Mouna Karray, From the series Murmurer, #4, 2007-2009, Silver print, 100 x 100 cm
Mouna Karray, From the series Murmurer, 2007-2009, Silver print, 100 x 100 cm
Mouna Karray, From the series Murmurer, 2007-2009, Silver print, 100 x 100 cm
Mouna Karray, From the series Murmurer, #9, 2007-2009, Silver print, 100 x 100 cm
Mouna Karray, From the series Murmurer, #10, 2007-2009, Silver print, 100 x 100 cm
Mouna Karray, From the series Murmurer, #11, 2007-2009, Silver print, 100 x 100 cm
Mouna Karray, From the series Murmurer, #24, 2007-2009, Silver print, 100 x 100 cm
  • Mouna Karray

    07 - 30 January 2011

    Murmurer

    Viewing the photo series Murmurer [1] evokes melancholic feelings similar to those caused by the grave and the photos of the empty marriage bed. The morbid walls bear witness to a more glorious past, of a time when they had a responsible function in a larger 'enterprise'. While El mech'hed is a very personal, intimate story, the tales whispered in Murmurer are composed much more abstractly and with greater complexity of content. Here too, the distance from home, the regular absences from the city of her birth, are probably what enable Mouna Karray to discover these neglected architectural sites as a suitable means of expression for her artistic interventions. Built primarily to protect or conceal, these barricades lose their credibility when decayed, dilapidated, or partially demolished and remain squalid scars on the surface of the city. Still, they attract attention in a certain way. There is something special ineluctably captivating about them, an enchanting spirit, a murmuring, and a promise of hidden adventures. The mystery that lies behind these inhospitable walls triggers the desire to peek behind the partitions or even to scale them. Alas, overcoming these 'forests of briars' does not lead to a 'Sleeping Beauty' dreaming of her prince. On the contrary, the surprise is decidedly disagreeable: devastated land, debris and perhaps discarded construction machinery will be found, blatantly left behind by the former occupiers.

    Mouna Karray's photographs are documents of reality. By portraying the urban neglect the artist raises questions about the reasons for its existence. Consequently, the images of the dilapidated walls may become a metaphor for the current state of affairs. The decayed condition arouses the hope for an imminent collapse of the walls, presaged by the heavy cracks in the masonry or the ripped up fences. The pure aesthetics of Karray's black-and-white photography softens the harsh reality and the immediacy of the issue. Time seems to stand still in her pictures. The Minimalism, the strong, conceptual composition of horizontals and verticals, reflects Japanese influences. Choosing the square as the leading format – also a mechanical result of her medium format camera – refers to the Muslim concept of aesthetics in which the square is a basic element. The French philosopher Roland Barthes once examined the "force of attraction" of photographs that "set him off". [3] If something similar is attempted here, to explore this "force of attraction", one could postulate that upon contemplation, the appeal of Karray's work does not exclusively rely solely on the complexity of its contents and on its sublime symbolism, but in particular on the poetic black-and-white interpretation of the theme, when for example the artist's systematic and personal way of composition causes a certain "animation". [4]

    Notes:

    1. Mur means 'wall' and murmurer 'whisper', 'murmure' in French.
    2. Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, 1980, Trans. Richard Howard, London: Vintage, 2000, chapter 7.
    3. Barthes, 20.


    Christine Bruckbauer
    Art historian, specializes in contemporary art from South Asia, Middle East and North Africa. Lives in La Marsa,Tunisia.

    Published In: Universes in Universe  /  Nafas Art Magazine, April 2010.