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Louisa Babari

Visual Artist
May - July 2024

  • Visual Arts
  • New York

“My project infiltrates a city in chiaroscuro, a land of extremes and contradictions. It is a city “interworld” (to borrow from Edward Said), a touchstone of immigration, dreams, success, and shattered hopes.”

I’m a French artist. My family is from Russia and Algeria. I was born in Moscow, and I now live in Paris. After an academic career dedicated to political science, the Russian language, and cinema, I embarked on my artistic journey by directing a series of experimental films and scripting several feature-length works, both documentaries and fictions.

In the early 2000s, I started to practice collage, envisioning it as an extension of my cinematic activity. During that same period, I took portrait photographs of architecture (buildings and ruins), and also devoted myself to exploring and using my family’s photographic archives. Still maintaining my relationship with cinema, I began working on audio creations, using text and voice as a means of questioning themes of subjectivity and individual identity. These creations were inspired by an array of cultural elements borrowed freely from ideology, psychiatry, architectural revolutions, literature, and fiction. By using these points of reference, I was able to present and emphasize my own experience, resisting the clichés and constraints of representation.

In this regard, my residency project will form a link between my practice and an investigation in New York, which will see me write a fiction narrative and create a multimedia piece comprising a sound installation, a video, and a photographic corpus. Entitled A Risk of Confusion, it will recount the encounter, in New York, of Daria, a woman of Russian origin, and Karim, a man from Dagestan.

Louisa Babari (b. 1969, in Moscow) lives in Paris and works at the intersection of the visual and sound arts, critical theory, and literature. Her practice explores the politics and poetics of sound, image, and discourse as forms of self-determination and in relation to political issues, emotion, collective representations, types of belonging, and dissidence. In 2018, she was awarded a grant by the Roberto Cimetta Fund as part of a pan-African poetry program. She has also won a Mondes Nouveaux Research and Production Grant, awarded by the French Ministry of Culture, in 2021, and an AWARE Prize for Women Artists in 2023.

My project will involve a field survey in New York, which will later serve as the basis for writing a fiction narrative and creating a multimedia piece (sound installation, video, and photographs). Entitled A Risk of Confusion, my project recounts the New York-based encounter of Daria, a woman of Russian origin, and Karim, a Russian mafia henchman.

I will play the first-person overseer of the story through Daria’s voice, carrying out my field work to inspire a fictional dialog with Karim Aliev in New York, which will call forth two accounts and experiences that will both reveal further chronicles of individuals and communities in the city.

The story’s title alludes to the confusion that arises from living in a sprawling metropolis at the crossroads of history, territory, and identity – the confusion that besets the characters in their ability to integrate into new worlds, close themselves off to old ones, and live and think in a foreign language in an American city.

A Risk of Confusion narrates personal experiences, encounters, and events along with social, professional, and romantic relationships. With this in mind, my stay in New York will be an opportunity to meet a network of contacts who come from and/or are connected to these communities.

For this, I will conduct a series of interviews, make audio recordings of interviews and radio shows, write texts, and take photographs. This fiction- and documentary-led approach will address a number of questions. What, for instance, are the ways in which we belong to one culture and try to join another? How do we coexist with the memory of conflict, trauma, prejudice, and discrimination? How are we shaped by capitalist social and political violence, and the mafia networks that it engenders? How can we deploy strategies of resistance against domination, prejudice, and subjugation?

Part text, part score, A Risk of Confusion will give rise to a multimedia piece where literary creation to be conceived of as a succession of cover versions, a continuous chain of “works or narratives” wherein each individual draws from the last while simultaneously developing their own originality. This will therefore be a project at the crossroads of several disciplines and forms of creation.

My project will take place in New York. Its main characters, Daria et Karim, meet each other as a result of this city. Karim settled there several years earlier. Daria is a visitor renewing her ties to a city that she first came to know in the 1990s. To inform my fictional dialog, I will conduct a field investigation by meeting with people from the Russian and/or Soviet community in New York. I would like to reconnect to the terrain and extend my research beyond the networks and contacts that I have already encountered.

The narrative paints the picture of a New York detached from reality, just as the characters are detached from their continent. My project infiltrates a city in chiaroscuro, a land of extremes and contradictions. It is a city “interworld” (to borrow from Edward Said), a touchstone of immigration, dreams, success, and shattered hopes. The theme of territorial tethering or descent occupies a complex place in my practice, since, for me, it means having multiple sources, upsetting the notions of belonging, empowerment, using experience and “I” as my starting point, all within a multitude of antagonisms.

The city of New York fits these expectations, given its ability to pinpoint what America is all about while blurring its most obvious outlines. The contradiction of distance and proximity that operates in New York between the two characters in my story pushes them to the very edge, both of themselves and of the city. As they wander the streets, bars, and restaurants in downtown Manhattan, Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, or Queens—antechambers of their desires and doubts—signs emerge, pointing to the territory’s spatial limits, a danger, a natural disaster, and, unknowingly, the end of their relationship.

In this sense, A Risk of Confusion will form an introspection, asking questions that Americans ask themselves in a context of pandemic, social violence, and economic crisis.

In partnership with

A.I.R. Gallery

La galerie A.I.R. (Artists in Residence, Inc) est une galerie coopérative féministe, à but non lucratif, gérée par des artistes et destinée aux femmes et aux artistes non binaires. Fondée en 1972 par un groupe de vingt femmes artistes, A.I.R. offre un espace alternatif où des artistes qui se trouvent en marge du monde de l’art contemporain et du canon de l’histoire de l’art peuvent prendre des risques.


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AWARE: Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions est une association loi 1901 à but non lucratif co-fondée en 2014 par Camille Morineau, conservatrice du patrimoine et historienne de l’art spécialiste des artistes femmes. Devant la sous représentation féminine dans le monde de l’art, AWARE a pour ambition de rééquilibrer la présence des artistes femmes et de leur donner une meilleure visibilité, par la diffusion de ressources en libre accès. Ainsi, son site web bilingue français /anglais propose plus de 900 notices biographiques d’artistes femmes des XIXe et XXe siècles ainsi que des articles et entretiens élaborés par des chercheur·euse·s et commissaires du monde entier.


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