in 1971. Hijacking the famous 343(2) manifesto published a few days earlier in Le Nouvel Observateur, FHAR members declare :
We are more than 343 sluts
We got fucked by Arabs…
We are proud of it and we will do it again(3)
Soufiane Ababri is interested in the political and cultural consequences of these discourses in the relations of domination maintained between different social-cultural groups. His work focuses on showing how bodies are invested by a history that they have not experienced. The homoerotic scenes with coloured pencils on paper in the Bedwork series are part of these reflections on the intimate and the political.
The survival of these patterns of representation in gay culture can be seen in the exhibition through the crisis of stereotypical figures, from the “lascar” to the “twink”, present in the drawings as well as in the performance, performed by Paula Adory, Théo Roux and Mahdi Sehel. The three characters, captives of their condition, overplay the identity types to which they are assigned. Interactions are restricted to short and violent contacts. The products that cover them (deodorant, make-up, cleaning products) as well as the muscles they use, refer, through olfactory and sound reminders, to their respective activities (sport, dance, cleaning). The protagonists stand out in their appropriation of the space and the objects in presence, produced by Hadrien Gerenton for the exhibition. The bodybuilding devices that mark out the territory become successively bodybuilding tools, dance accessories, surfaces to be cleaned. The same is true of the facsimiles of Capri Sun and Smuggled Camel packet, which the female character exhausts herself reordering, while the two men are enjoying it. They thus evolve in a setting whose entire scenography (shades of concrete grey covering the walls, Meudon white obscuring the windows, oppressive rumbling of mopeds against a backdrop of PNL, a french rap group), concurs in renewing and fixing these stereotypes in a constantly reformulated dialectic between fantasy and domination.
1. SHEPARD, Todd, Mâle, Décolonisation, The “Arab Man” and France, from Algerian Independence to the Iranian Revolution, trad. Clément Baude, Paris, Payot, 2017, 398 pp.
2. 343 women among the public and intellectual personalities of the time claim to have had recourse to abortion, exposing themselves to criminal prosecution. The manifesto, written by Simone de Beauvoir, explicitly calls for the legalization of abortion.
3. FHAR statement in the newspaper Tout! April 1971.
4.One thinks in particular of studios such as Citébeur, which exploit the fantasy of “beur”- a slang word meaning Arabic – a particularly popular category in French gay pornography.
• Opening and performance on Saturday, April 20 from 6:30 pm
• Exhibition from 20 April to 3 May 2019
> Facebook event
> Soufiane Ababri’s website
> Hadrien Gerenton’s website
Credits: Soufiane Ababri, Bed Work, 2018, Courtesy Galerie Praz Delavallade, Paris, Los Angeles.
Slideshow: Visuals of the performance by Paula Adory, Théo Roux and Mahdi Sehel on Saturday 20 April 2019.