Aymen Gharbi: Interview with Sonia Kallel

How do you choose your subjects?

I do not choose a subject, I find something, and it imposes itself on me.

When we look at your work like “Tafkik”, the COLLUMINA work, or “Tisser la Medina”, the INTERFERENCE work, or “La robe idole de Sejnane” or “Quelle robe pour demain?”, textiles and fabrics used in everyday life are very present. What is intriguing intrigues you about this topic and why you focus on it all these years.?

Thread as a material has always been essential for my artistic research. I started my university studies with a degree in fashion design in Toulouse, and I always have been fascinated by sewing. Overtime my perception evolved … In my doctoral research I focusses on the human body as a social product; I then realized that sewing also links individuals … “La robe idole de Sejnane” is a work that was done with potters from the Sejnane region in Northwest Tunisia. It was part of an artistic residency in 2011 and it had a strong impact on my practice. Working with these 80 extraordinary women has been a minting life experience. The human interaction was the trigger. Currently, the Medina of Tunis provides me with material … its inhabitants, craftsmen, tradesmen, places, stories … The endangered heritage that underwent incredible changes and mutations inspires me.

In recent years, you have started to work digitally and to implement computer processing in your work on traditional crafts. Is it just a need to develop a certain aesthetic or do you want to say more with this choice?

The choice of digital practice is not simply linked to an aesthetic need, it is a current language, it offers multiple and infinite possibilities … The question of heritage is essential for me. We are witnessing the loss of knowledge, of historical places, many things are disappearing and disappearing … digital technology allows us to transcribe and transpose data, to develop, to dream … I am interested in the transformation of the know-how when the hand becomes the machine and what happens when I repeat the same gestures digitally. It engenders an extraordinary symbiosis between gesture and matter, repeated movement and “work music” …

Your interdisciplinary approach is very visible in the works of recent years, combining graphics and crafts and performative aspect. How does your interdisciplinary formation translate into your work?

My work is the fruit of an experience that evolves over time, sometimes the idea comes directly as in writing. My interdisciplinary training opened the doors for me. The crossing of disciplines is a richness. From earth to sewing, from human relationship to graphics, from unconscious gestural repetition to a conceptualized algorithm … Everything is possible!

What is your fuel? What makes you happy?

Human experience.

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