Effet de Serre

Solo show
Farah Khelil
Assisted by
Ons Karoui (site manager)
Samir Bahri (project manager)
Muriel Babandisha (edition manager)

Effet de Serre

Solo show
Farah Khelil
Assisted by
Ons Karoui (site manager)
Samir Bahri (project manager)
Muriel Babandisha (edition manager)

Effet de Serre is a conceptual, committed and critical gesture of renovation of Tunis’ municipal greenhouse at the Parc du Belvédère, which questions the very same definition of an artwork, the place of the artist and the role of cultural institutions. It points out the emancipation of an artistic gesture from the art market circuit by deviating a grant for artistic production towards an action of general interest. The greenhouse will become the site of an immersive installation made up of formal elements that draw on the botanical history of the Palmarium of Tunis. A publication in the form of an artist’s book will also be proposed in order to extend this project assembled from scratch by the artist.

Effet de Serre is a conceptual, committed and critical gesture of renovation of Tunis’ municipal greenhouse at the Parc du Belvédère, which questions the very same definition of an artwork, the place of the artist and the role of cultural institutions. It points out the emancipation of an artistic gesture from the art market circuit by deviating a grant for artistic production towards an action of general interest. The greenhouse will become the site of an immersive installation made up of formal elements that draw on the botanical history of the Palmarium of Tunis. A publication in the form of an artist’s book will also be proposed in order to extend this project assembled from scratch by the artist.

Effet de Serre aims at studying the history of an emblematic place in Tunisia, the Palmarium and at sharing these researches and archives in a greenhouse located in the Parc du Belvédère, Tunis. The project’s approach is to provide a critical vision of artistic intervention in a horticultural greenhouse and how it may produce a different relation to the artwork.

“In 2012, I read the book Orphelins de Bourguiba et héritiers du prophète of Samy Ghorbal. The author deals with the dialectic of identity, modernity and Islamism –, using the allegory of a vegetable analogy found in the Eucalyptus (colonial heritage) and the Palm tree (Islamic identity).

In this ‘dialectic of Palm and Eucalyptus’, the Islamic tradition gives the palm tree’s symbolism prominence, as the plant is mentioned about twenty times in the Qur’an.

In the North African context, it is worth noting the French colonial administration introduced Eucalypti into Tunisia at the beginning of the 19th century. This alien specimen almost broke in, slowly taking root, until it blended into the local landscape. A discreet witness to the civilising work of colonisation, it ended up populating roadsides and even the territory of certain major avenues of the capital city. The species has become unloved, suspicious and subject to scrutiny. It is still perceived as a colonial residue. A sacrificial victim, it was going to pay the price for the obsession with identity that seized the country after the change of November 7, 1987. The Eucalyptus is horizontal; it is multiple, and its foliage is exuberant. In comparison, the Palm tree has as a principle of verticality; it is straight, rooted, austere.

Actually, what is striking in this dialectic is that such a couple of oppositions may relate to a founding dichotomy between the sacred and the profane, between transcendence and immanence.

Taken from an historical perspective, the dialectic between these two plants can refer to the question of Tunisian modernity: How can this botanical duality contribute to constructing a new model for a collective ‘We’ beyond the more classical identity narrative ?

In order to deepen my research and to carry out a series of pieces that would highlight a trans-individual future of Tunisia through the botanical prism, I would like to dig into the history of the Palmarium of Tunis building while referencing the Palm tree. The Palmarium was a Casino, built in an Art Nouveau style by the French in 1902. Na-med after its garden planted with Palm trees, it was originally a winter garden, before being used as a music hall and cinema. Victim of the 1942-43 bombardments, it was rebuilt after the WW2 and turned into a shopping centre.

With Effet de Serre, I plan to disclose the story of the Palmarium under a horticultural greenhouse located in the Parc du Belvédère in Tunis. The public will be invited to consult the Palmarium’s archives and to engage with trees brought inside the hothouse specially for the exhibition, soaking up an atmosphere of scents and colours reminiscent of different layers of history. The Greenhouse – due to its own history mingling botany and politics at time of imperialism and colonisation, and because it also relates to heritage architecturally and to transmission through the planting of seeds – makes for an ideal place where nature and culture, and tradition and modernity can be interconnected.” Farah Khelil

Effet de Serre aims at studying the history of an emblematic place in Tunisia, the Palmarium and at sharing these researches and archives in a greenhouse located in the Parc du Belvédère, Tunis. The project’s approach is to provide a critical vision of artistic intervention in a horticultural greenhouse and how it may produce a different relation to the artwork.

“In 2012, I read the book Orphelins de Bourguiba et héritiers du prophète of Samy Ghorbal. The author deals with the dialectic of identity, modernity and Islamism –, using the allegory of a vegetable analogy found in the Eucalyptus (colonial heritage) and the Palm tree (Islamic identity).

In this ‘dialectic of Palm and Eucalyptus’, the Islamic tradition gives the palm tree’s symbolism prominence, as the plant is mentioned about twenty times in the Qur’an.

In the North African context, it is worth noting the French colonial administration introduced Eucalypti into Tunisia at the beginning of the 19th century. This alien specimen almost broke in, slowly taking root, until it blended into the local landscape. A discreet witness to the civilising work of colonisation, it ended up populating roadsides and even the territory of certain major avenues of the capital city. The species has become unloved, suspicious and subject to scrutiny. It is still perceived as a colonial residue. A sacrificial victim, it was going to pay the price for the obsession with identity that seized the country after the change of November 7, 1987. The Eucalyptus is horizontal; it is multiple, and its foliage is exuberant. In comparison, the Palm tree has as a principle of verticality; it is straight, rooted, austere.

Actually, what is striking in this dialectic is that such a couple of oppositions may relate to a founding dichotomy between the sacred and the profane, between transcendence and immanence.

Taken from an historical perspective, the dialectic between these two plants can refer to the question of Tunisian modernity: How can this botanical duality contribute to constructing a new model for a collective ‘We’ beyond the more classical identity narrative ?

In order to deepen my research and to carry out a series of pieces that would highlight a trans-individual future of Tunisia through the botanical prism, I would like to dig into the history of the Palmarium of Tunis building while referencing the Palm tree. The Palmarium was a Casino, built in an Art Nouveau style by the French in 1902. Na-med after its garden planted with Palm trees, it was originally a winter garden, before being used as a music hall and cinema. Victim of the 1942-43 bombardments, it was rebuilt after the WW2 and turned into a shopping centre.

With Effet de Serre, I plan to disclose the story of the Palmarium under a horticultural greenhouse located in the Parc du Belvédère in Tunis. The public will be invited to consult the Palmarium’s archives and to engage with trees brought inside the hothouse specially for the exhibition, soaking up an atmosphere of scents and colours reminiscent of different layers of history. The Greenhouse – due to its own history mingling botany and politics at time of imperialism and colonisation, and because it also relates to heritage architecturally and to transmission through the planting of seeds – makes for an ideal place where nature and culture, and tradition and modernity can be interconnected.” Farah Khelil

Greenhouse of the Parc du Belvédère, Tunis, Tunisia
Fall 2021

TO THE ARTIST'S WEBSITE

The exhibition received support from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC), Association des Amis du Belvédère,  Centre d’Études Maghrébines à Tunis (CEMAT), Council of American Overseas Research Centers, Goethe-Institut Tunis, Municipalité de Tunis and 32Bis Centre d’art contemporain in Tunis.

Greenhouse of the Parc du Belvédère, Tunis, Tunisia
Fall 2021

TO THE ARTIST'S WEBSITE

The exhibition received support from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC), Association des Amis du Belvédère,  Centre d’Études Maghrébines à Tunis (CEMAT), Council of American Overseas Research Centers, Goethe-Institut Tunis, Municipalité de Tunis and 32Bis Centre d’art contemporain in Tunis.

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