Who are you?

My name is Dalila Dalléas Bouzar, I am a plastic artist. I was born in Algeria and I grew up in Paris. I have studied at l’École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris (Paris school of fine arts), then I have drifted through Europe and I am now living in Bordeaux. And I am a woman… I believe that it is important!

© Dalila Dalléas Bouzar

“… After I got my diploma, I left for a residence in Algeria and in Serbia. Then I lived in Berlin from 2010 to 2014 and it was at that time that I went back to my favorite medium, drawing. The city of Berlin inspired me through its history and its memorials. In 2011, I returned to Algeria to develop a reflection on the memory of the traumatic history of the war of independence and of the civil war in the 1990s. The book Algeria Year 0 (Algérie Année 0), presents my drawings as well as texts by several authors and was edited in 2012 by Editions Barzakh in Algiers.
My artistic work was getting more assured and gained maturity, both in technique and in positioning. I mainly use drawing, painting and performing. Today, I am represented by gallery Cécile Fakhoury in Abidjan and Mamia Bretesché in Paris.”

Are you human?

Yes, I am a human being. I am a living being, in a world that remains a mystery. And I am trying to do my job as a human being: understanding who we are, where we are and trying to get out of a materialistic – but also animal – determinism which makes the world violent, aggressive, unfair.

Baigneuses (Algérie Année 0 series), 100×80 cm, pencil and gouache on canvas, 2011 © Dalila Dalléas Bouzar – Courtesy of the gallery Cécile Fakhoury

Do you believe in intuition?

Yes, yes, of course. But I believe in even more than that: I believe in the existence of spiritual forces… I believe in God. I believe in magic, I believe in miracles… I believe in love… I believe in a lot of things.

Are you an optimist?

I am deeply optimistic! Despite some quite hard fits of depression sometimes. But I am optimistic, I do not know why. At the same time, when I re-locate myself into evolution from the beginning of life to nowadays – I am not talking about “finalism”, I do not believe in it – I think that what we live, is a kind of test which will bring evolution to another step. And even if we are not the ones who will experience it, even if the human species won’t experience it, it is a part of evolution. And I find that it gives a lot of optimism, because it decenters us from our everyday life, our social life, our “little things” as Deleuze puts it; it gives us another horizon, an elevation.

I must say that I have studied biology and general sciences that have allowed me to have this approach of the world, of matter, of energy. Which, besides, is not incompatible with art and spirituality, contrary to what one believes.

Untitled (Rencontre series), 29×21 cm, pencil and gouache on paper, 2016 © Dalila Dalléas Bouzar – Courtesy of the gallery Cécile Fakhoury

How would you describe the future?

I think that there is no future. For me “the past, the present and the future” are a moment. In other words, the future is a fabrication of the Spirit, only the present exists and our future is in our present. As you said about ambitions, it should not be delayed: you must think immediately to the height of your ambition. Of course, and that goes for the whole interview, what I am saying engages only me, as I understand things. But time being linked to matter, I would say that the problem of our world, are the constraints that matter forces on us, and if you can deal with it, this can become a way to escape time. It is also the purpose of transcendence.

Untitled (Entité series), 130×125 cm, oil on canvas, 2017 © Dalila Dalléas Bouzar – Courtesy of the gallery Cécile Fakhoury

In this sense, the Conference of the collective Le Peuple qui manque (The Lacking People) that took place during the last Biennale of Dakar, had challenged me. Kantuta Quiros and Aliocha Imhoff spoke of the possible futures. I found it strange that they had not addressed the spiritual time of the believer. This time is beyond matter. Of course, I understand perfectly that they may not believe it, and it is probably why they did not incorporate it. All the same, how to consider all the possible times if you don’t consider this time? It is an extremely deep time, which opens to other dimensions and which is fantastic. It is a pity that this concept seems to slip away from the mind, particularly in the West, where time was measured and frozen. So much that one could think it is the dominant vision of the world: sciences, history, art, they all have a fictional and compartmentalized representation of time, distorted by the dogma of progress. Yet I believe that it is not only interesting but important to decenter, to consider these other visions.

Are magic and technology opposed?

I would say they aren’t. Technology is not something that I demonise. It is a practical tool, drawn from the sciences. This tool could very well serve magic. Technology, today in our society, is mixed up with materialism, consumerism, money, social classes (those who have access to technology), a certain form of power (and that is why we are investing so much in the sciences which can give rise to new technologies). But power is also in magic. Magic is also power. And since it is a tool, what is really going to determine it is how we will use it. It is the intention.

What is/are the difference(s) between dreams, desires and projections?

First, desire. I would say that desire is what inhabits us involuntarily: we can manage it, but not control it or destroy it. But it is also a driving force. We must try to understand our desires because they say something about us, what we are.

Dreams are very strong. When you are sleeping and dreaming, you can deploy a true familiarity. I am a great dreamer, it is like a parallel world. There are even places I regularly come back to, to the point that sometimes I feel like I have another life.

Projection, however, is different. By that I mean “mental projections”. That is to say a materiality of the mind, which becomes tangible in reality. For example, prayer, is concrete. It is a projection. In the repetition of the prayer, you project your willingness in a “palpable” space-time. Some will say that it is chance, but for me chance does not exist, or maybe just when it indicates a meeting. When you meet someone in the street in an incredible location, at an incredible time: there has been a projection, even unconscious, at a given time, of this meeting.

I would say that the difference between the 3 is linked to awareness: you are aware of your desires, not of your dreams, and projection would be between the two.

Untitled (Rencontre series), 29×21 cm, pencil and gouache on paper, 2016 © Dalila Dalléas Bouzar – Courtesy of the gallery Cécile Fakhoury

What does “fantasy” mean?

It makes me think of sexual fantasy. Of something that you would like to do, but without knowing how to get there. It would be an action to which you aspire precisely because intimately you know that you don’t have the means to achieve it. And if you could, you would probably not.

Do you feel like a stranger? If you do, towards what?

It comes a time when, with getting older, I believe that you try to find places where you don’t have to feel like a stranger anymore. And on the contrary, this is not always worth it to venture on other people’s territories. Because from the time you leave your territory, you lose your strength. A warrior would behave just like this: if there is a struggle – and because life is not that long – it’d better be on a space that you know…

Then, I believe that the only time I really felt like a stranger, is went I experienced a physical decentration, like going beyond your body.

And then there are also those moments where you’re in a foreign country and you need a certain time of familiarity. But to come back to the thematic that is dear to France – it seems like there are a lot of French who are / feel foreign in France… But for me this is really bullshit. In any case, I personally never felt like a stranger in France, even if I have been naturalized French. From the moment you speak the language, you are soaked in and you evolve just like the others, you are not a stranger. France and Europe, are however concepts that I am astranged to.

What does “blackness” mean? / and what about “Afro-ness”?

The first (Negritude, in French) is a concept developed by Aimé Césaire… but I must confess that I did not really include those concepts in my development; they don’t really speak to me. I do not situate people according to their color, or their story. At the same time, I am aware and I take History into account. I can understand, I am trying in any case. But in my personal life, in my intellectual commitment, this is not something that I will particularly defend. In fact I believe that the borders have already exploded and that we are already beyond this; but we are not really aware of it yet.

Princesse (series), 50×40 cm each, oil on canvas, 2016 © Dalila Dalléas Bouzar – Courtesy of the gallery Cécile Fakhoury

What is Africa?

For me Africa is first of all a continent, in the sense of a land. And I am attached to it like a plant is attached to the soil, because I was born there. And I find that it is in particular a land with a great deal of vitality. And if it is said that humanity would be originating in Africa, it means that there is a special link on this continent and it would give it a special feature compared to other lands.

Has Africa got anything to learn to/from the world?

I would not say it like that. I do not like this movement, it reminds me of politics too much, this idea that “I sense that I have to do something for the world”. Nobody has the mission to learn to others, to learn from others. I think we are what we are and the only tangible thing is that everyone will learn from themselves and their environment. I do not particularly believe that Africa has to learn from / to the others. I think that each culture has its own wealth and all that it takes to learn from itself.

Untitled (Rencontre series), 29×21 cm, pencil and gouache on paper, 2016 © Dalila Dalléas Bouzar – Courtesy of the gallery Cécile Fakhoury

What is its future?

I am unfortunately not as optimistic for this. Politics, and the economic war, and domination continues to plunder Africa, its peoples are governed by predators… and I do not really see the outcome to this. I find it difficult to consider a change in the near future in any case.

Untitled (Algérie Année 0 series), 40×30 cm, pencil and acrylic on paper, 2011 © Dalila Dalléas Bouzar – Courtesy of the gallery Cécile Fakhoury

What is afrofuturism?

From what I understood, afrofuturism is an invention of history centered around people from Africa. Given that History is already written, the afrofuturists invent the future History which may still be written. It is called science-fiction or anticipation. I find this great because in inventing a future, the latter necessarily refers us to our present and then to our past. The power of domination lies in part in mastering collective narratives and what constitutes our legends, our beliefs but also our utopias and the vision of our common destiny. In reappropriating this story through stories on the future, we take some power back and it transforms our vision of our present and that of others too. I love this movement because it is non-violent and I firmly believe in the effectiveness of non-violence, in the lineage of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

The only criticism that I would put forward is the focus on the color black which refers to Afro. It is time to get out of this pigment determinism which restricts us. Afrofuturism is in the spirit and not on the skin.

Are you an afrofuturist?

I am nothing. I am me, with the others.

Vichy ERa #1 (Algérie Année 0 series), 130×125 cm, pencil and oil on canvas, 2012 © Dalila Dalléas Bouzar – Courtesy of the gallery Cécile Fakhoury

Vichy ERa #1 (Algérie Année 0 series), 130×125 cm, pencil and oil on canvas, 2012 © Dalila Dalléas Bouzar – Courtesy of the gallery Cécile Fakhoury

What is the last thing that you have learned?

I have always believed that we, human beings, had emerged 100,000 years ago. The Homo sapiens sapiens, the Lascaux caves, and the beginning of the rock art dating from around 40,000 years ago, I was wondering what had happened between these 100,000 years and these 40 000 years. This constituted a mystery: I was like, something must have happened for people to all of a sudden start to draw in caves. But recently, I was reading the book from the universe to the being (De l’univers à l’être) by Jean-Marie Pelt, and I discovered that in fact, 100,000 years ago lived the Homo Sapiens erectus, which was different from us and that the homo sapiens sapiens arrived around 40,000 years ago… I was really disappointed. Because it means that as soon as we arrived, we began to be what we are. There was no longer an alternative or the possibility that we were otherwise at a given time in our history.

Where were you on Friday April 20th 2063?

Here. In this public park in Paris in the process of doing this interview with you on this bench.

A soundtrack?

It is a sound that I recorded myself when I was in Algeria in 2004. I was in a residence where I gave painting workshops for women. And I took the opportunity to shoot a small video. I have recorded quite a few sounds including the calls to prayer at 4am, because where I was, in Oran, there were several minarets that called one after the other. It was an incredible mystical experience; it gave me the chills to hear these people who sang in echoes and then in unison in the darkness of the city… It was crazy, completely fantastic.

Describe the end of the world.

I can’t. For me there is no end of the world. There is the end of a world, the end of your world or of mine when we die. And that is even indescribable since we don’t have access to this end, at the precise moment when we die, we are no longer there to be able to think, describe… and it is true that all the visions of the apocalypse that we are given to see at the cinema, in literature, in speeches, annoy me; they are rather fantasies as we talked about earlier.

And if you had to start all over again?

I’d do it again! But I would be held back. There are a lot of held backs in the world.

A last word?

I am very happy I met you. I think it’s important to be able to think together. And as you say, I believe that it is a way to be together, one of the other possible ways to live together.

Untitled (Rencontre series), 29×21 cm, pencil and gouache on paper, 2016 © Dalila Dalléas Bouzar – Courtesy of the gallery Cécile Fakhoury

More about Dalila:

via her Site or her Gallery.

Cover : In Memory of Catherine, 50×40 cm, oil on canvas, 2016 © Dalila Dalléas Bouzar – Courtesy of the gallery Cécile Fakhoury

Translation by Justine Rousseau

By Mawena Yehouessi

Diplomée de Philosophie puis Gestion de Projets Culturels, Mawena fait ses premières armes dans les milieux de l’art contemporain tout en menant de front divers projets : soirées, édition, collectifs artistiques… Fondatrice et directrice de Black(s) to the Future, son objectif est simple : mettre en lumière la part « afro » du monde et performer le futur. | www.mawenayehouessi.fr // @ma.wena

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