Hamza Halloubi’s exhibition Traveling puts you on the spot the moment you enter A Tale of a Tub’s space. Amidst the short video portraits there seems to be no escape from the piercing, yet mostly volatile glance of the people staring into the heart of Halloubi’s camera lens.
With a deceptively simple camera movement (the travelling of the camera) Halloubi shifts the position of the observer and the observed, escaping the authority of the camera as well as the position of the author and the spectator. The encounter with ‘the other’ through the reciprocal gaze is an important aspect in Halloubi’s unedited portraits. The videos bring to mind philosophers like Sartre and Levinas. They argue that identity is not formed in isolation; the other is essential in the construction of my self-image. I only become who I am through the other who looks at me.
Halloubi brings together various gazes. In the film 28 Seconds (2012) we see a man staring at something that remains outside the frame. When he suddenly lifts his head and looks straight into the lens, the camera seems to avert ‘its gaze’. We then see what the man was staring at: a portrait of a Puerto Rican woman by the photographer Diane Arbus. In just 28 seconds all perspectives converge: the meeting between the camera, the portrayed and the public. Simultaneously there exists a strong reference to the ongoing impact of colonial representation.
Halloubi stages a similar collision of (world) views, between you and ‘the other’, in the work Travelling (2016). A woman looks at a rare 19th century photograph that depicts a slave who reads to a group. The woman looks up unexpectedly and seems to put the camera in motion until it has caught the eye of the artist. As a viewer you are enveloped in the field of tension between the artist and his subject, between a man and a woman, between past and present.
In the work Avec Akram à Bruxelles (2016) the exchange of gazes seems to end up in a physical confrontation. Those who look with an open mind, however, will see something else happening. In many of Halloubi’s videos, exchanging glances are intense yet fleeting in nature. However, the performer’s eyes in With Geo (2016) don’t let go of the camera; they seem to want to immerse themselves in it. Again it is the simple movement of the camera that undermines the position between the observer and the observed. When we meet the eyes of the artist the boundaries between performer, artist and spectator seem to collapse.
The conversations between gazes in Halloubi’s work are ambiguous. They can be understood as being both that of the camera itself – hence, the look of the artist and by extension the look of the spectator – as well as ‘the look returned’ – the reciprocal gaze of the person being filmed. With his videos Halloubi stages those rare moments when two glances encounter each other. A moment that is both seductive and violent, undermining the way we look at one another and challenging us to look anew.
About the artist
Hamza Halloubi (MA, 1982) studied at the HISK Higher Institute for Fine Arts, Ghent, Belgium between 2012-14, after receiving his Master in Visual Arts at ENSAV la Cambre, Brussels (2004-2010). This year he completes his residency at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam (2015/2016). Halloubi has had solo exhibitions at Museum De Pont, Tilburg (2015), KIOSK, Gent (2014), , c-om-p-o-s-i-t-e, Brussels (2014), Galerie Rodolphe Janssen, Brussels (2012) amongst others. Recent group-exhibitions include From the Collection, S.M.A.K, Gent (2016), Close-Up, EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam (2016) and Every Letter is a Loveletter, Tallinn Art Hall (2016), the 5th Thessaloniki Biennal, Thessaloniki (2015) and the Marrakech Biennale (2014).