Ismaïl Bahri studied art in Paris and in Tunis, his hometown. His work incorporates many cultural and aesthetic references, developing visual experiments that are both sensitive and precise. The results of these experiments take varying forms – drawings, videos, photographs, installations, and hybrids of these forms. The basic materials used in these works are manipulated and ultimately transformed, often through mechanically inspired gestures and procedures that are related, in one way or another, to cinema or photography. In the video Orientations (2010), for example, the artist filmed a stroll through Tunis by framing a glass filled with black ink that acted as a lens by reflecting the surroundings; this questioning of art’s permeability with regards to the contemporary world is generated through a quasi-cinematic process based on principles of recording, motion, and simultaneous creation on a sensitive surface and a projection screen, while making use of laughably inadequate equipment. While the production of traces constitutes a revelatory act, Ismaïl Bahri equally privileges experiences that build on the organic and fleeting nature of things. The ordinary world’s natural qualities slip away in a slow perpetual movement, remaining elusive. From the strange rituals invented by the artist, emerges a questioning of the limits of the visible and of perception itself.
Gilles Baume, translated by Jacob Bromberg (2012)
Ismaïl Bahri’s work has been presented at the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), the Collège des Bernardins (Paris), the Cinémathèque of Tangiers, the Staatliche Kunsthalle (Karlsruhe), Kunst Im Tunnel (Düsseldorf), La Centrale électrique (Brussels), the British Film Institute (London), Fondazione Mertz (Turin), and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (Lisbon), among others. Ismaïl Bahri has participated in international exhibitions such as the Biennale de Sharjah, Rencontres de Bamako and Fotographia Europea. In France, his works were recently included in the exhibitions Mandrake a disparu at Espace Khiasma and L’arbre de vie at Collège des Bernardins. He has participated in video festivals such as Busan International Video art (South Corea), Cinemed Festival International Méditerranéen (France), Panorama des cinémas du Maghreb (France) and Videoformes (Clermont-Ferrand). Some of his videos are included in the video compilations edited by the label Lowave.
*Founded in 2012, Phantom is a new department of Khiasma, an art centre in Les Lilas (Greater Paris). Phantom aims to provide answers to the questions emerging from new cinematographic practices – those related to the field of the visual arts in particular – in what concerns their production but also their distribution. Motivated by the observation that traditional production and distribution methods do not allow the diversity and scope of contemporary film practices, Phantom will be defined and developed as an open workspace.