Zemmouri sculpts the white

Ilham Tahri

In her white work, Fatiha Zemmouri adopts the color of asceticism, “asceticism that has always been the condition of desire, not its discipline nor its interdiction” 1.
She constructs works in white like “desiring machines” that explore the flow, the chains, the misses and thrills of creation.

Tapping into the flaw of the facade, playing with discontinuity as if it were a fracture that would shift the outer shell, Fatiha’s work renounces complicit transcendence to embrace a movement that would return to the evolution of matter and the universe.

This work, whose laws are laid down by an inspired rigor, this treatment of the material, indifferent to reason, maintains energy in action day after day, ceaselessly questioning the unconscious desire from another world. Focusing her efforts in the one direction left clear through the accumulation of matter, Fatiha infuses it with her own observations on the work of the senses, rules of practice, and unconscious systems. Her visual force relays that which is evident to her own intuition; she sculpts fullness and emptiness to galvanize latent forces with a clear proof that questions certitudes. Inventing urgent devices and manipulating their relationships to block them, to stabilize them, or to infuse them with a fragile inconvenience, she proposes a singular vision through work that questions prejudice. Projecting a wandering from the self and consciousness onto inert material, her search is no less than the conquest of the philosopher’s stone. Setting up a struggle between light and shadow, the spoken and the unspoken, pain and pleasure; she seals a whiteness that sheds greater light upon the cast shadow of the material.

Invited to consider the moments of her work, the eye becomes first an alchemist meeting his own dark shadow; then observer screening the one and the many in pursuit of collective archetypes; then explorer probing this “part of shadow that withdraws man to himself”; and finally spectator subject to the fascination of light, to the point of release by the ideal archetype of Self, unaware of need.

Wielding reflection upon the unfixed white material, the mind explores excrescences from which it extracts lineaments of a radiant wisdom. Discovering domains leading to the universal, the mind rebels against the restraints that would reduce life, nature, or the psyche to a purely vertical movement.

At the horizon of a line that is both limit and shore, the spirit reaches a point of ascent that will lead it to the immaculate world of Fatiha’s utopia.


Lending itself to the four elements at the heart of the alchemist’s quest -earth, fire, water, and air-, ceramic work, when malleable, expresses sensibility; when contradictory, matches the power of fire; when fluid, flows to sentiment; and when ethereal, strips bare the density of time. Monochrome white that is a solitary regression, but also polychrome white, hopeful, that holds in the work the promise of color, each piece a part of the archeology of the perceptible, whose sedimentary folds have already begun to bury memory. Buried knowledge digs a path, an “excavation in another, to another where one seeks his vein and the true gold of his phenomenon”2. “The implicit, the untimely, the precipitated, the incomplete”3 expresses itself, in spite of the self, in the depth of white. Intertwining matter and void, the work, like the moment of forces interacting within it, revives the multiplicity of a being whose archetypes veil what is real.

At the crossroads of the horizon, invisible lines pull away from the matter. Appendices of immaculate white reveal the outlines of the sphere they render visible, the endpoints are so many encounters with collective idols; archetypal junctions opening access to knowledge of that which has yet to be experienced. “Knowledge is the integration of relationships of power, in the most general sense, relationships of power between things, between people, between the arts, the light, between darkness and light”4, and thus is the knowledge of ceramics.

From compact clay to the vulnerable sheet-thin page, from matter without form to its finest state, the ceramic conveys the substance of the white. The pages layer over the void that is reflected in the work, whereas flickering symbols shiver thoughts. And in the space the page opens inside, thought gathers itself, behind the text. Because “thought must reinvent itself in order to appear and be heard”, the ceramic pages introduce a different face of truth; one that reflects upon itself, like the page, in the utterance of the void.

In a world where norms form the grid, the magnetic encounter between object and subject question the dominance of sovereign thought. But “between two absolutely distinct spheres as between subject and object, no causality, no accuracy, no expression, but at most an aesthetic relation”; one which stumbles upon the difference between two selves, or as many faces of the self. Through this multiplicity of facets the connection between all things is re-examined, marked by the necessity of becoming something else, something unthinking.

From these multiple faces emerge the two faces of masculine and feminine.


In the confrontation of animus and anima nature is absent: why must sex be neutralized, or the dichotomy of feminine/masculine be sanctioned? What nature would consent to close itself in a feminine naturalness, or submit to the technicality of a denatured masculinity?

Adopting an attitude toward reality that is subject to the needs of action, the work defuses the biased authority of virile method, associating it rather with the consenting matter of a feminine plasticity. Each piece functions as a device deactivating the force between masculine and feminine, thus freeing desire from the categorical. “The system, then, is part of a game of power, but always tied to one or another boundary of knowledge, which exists through it, but condition it as well. That is the system: strategies of power relationships that sustain all types of knowledge, and are sustained by them.”5

Void slices through uniform material to form unspeaking lips, whose incisive edges denounce sexual imperative. Here a devised feminine archetype is introduced onto the flatness of the frame. But how can this reduction of self, which presents itself in the form of a screaming face, reanimate inert material? How will the eye respond to the desire of this “body-organism, bent over, or rather folded and crushed by its own totalitarian organization; a body affixed to an obligatory sexuality proclaimed to be its ‘truth’” 6, a body battling between the masculine and the feminine.

With its stubborn exteriority, the feminine heals the wounds of sex. The body itself, “this body that is mine, where I live, that I experience” 11, throws itself at the work, denying the artifact of totalitarian thinking that is sex, without necessarily closing the gap. In this gap settles the memory of otherness.

In this or some other direction the other of man must become the same as him; the being, like the work, aspires to otherness. It attempts to graft sharp thorns to the intractable juncture of self to self. But sometimes the graft doesn’t take.
To wait, wait for years if necessary, the sacred union. The weld will be the work of the singular progression.

The hybridization of organic and geometric turns the void to matter, intertwining it with fiber to distort the square form. The work questions the ineffable: “how can man be this life whose circuitry, whose pulsations, whose hidden force indefinitely flows over the experience given him”7. From the smooth surface emerges underbrush, which captures the senses.

Flayed geometry cuts though opaque reality, welcoming troubled lines that trigger disorder of the senses throuconnection to the incarnate subject which it externalizes, humanizing the content.

In the gap between the pieces, the system renders same the other, whereas the self crosses over the difference between the sexes. The void blends with matter in a clever weave, like an organic gauze, announcing the betrothal of conscious and unconscious. It reanimates “the taste of coexisting things”.
Nomadic identities redistribute feminine and masculine attributes, elaborating and recomposing new modalities of being. The self opens up to the pleasure of Animus and Anima.


The white material aborbs raw light to reflect opaque light, sculpting the dust of time. Point of contact between spirit and world, the eye prompts movement; from point to point, bits of dust adhere to the instant of the work, soon lost from memory. From contact to contact, thought does not refuse the darkness of time, it illuminates flurries of matter and plays with the composition of shadow and light, a connection of the known and the unknown, which gravitation gathers, like so many new worlds, in a bond of heavenly bodies.

The only contemporary is he who is not blinded by the lights of the century and manages to find shadow therein, their somber intimacy” 8.

So the soul may enter the light-giving intellect because “it is possible that exists among men an individual whose soul is affirmed by extreme purity and an intense relation to intellectual principles, I mean to say that he receives illumination in all aspects of the agent intellect. So the forms inherent therein are imprinted almost at once in the soul” 9.


Light hollows out matter and constructs shadow in the white radiance. From nothingness to being, it articulates singular vertebrae, and the labile column that they form puts the world into motion.

Like Foucault’s system that sums forces without rocking “the inertia of the past”, nor realizing “the unfinished totality of the present”, the torus visualizes a cyclical moment of retrospection toward origin, which is also a step forward, weighted by gravitation.


The white work, through the cube, signs the death of the ego. “The new appearance has entered in composition with the experienced movement and offers itself in the guise of a cube” 10. The cube, whose mobile shape is part of paradoxical movement, at times abstract, at times restored, its’ face hidden. Is it really a cube? The spirit, accustomed to deducing completeness from the visible faces of the cube, is caught unaware. Shifting perspective, it deduces that any cube may hide a face inconsistent to its form.

Opening access to the interior of an object, the work functions as access to the proper self: “through what I see, I am witness to the cube itself, in its evidence”11. The perceived interior forces a geometric evidence: emptying the object, its perception destroys rectitude and its interiority is offered to the self as exteriority. Inviting one to enter the cube, it extends an invitation to try other means of entering into the experience.

Beyond the “presumptive significance of the cube”, the thought of the cube can never again be closed by its geometry. The subject sets itself upon a pedestal, its appearance no longer to be saved. The geometric appearance of the cube is betrayed by its fibrous flesh. Bonds tangle in the cube’s geometry; the encroachment of interior upon exterior opens the geometry to the senses and invites the senses within. Like a mesh of that which is visible and sensible, the outside is forced to acquire an unexpected dimension. Geometry “reflects, humanizes, becomes the ego”12. It weaves the lineaments of a being yet uncertain, unfinished, in whom is sketched the promise of a subject yet to be. Spin the woven fiber to welcome the text.

The work, which “i” a knowledge “entered in the game of power, but also linked to one or more limits of knowledge; born of it, but also conditioning it”13, succumbs. Only archeology can separate the pages to revive the future of things, still vibrating within the block.

Strip the block.

Sense or non-sense?
The world is made of layered surfaces, archives or strata. The world is also knowledge.” Knowing is always attempting “the connection between the visible and the stated, it is combining the visible and the stated, it is operating the mutual captures of the visible and the stated”14. The legible that fuses is no longer visible: the fused pages of the block will soon condemn the text. The visible that settles out is no longer legible: the sunken tradition can never be reinvented. In what present consistency will be formed the future?

Refining the thickness to the point of abstraction, aerating the density to the edge of the diaphanous; inverting the irreversible process to “rejoin the work in its night of blind origin”.

Draw from the source.


Witness to an experience that has escaped the diktats of the century, the work asks: “but how can it be that man thinks that he does not think, lives in that which escapes him in the manner of mute occupation, in a sort of fixed motion, seeing his own image in the form of stubborn exteriority” 15.

Opposing black but also all other colors, the white work invites the spirit to reflect in a world without bearings. Organizing by instinct the forces of power inaccessible to knowledge, it proposes a unity whose perfect equilibrium is held in a singular movement. Proposing the archives of hidden knowledge, it explores the strata, from layers to strips, from strips to pages, from pages to surfaces, from surfaces to lines, from lines to the rectilinear, from rectilinear to curve; to reach, in the hollow of these crevices, the interior of a world that opens to non-stratified space.

Constructing this “non-stratified substance”, it invents a knowledge that entwines, of matter and of void, from one end to the other of their divide, civilizations dying in their own ignorance.

1. Deleuze, Gilles. Cours sur Foucault. Université Paris 8
2. Derrida, Jacques. Writing and Difference. Chicago: U of Chicago, 1980. Print
3. Deleuze, Gilles. Cours sur Foucault. Université Paris 8
4. Idem
5. Foucault, Michel, and Paul Rabinow. The Essential Works of Foucault,
1954-1984. Vol. 4. New York: New, 1997. Print
6. Foucault, Michel. The Will to Know, 1954-1984. Vol. 4. New York: New, 1997. Print
7. Foucault, Michel. The Oder of Things. Georgetown: Georgetown U, 1966. Print
8. Agemben, Giorgio. What is Contemporary
9. Benmakhlouf, Ali. Pourquoi Lire Les Philosophes Arabes. Paris: Albin
Michel, 2015. Print
10. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, and Thomas Baldwin. Maurice Merleau-Ponty
Basic Writings. London: Routledge, 2004. Print
11. Idem
12. Idem
13. Deleuze, Gilles. Cours sur Foucault, Université Paris 8
14. Idem.
15. Foucault, Michel. The Oder of Things. Georgetown: Georgetown U, 1966. Print.