Noura Tafeche is an artist, an activist, a scholar, a thinker. When she talks you have to listen! Every conversation with her is a journey to unexpected destinations. Her mind spins at the speed of light and her artistic practice is just as broad as her interests.
Here’s what happened last time I called her:
How are your philosophy studies affecting your practice?
N.T.: I’ve developed an encyclopaedic approach to art and to life. I am against specialisation, I favour in-depth analysis as autonomous cross-disciplinary stream of consciousness that questions the whole human knowledge.
Philosophy doesn’t have the purpose of giving answers, it aims to give tools to pose questions. Philosophy gives the instruments to investigate different perspectives and points of view. I am guided by this examination fever and my works provide speculative tools of comprehension through the agony of the enigma.
I consider my work like a matryoshka of subjects. The more time you dedicate to the quest, the more attention you put into observing, the more clues you can pick up. That’s why I work with miniatures, I want to capture the attention of the viewer and fix it on the work. I can take up to 12 months to finish an artwork. It’s a choice of dedication. I want to make it complicated but at the same time not elitist. To me it’s just a way of playing with the viewer. People are free in their interpretation but ideally I want them to make as many connections as possible. My drawings are almost educational tools.
In Surveillance Kawaii, you tackle the subject of massive surveillance, can you tell me more about it?
N.T.: Surveillance always implies that there is a division between them and us, between the watchers and the watched. There is a long tradition of cultural studies related to surveillance and also an endless bibliography regarding the technological aspect of it. I don’t want to address either of those aspects. What I am interested in is the consequences that massive surveillance has on people. I use the Kawaii as an aesthetic expedient. it encloses a metaphor of vulnerability that Kawaii culture promotes and sells, enhancing the same feeling of fragility on which the entire surveillance industry thrives. Surveillance disciplines people’s behaviour promoting auto-censorships and insecurity. In this work, I combine the Kawaii aesthetic with symbols of the surveillance language like the biometric facial recognition diagram, the Panopticon map, a shattered Prism and memes related to the Internet censorship topic and social control. The whole pattern is a fairy-tale allegory on the mass surveillance’s defeat and it’s actually readable through a QR code printed on the fabric.
You describe your work Micro Regali di Strada as an act of Radical Tenderness. Can you explain this concept?
N.T.: Radical Tenderness is a concept developed by the artist Dani d’Emilia and Vanessa Andreotti. I like the fact that, in this case, the concept of radicalism is used to reinforce the concept of tenderness and not the other way around. Radical tenderness gives an assertive value to a feeling that is quite underestimate. Micro Regali di Strada is a relational art project that allows me to bring tenderness to people in an unexpected way. Again attention it’s crucial, if you don’t observe your environment you can’t spot the tiny boxes and you miss the gifts.
“To me, everything it’s just an excuse to make friends in unconventional ways “
It seems that all your works have a public aspect. It seems quite clear that you always create in a dialogue with your possible future viewers
N. T.:To me everything is just an excuse to make friends in unconventional ways. My art has a strong relational component. It’s all about relationships actually. For example, my work Los Globos Artivistas is an experiment, serious and humorous at the same time. I have been protesting my whole life and I realised that there is no aesthetic in the demonstrations. For this reason I introduced balloons to bring irony and beauty and turn the protest into a celebration. It’s a way to tackle important issues in an unusual and recreational way. I wanted people to be curious and engaged. It’s my playful resistance. I aim to realise public pranks. I see them as a form of protest that mocks the great powers. Pranks provoke uncontrollable reactions and I love them also because they can’t be digital.
You Co-founded the Center for Arabic Culture in 2018, can you tell us something more about it?
N.T.: The CCA is born with the intention of publishing information about Arabic Culture in the Italian language. In fact, all the publications on Arabic Culture are either in Arabic or in English. Therefore, we wanted to translate in Italian the pre-islamic history using anecdotes to spark interest. We also want to divulge contemporary Arabic art which offers an alternative view to the idea of an Arabic world tormented and in conflict that is commonly conveyed by the media. Contemporary Arabic art offers a kaleidoscopic and unconventional perspective on different themes and, even when it tackles conflicts it does it in an original and alternative way. Translation and auto-representation are crucial to alter the predominant narrative and grow new slants which, nowadays, are otherwise polarised between the blatant nonsense luxury in some oil-soaked countries and permanent human rights violations in war zones, leaving inadequate space for other themes.