may 2015

Ismaïl Bahri

I am writing this text three years after this residency, which allows me to better explore what has remained the most vivid. This hindsight is precious because I realize that what stayed with me is not necessarily what seemed important when I was there or when I left the island.  

I remember going to Ushant without any preconceived ideas, with, in my bag, my camera, notebooks, white paper, watercolors and an important stack of recorded conferences downloaded on the internet. I drew, filmed, took notes, looked for ideas. But, looking back, the most significant things that remain from this month of work are the long and unforgettable moments of listening to the conferences I brought with me. It really is what remains with me the strongest. I think it was my most important activity along with walking. The two of them being intrinsically linked: walking while listening to voices, listening to voices while walking through landscapes. 

The themes and fields of these conferences were numerous: astronomy, politics, painting, botanic, philosophy, cinema, physics, linguistics… I ended up being inhabited by these voices even if I sometimes didn’t understand the meaning. I remember their sound very well, certain tones, their intonations, certain types of silence, to the point that I sometimes associated them with fragments of landscapes in Ushant. I still listen to these conferences at home in Paris or in Tunis and associate certain logical thought developments with topological developments of some parts of the island. This effect is strange. Such sentence ends up referring to such rock, such work to such area, such contradiction to such creek…

When I think about it, this month of silence is paradoxically one of the most crowded months I have known.

At the same time as this permanent activity, I continued a series of videos (started before in Tunisia) that consisted in putting in front of the camera lens a sheet of blank paper that the wind sometimes lifted to reveal the landscape it was hiding. Thus, obstructed and arranged by the winds and lights, the camera transformed itself in a sort of atmospheric captor recording the environmental variations of its location.

I led these experiences without knowing. But what moves me and seems important now is that this month of listening in silence had a strong impact on my return from the residency. Indeed, I think this step back allowed me to find a possible “solution” to what was about to become the film “Foyer” (“Hearth”) (2016), inspired by these experiences with paper. Before going to Ushant, I had hours of rush filmed in Tunis without knowing what to do with them. And I think that I understood the importance of the voices that would be in the film even better when I returned. I then delved back into the rushes and finished the editing of “Foyer” several months later. Maybe, the inhabited solitude in Ushant allowed “Foyer” to find the space it needed to adjust and exist.