Untitled 3 November 2011

Untitled by Neil Beloufa02_P2011-0284

Neïl Beloufa, France, 2010, video, 14:57 min

A luxurious villa in Algeria, built in modernist style, is the setting for the action in ‘Untitled’. Or actually, it isn’t. In fact it is a reproduction of a villa, fabricated from cardboard with photographic wallpaper pasted onto it. Against this disorientating background various people talk about the period when the house was in the possession of terrorists, who were supposed to have used it as a hideout for a while. There are plenty of these anecdotes about the terrorists, and they constantly contradict each other. While one witness declares that the house was left behind in perfect condition, another says that it was wrecked. A table was broken in two, says the owner of the house. And the curtains caught fire – but that could also have been caused by the strong moonlight.What were the terrorists doing in that house, which, with its huge windows, would seem to have been the worst possible hiding place?

Neïl Beloufa, an Algerian-French artist, based his film on an event that actually happened: the raid on a villa near Algiers by terrorists in the 1990s. Beloufa interviewed the landlord, the neighbors, the gardener and other servants. These are represented by actors – usually filmed from the back – who wander through the paper replica of the villa like ghosts. Even the lush garden and the empty swimming pool are mere photographic prints. The witnesses’ oral accounts are edited onto their re-enactments.Like in his ‘ethnological science fiction documentary’ Kempinski, Neïl Beloufa shatters our expectations about reality and fiction in a necessary and almost natural process. In his work he creates a simulated reality of his own, as much virtual as real. In ‘Untitled’ both the backgrounds and the statements of the characters are blatantly false. Where do truth and veracity lie behind the staging, the stories and the filming?

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