Hanan Benammar: DESERT BÆRBÆR

Advisor/tutor: Bassam El Baroni

Independent reviewer: Anne Szefer Karlsen

Arnhem, June 2015


The patterns of the desert have for a while haunted/hunted my work: invisible, boring, too long, too silent, too noisy, too messy; chaotic. Adjectives that cohabit and over cross each other in the general observation/consternation of my practice.

Desert Bærbær aims to formulate a vocabulary shaped by words being redefined under the constraints of ’desert‘, navigating through my practice as I question it asking the question how can the terminology of the desert be applied to an artistic proposal? 

The text attempts to work through the geological aspects of the desert together with its geopolitical issues and try to approach the “embarrassed landscapes of our world”, places where human colonisation has desecrated the earth. Even though the background to this writing is a series of beautiful landscapes, it is not meant to be picturesque nor idyllic, but rather evocative of inner states, collective dreams and nightmares.


In the thesis DESERT BÆRBÆR Hanan Benammar present a range of stories connected to the desert, through personal memories and descriptions of cultural traditions – and their clash with geo-political strategies and events. Integrated into these stories are descriptions of her own art works and working processes, which take on a more poetic character in this context.

The desert landscape is described as building a vocabulary that Benammar is looking to unearth and define. At the same time the need to withdraw from decision making in her own practice is described as a necessary strategy for the latest iteration of this project’s work. A method to do so is described: she has appointed a jury and created a competition for future audiences to an exhibition which will generate the content of the exhibition through satellite communication as the winners embark in a trip to a desert with a one-way ticket. This method has created the fertile ground for the use of different pronouns in the different paragraphs (fluctuating between first and second person – I, you). Unfortunately this driving force of the text is not consistent, and might be one textual gesture that could be looked more closely at in further discussions of the text.

As a comment on the overall text: She has applied the format of a dictionary (lexicon). The structure of the text is a run-up to an interesting format for presenting projects while they still are in process and development. Unfortunately the balancing act that is presented between personal fiction, reportage, storytelling, quotes, appropriated text fragments, encyclopaedic entries etc. is not stylistically complete, and this devalues the reading experience of the thesis as a whole. Even though there is a hint towards a ‘dérive attitude’ in her writing, the looseness of the text is not really worked through enough to fulfil such an experimental structure. Thus the thesis does not create a convincing framing of the art works and working processes.

The overall project described in the text is to answer the question ‘How can the terminology of the desert be applied to an artistic proposal?’ Deducing from the content and format of the text, the search for this answer is still unfolding and I am sure exciting times are ahead!

Anne Szefer Karlsen, 21.5.15