July 6–October 13, 2014
Opening: July 5, 5pm
National Contemporary Art Centre
20 avenue Stephen Liégeard
06105 Nice Cedex 2
Hours: Wednesday–Monday 2–7pm
(2–6pm in September and October)
Lebanese filmmakers and visual artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige build their work questioning the writing of history, the production of knowledge and imaginaries, as well as the contemporary modes of narrative making.
I Must First Apologise…, their exhibition at the Villa Arson, is the outcome of ongoing research, since 1999, on junk and spam e-mail, specifically, advance-fee frauds and scam messages. They have collected, archived, and studied more than 4,000 of these over time. These mails are a cyber iteration of an old genre that dates back to the 18th century known as the Jerusalem letter. The same structure applies today: a person claims to possess a large sum of money that s/he needs to transfer urgently and promise a substantial percentage of this money to the person who will help. Of course, this transfer never happens.
Also known as “the Nigerian scam” as a notable number have originated from the country, these frauds have been surprisingly efficient as hundreds of million dollars are robbed every year, sometimes leading to murder and suicide.
Read carefully, these scams tell a history of these past few years: the conflicts, wars uprisings, shifts in the global economy, financial value fluctuations, raw materials, religious extremism, political changes, and even ecological disaster…These virtual archives outline a cartography of conflicts, a symptom of the state of the world, illustrating complex and often still colonial relationships between the North and the Global South, an imaginary of corruption but also a space for singularly poetic encounters and experiences.
The exhibition is a narrative itinerary, a film that unfolds through installation, sound, video, sculpture and drawing. Here, the artists transform and deconstruct abstract data and language into complex image representations. Here, one will encounter recurring lead characters, and minor ones, scammers, victims, scambeaters who are eager to scam the scammers, parallel edits, original settings, essential props, scenarios and virtual fictions. Strange correspondences start to echo across these various different elements of the show.
For the artists, the matter of these scam messages, which is usually re-directed to one’s trash folder on computers, unravels a space for transformation. Hadjithomas and Joreige question both narrative and artistic forms produced by the Internet and the relationship to contemporary history, economic and political contexts, as well as art and systems of representation. Collectively, this work explores the odd faith that leads us to believe in the power of images and stories.
Curator: Eric Mangion
This exhibition is realised in partnership with Omar Kholeif and Sarah Perks for HOME (Manchester, Great Britain), with the support of The Abraaj Group Art Prize, the Galerie In Situ Fabienne Leclerc (Paris), the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, the FNAGP (Fonds National des Arts Graphiques et Plastiques), FUTURUM association and Espace Khiasma.
Villa Arson includes a national advanced art school, a contemporary art centre, an artist-in-residency programme and a public library.
Press contact: communication [at] villa-arson.org / T +33 (0) 4 92 07 73 91