Fabriques focuses on the ornamental elements which in recent years have proliferated on the private homes of the new residential districts around Msaken, patent signs of economic success and social prestige in a region marked by a high emigration towards Europe. These decorative elements are both the revealing signs of international mobility and its effects on the local townscape. They are the markers of cultural identity torn between tradition and modernity and the patterns used for Fabriques as operators for a critical investigation of orientalist iconography inherited from the 19th and 20th century.
The sequences composing Fabriques were filmed around Msaken (city of the Tunisian Sahel nicknamed “Little France” or “Little Nice” due to the large number of its inhabitants living in Europe) in several factories producing decorative elements. The video focuses on the spaces of these workshops, shops, storehouses, and the activities that occur there. It details the ornaments, the stages of their manufacture, the surprising associations of styles resulting from their storage and display. New manufacturing techniques, in particular the use of polyester molds and alloys with cement, have replaced the traditional technique of stone carving, contributing to the mass production of these ornaments and the repetition of the same forms that indistincly combine references to ancient Greco-Roman, Arab and colonial architecture. The video focuses alternately on the ornamental elements and then on some of the workers in these factories, who constitute a cheap labor stemming from an internal migration. In a removed and critical mode, these portraits are reminiscent of an orientalist trend of photography from the early 20th century which used decorative architectural elements as exotic accessories.
The video is completed by a series of photographs that present the details of promotional portfolios of various wholesalers of prefabricated ornaments. These booklets contain images shot by the traders themselves, focused on the ornaments in order to promote their best work and their expertise. These booklets offer a specific vision of these new residential areas, which they visualize and document during moments of construction. Our photographs capture both the specific point of view of these images and their commercial release.
An architectural display consisting of modular cubic elements organizes the different elements constituting «Fabriques». Its schematic form refers to an ornamental detail of the architecture visible in several photographs.
Fabriques is completed by two frames presenting a collection of vintage photographs and postcards by Lehnert & Landrock in the early 20th century in Tunis. Expositions (2010) thematizes the progressive museumification of ornamental archaeological remains and their display. Doublures (machinerie des accessoires) (2010) presents a series of Lehnert & Landrock postcards dating from 1906-1912, highlighting the use of ornemental architectural elements as exotic accessories. (source: https://www.parallelhistories.org)