Chez Nous, Là-Bas! is an interactive, dual-sided work where two paintings inhabit the same space within an Imago Mundi shipping crate to explore ideas relating to travel, exchange, and multifaceted identities. As with all his projects, the calligraffiti shown here depicts a carefully chosen phrase; in this case, it is a quote from the French writer Stendhal that translates to “love is the miracle of civilisations” (احلضارات معجزة احلب in Arabic). This phrase – which eL Seed also featured on the facade of the Institut du Monde Arabe, one of his largest projects to date – relates both to the artist’s own childhood growing up in Paris, and to his desire to bring people together, regardless of their country of origin, religion, or political beliefs.
This phrase has been rendered in eL Seed’s inimitable style across both sides of 135 wooden panels, creating a shifting canvas that can be seen from one side, the other, or a combination of the two. Visitors are encouraged to interact with these moveable panels, turning them to reveal a unique combination. In this way, almost infinite display possibilities arise. For eL Seed, this potential for variability reflects the multifaceted nature of post- migrant identities: rather than having one or two sides, they have many, which fit together in unique and ever-changing combinations.
eL Seed (1981) was born in Paris to Tunisian parents. He uses Arabic calligraphy and a distinctive style to spread messages of peace and unity and to underline the commonalities of human existence. His work has been shown in exhibitions and in public places internationally, including on the facade of the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, in the slums of Cape Town, and in the heart of Cairo’s garbage collectors’ neighbourhood. In 2017, he won the UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture.