Edited by Jeroen Peeters and Vladimir Miller Brussels, 2020
There is an opening in the tribune over here because of a door over there that connects to a room full of boxes with shoes and little plastic thingies to put in your hair and fluorescent blubber that kids like to squeeze. All that stuff that goes in and out of this door every day, transported by that blue cart connected to the column with a chain over here. The cart rolls it through the big entrance over there, which is connected to me, three years ago, accidentally passing by and coming in through the open door, without knocking, asking Habib if I could rent that room for a project.
The narrow entrance that is now blocked was made by Bayram Turki who wanted that someone who visited his house would first pass through different rooms before entering the patio, which gave time to his women to hide inside their rooms so the visitor wouldn’t see them. The hiding of those women is connected to me standing here and not hiding. Their room is connected to my room in Megrine where I write my stories.
This stone is connected to a stone behind it that I cannot see. That stone is connected to another stone and another one connected with cement to a tile that probably has a painted pattern on it. That pattern is connected to the pattern on the tiles that are painted over there by Hamadi and Ali, and which are sold in a souvenir shop on Jamaa Ezzitouna street that connects Porte de France to the mosque that produced the sound we heard a few minutes ago. That sound travels on the wind like a bird and birds produce shit all the time. The shit contains acid and acid eats away the stones that we restore.
The darkness is perceived by your eyes that can see me less and less, which is connected to the earth turning around the sun that burns our skin, for which we use Aloe vera balm at night. The darkness is linked to the earth spinning and to my voice that is softer now and to the stars that are there but that you hardly see tonight.
I wrote an email to UNESCO asking if they have a plan how to restore the night sky back to the authentic one of the seventeenth century but they never replied.
Iron is connected to concrete covered in plaster connected to cement connected to sandstone. Stone is connected to stone is connected to stone by cement.
Sandstone is connected to sandstone is connected to sandstone, sandstone, sandstone, basalt, sandstone, marble, sandstone connected to the ground connected to cement.
The cement is connected to the ground and it is hard to get off. It is connected to someone who chose not to protect the floor before preparing it. I wonder how the cement on the floor is connected to the cement on the wall over there and there and there that was put there by someone who wanted to prevent the stones from falling and the house from collapsing.
That cement is the subject of a request from UNESCO. They asked us to replace it with cement that has the same color as the stones so you wouldn’t see it anymore.
Your eyes are connected to my eyes that connect to my body and my body is connected to water that used to be stored in the cisterns underneath this building, which you can see if you look through this hole over here. That water came from the mountains over aqueducts, but now it comes through pipes that you don’t see, which are linked to the wires that you do see, which reminds me of the owner who said we should cover them when the audience would come here during the festival because they are ugly. Tonight that audience is you, which is connected to your eyes looking at me.
The more I work here the less I understand what this building has to do with me. This house was built by men that considered their women as possessions that needed to be locked away from outside eyes. What is it that I am restoring here? What is it that I am keeping alive? If we have to restore the original entrance, do we restore patriarchy as well? And where will everyone go who is working here now? Will we make them leave like the woman who used to live there but left when the rent became too high?
The woman that had to leave is linked to this plant that she left behind. It used to be small, like that little sprout on top of the pillar, which makes me think of a story Fatma invented. She told me this house was first built as a garden and only later transformed into a building. Where the walls are now there were rows of cypresses, the floor was covered with rosemary and thyme and all the columns you see were cork trees with branches and leaves that produced shadow all day. Only afterwards did Bayram Turki decide to replace the plants one by one with stones until it became the building you see now.
That story doesn’t exist on paper – I didn’t have the time to write it down. I made it up while I was cleaning the column and when I saw the little sprout, I had to think of tulips that grow in Turkey, which is where the first owner of this house came from. Those flowers connect to a landscape with hills and rivers that Bayram Turki must have missed when he built this house in Tunis, far away from home. He must have been anxious. You can still sense his fear in here. It’s cemented inside the high walls without any windows to the world outside.
Designed and built by Jozef Wouters and Menno Vandevelde
Original design Tunis in collaboration with Vladimir Miller
What: Installation and scenography for the Syndicat! Summit
Produced by Decoratelier Brussels, Dream City Biennale and studio rizoma in coproduction with Theater Bremen in the framework of “Between Land and Sea”.