Cutting what cuts, by Alain Berland, 2013

Where do we speak from? Where do our portrayals of

the world come from? Which territories do we move

about in? These are the questions underlying Djamel

Kokene's work. At the Friche Belle de Mai, the artist

interrogates several themes through an installation

named Double Bind.


Double Bind is a piece of artwork that was developed

as a result of an artist residency at Marseille's Commercial

Court. It is composed of two separate elements:

a full-sized architectural model of a cross-section of

a courtroom, and a charcoal wall drawing tracing

the sculpture's silhouette. The first is produced with

the objectivity of a geologist who samples a piece of

the earth's core to study its composition. The second has

a poet's fragile and vulnerable subjectivity. The first

could be the product of a conscientious researcher's

perfection and expertise, and the second is an

approximation – a furtive, quickly drawn line.


Djamel Kokene is clearly a new “psychogeographer”.

In line with Guy Debord's well-known definition of

this term, he focuses on identity and memory by closely

observing how geographical environments and

globalisation affect individual psychology. He selfpublishes

Checkpoint, a beautiful annual Journal in

French, English and Arabic, on an irregular basis. The

journal's last edition dealt with extending the realm of

dreams and utopias. More recently, in 2012, he produced

a superb piece of architectural artwork, Restance (little

patch of yellow wall), where he painted in yellow

a half-demolished hotel that migrants used to shelter in

Saint-Denis (Paris suburb). He also created the playful

installation Fontaine 2012, where visitors were

invited to make a wish by throwing coins into a red

plastic basin full of blue ink. Each time a visitor

succeeded, ink splashed onto the floor. This created a strange

artistic territory where people could no longer walk.


At the Friche la Belle de Mai (Marseille), the untreated

oak sculpture has an enigmatic presence. It is ten metres

long by fifty centimetres wide, and rests on a metallic

structure. It is like a cross-section of real life, a generic

courtroom environment. It is one of those legal bodies

that all have similar configurations, whether they are

located in deepest Africa or Western nations. It has the

force inherent to places of power, yet stages the theatrical

nature and fragility of tribunals' decisions.


Djamel Kokene likes to physically immerse himself

in places to understand their variable and invariable

elements. However, instead of being a sentinel who

watches over a specific area, he prefers to let his mind

and spirit wander to find new grounds for artistic

research and observe the frictions produced there.

For Double Bind, he uses a material that already exists

and subjects it to a deconstructive and reconstructive

process, which analyses and even contests preconceived

ideas of signs that reflect personal and collective histories.

Not without humour, he plays with the idea of justice,

which generally treats immigrants unequally despite

political speeches on openness.


“I ask questions about limits or borders because, for me,

they are one of the most essential issues for individuals

and the construction of identity. But I don't consider

identity is linked only to roots or the place we come from.

I know that the context in which you are born is of

fundamental importance and that it contributes to the

way we live, but we constantly move around, so why

always bring up the territory of origin? Instead, we

should focus on forms of globalisation and the ways

subjectivities reflect and interpret the world. With the

President at the head of the Bar of Marseille, we talked

about the different subjectivities present common place,

the way in which sensory and biased interpretations

guide some legal decisions. This is especially true given

that a Commercial Court is not run by legal professionals

but by tradesmen elected by their peers. The law decides

and separates, and I choose to cut what cuts, to cut into

what has already been cut.” Djamel Kokene.


Alain Berland

Alain Berland was a member of the Editorial Board of the journal particles (between 2003 and 2010), he contributes regularly to the journal Movement since 2008 and is a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Questions of artists since 2010 programmer for visual arts the Bernardine College since 2010, there has been a curator for "Antony McCall- Between you and I" (2011), "Isabelle Cornaro - From near and far" (2011), "Judith Scott - secret items" (2011), "Céleste Boursier Mougenot- Videodrones" (2011), "Michel Blazy final Bouquet" (2012) and "Bruno Perramant - blind" (2012). He was Artistic Advisor of the Biennale du Havre in 2010 and Commissioner for contemporary art of the 2012 edition.
In 2014, he curated the group exhibition Men, worlds Bernardine College (February-June 2014) and has been appointed Curator for the Visual Arts at the Theatre Nanterre-the Almond.