In main stream industrial cinematography, the figures of the terrorist or mid-oriental agent "the Arab" is always opposed to the occidental secret agent (often played by a A-list actor). This configuration has been recursive since the events of 2001: the enemy has a new face and it is no longer that of The Soviet since the Cold War has ended. These representations in espionage and action films are always associated with the imagery of place of vacation, or a military complex that looks like a hotel resort (due to financial issue links to the production.)
Paradoxically, in the media, political questions about power in Arab countries rarely consider the notion espionage despite the common frenzy 'secret' information. This culture of secrecy gave birth to the like of Wikileaks and Mediapart and the internet-based fascination with hidden agendas that has followed. This fascination must come from the fact that today our world is in a constant re-evaluation of power and the images related to it. Traditional hierarchies have been totally abolished.
The result of that is a video on YouTube of a cat playing piano can become the most viewed video on earth, and by the same token, basic spying equipment is becoming more accessible. We can now buy easily material that we used to see in movies: thermal cameras, tracking chips etc..
With this problematic in mind, the video that I'm preparing will swing between these the genres of documentary and film. In the first instance, I will work with actors acting like American tourists in Algeria, asking them to follow a specific itinerary around the city. Subsequently, I will ask a group of 3 young Algerians who will be equipped with spying material (cameras in the button of their shirts, recorders in their shades…) and tasked with spying on the American tourists.
The film will consist of sequences of conversations and analysis between the apprentice spies. These conversations will naturally orient around geopolitics and based on the places that they will visit. Importanly, I will ask the apprentices spies to use their analyses to find a motive to justify their acts of espionage.
The film will also include action sequences inspired by cinematographic techniques of Hollywood movies. Certainly, not all of these avenues will be successful. The apprentice spies will fail many times and others conversations will be created of these failures.
The main goal of this film project is to consider and reflect upon social and political paranoias that exist today, and also to reverse conventional representations of espionage. For this project, the hunted is no longer the Arab.
About the artist
Neil Beloufa was born in 1985 and lives and works in Paris. He studied at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts and Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, as well as Cooper Union School in New York.
His artistic practice exploits diverse media including video, sculpture, reclaimed objects and found images, which all interact to form elaborate installations.
Beloufa's work has been exhibited at Balice Hertling, Paris, Kunsthauds Glarus, New Museum, New York, Galleria Zero, Milan, Palais de Tokyo, Paris and the hammer Museum of Los Angeles amongst many other international venues.