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Ali Kazma

House of Letters


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Ali Kazma
House of Letters
4 min 49 s
Format & Technical

Double channel, HD video, colour, sound
5 + 2 AP

Ali Kazma loves books. In homage to this affection, he conducted for three years an intensive photographic investigation of the universes of the books that resulted in the publication of RECTO-VERSO[1] This artist book included a text by Alberto Manguel, one of the greatest book historians of our times. Ali Kazma now also devoted a video to books, thorough Alberto Manguel’s fantastic library –more than 40.000 books that was, until 2015, treasured in a house in the South of France.

House of Letters is a vibrant reflection on literature and culture, books and writers, photography and time, loss and refuge, twilight and daylight… One of its first sentences says: “I, who had always thought of Paradise in form and image as a library.” It brings immediately the viewer in the realm of lost paradise. And the loss is indeed a major feeling that immerses us. Even without knowing the details of Manguel’s move out of France, we get an extremely strong feeling of fragility and threat. We get locked up in a poignant oxymoron between the power of the words and their elusiveness.

House of Letters is the first synchronized diptych video by Ali Kazma. It is not by chance. The artist requires at least two images for his message: the phallus (the pistil) of a flower and the legs of a girl, next, a Vanity: Eros and Thanatos. And then, books… Alice in Wonderland and Moby Dick; Doris Lessing and Through the Looking Glass, Yung and Edgar Allan Poe, Dickens and Kipling, Victor Hugo and Borges, Don Juan and Don Quixote. Alternately, images of the house and of these indispensable companions of books: the lamp that remains on all night, the songs of the birds, the idyllic garden, ancient manuscripts and photographs. The night falls and the crickets start to sing. Whether bewildered or staggered, we have only one wish: look again, while this sentence by Manguel seems to be floating in the air: “There is a line of poetry, a sentence in a fable, a word in an essay, by which my existence is justified”.

This video work is a treasure, but an endangered one and thus an unsettling one, because as stated by William Marx “the discourse of literature about the world, human beings, gods… is a power, undeniably, but a fragile one, the most fragile to deny”[2]. House of letters is not a “safe home”  (title of Kazma’s latest solo exhibition) because there is actually no such thing as a safe home. Rather, it is a home of desire.

Barbara Polla

[1] Kazma, A., Manguel, A., RECTO VERSO. Éditions Take5, Geneve, 2012.

[2] William Marx, Diacritik, “Le Grand Entretien: William Marx, «La littérature est l’ennemie préférée»”,, 29/01/2016. Free translation in English by BP.


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