For our final installment of Berliner Luft, the gallery features a new series of works on paper from Soufiane Ababri titled Tanned But Still Angry, on view for an extended period of two weeks, Monday, August 17–Saturday, August 29, 11 AM–6 PM.
Tanned But Still Angry consists of 17 colored pencil on paper drawings that Ababri developed over the past years in reaction to police violence, depicting real scenes and situations experienced by Ababri himself and fellow members of the LGBT and POC communities. Fueled by the deaths of Adama Traoré in 2016 and George Floyd in May, the series not only powerfully displays injustice, but also, often poetically, emphasizes the need for equality; as one work reads, “We are all there,” between the earth and sky.
Ababri subverts source images circulated by mass media with portraits and personal observations from his position, living as a gay Arab man in Paris and Tangier. The drawings contain a collage of references to systemic oppression, violence, and murder. Blatant acts of police brutality are paired with a more layered iconography and coded visuals in red-white-and-blue. Clothing is significant. Streetwear, sports jerseys, and police uniforms guide the narrative. Blue-sleeved and black-gloved cops hold people of color down to the street and atop cars, an African-American man stands in front of an American flag wearing a cut off T-shirt that only reads “Bad News”; and an Arab man at a café in a striped sweat suit is captioned “before the police check.” Ababri disrupts the ambiguity between oppression and the sexual dimension of authority and uniforms in gay culture.
The entrance-facing gallery wall holds a powerful image of a uniformed policeman squeezing a tube of Vaseline trailing from his face to his ass, spelling out the Arabic letters for HA HA HA. The work refers to The Thief’s Journal by Jean Genet, a figure often quoted by Ababri in his practice and performances.
“I was in a cell. I knew that all night long my tube of Vaseline would be exposed to the scorn of a group of strong, handsome, husky policemen. So strong that if the weakest of them barely squeezed his fingers together, there would shoot forth, first with a slight fart, brief and dirty, a ribbon of gum which would continue to emerge in a ridiculous silence. Nevertheless, I was sure that this puny and most humble object would hold its own against them; by its mere presence it would be able to exasperate all the police in the world; it would draw down upon itself contempt, hatred, white and dumb rages.”
This is the final installment of Berliner Luft, as the gallery prepares for the opening of Jungle Memory, our second solo show of Andreas Greiner, for Gallery Weekend Berlin 2020, with the preview beginning September 10.