Introduced by Nav Haq
Introduced by Nav Haq
Sometimes things never go as planned. But it’s not always a problem. Neïl Beloufa’s projects are often subject to processes and encounters involving others, and it is this factor of indeterminacy that gives his work its idiosyncratic, alien qualities. He describes himself as an editor rather than a creator, locating his role at the construction of meaning that floats between instigator, collaborator and artwork.
In a policy-based and culture-led initiative towards ‘underprivilieged’ communities, Vengeance (2014) is the curious result of a workshop Beloufa was asked (by the Orange Rouge association) to organise with a group of 12-year old children living in one of the banlieue social housing projects of Paris. Beloufa wanted to relate to the initiative with a sensitive, non-exploitative eye, using an agonistic context to organise a project.
His intention was to act as a means for the children to make a film, for which every choice – the script, actors, set, filming, effects, etc. – would be entirely theirs. Ultimately, it wasn’t a simple collaboration. Following a difficult start, the children became engaged for a while, introducing characters and public figures to the film that are typically the subject of their fandom, namely the footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, the wrestler Rey Mysterio and Pixar’s WALL-E, with the plot taking place in settings like a private jet, the gym and the football pitch. Eventually the children didn’t complete the project themselves after a debate with Beloufa regarding authorship of the film – arguing that he would ultimately be considered the author, and that they themselves had no agency, which Beloufa disputed. Though initially well-intentioned, he decided to take over the project to completion, in what might be considered a small act of vengeance on his reluctant collaborators, even making it in English so the schoolchildren could not fully understand it.
The result is an odd-ball of a film, with two-dimensional caricatures – Ronaldo, his girlfriend Amira, Rey Mysterio and a WALL-E-like robot – all occupying the same closed-circuit world of training gyms, luxury homes and luxury travel. Locations are made using images as backdrops, and props created in a homespun fashion. As the children did not complete the task of providing voices in the film, the remaining script and narration was finished by the artist using a robot voice. In the film, tensions abound, all revolving around Ronaldo’s enduring love for his robot, at the expense of his relationship to Amira. The robot eventually meets its fateful end, seemingly bringing Ronaldo to his senses, but ending with him giving Amira and Mysterio the look of vengeance. The entire story is flat and absurd. Vengeance is a peculiar failure, yet perhaps it tells us something about the discrepancy between the intentions and the reality of the faux-participation imposed in culture-led gentrification.