Neil Beloufa, Untitled, 2011, mixed media, 59 x 78 3/4 x 94 1/2".

Neil Beloufa, Untitled, 2011, mixed media, 59 x 78 3/4 x 94 1/2".

Neil Beloufa

Neil Beloufa, Untitled, 2011, mixed media, 59 x 78 3/4 x 94 1/2".

Neil Beloufa belongs to a generation of artists seemingly unburdened by scruples about production or concerns about the readability of works. Still in his late twenties, this young French-Algerian is already surfing art centers and fairs around the globe and producing a sprawling oeuvre that is both formally and conceptually dense and complex. For his recent exhibition in Paris, he pulled out the big guns, as he is wont to do. Not that he presented anything luxurious or ostentatious, however; instead the exhibition space was invaded by a plethora of poor materials: melamine, wire mesh, taped photos, perforated metal plates, sheets of Plexiglas and paper, and so on. And there were videos, with all their technical equipment remaining visible. “I like it when everything is equal: blue-toned copies like films, a video projector, and plants,” Beloufa told me a few days before the opening at this Belleville gallery. With the work under construction, he was focusing on the final tweaks of his exhibition, applying a logic impenetrable to everyday mortals. “I have a 2.0-thinking logic. I’m fascinated by the nonhierarchization of information, the fact that there is no more memory and that everything is becoming flat,” he said. It’s not surprising to learn that he saw himself perhaps making websites and cartoons before he headed to art school in Paris.

On the screens, the same confusion is at work as in the actual gallery space. In The Analyst, the Researcher, the Screen Writer, the CGI Tech and the In Layer (all works 2011), Beloufa overlaps and compiles a series of scenes shot from a helicopter (these images are submitted to analysis experts—a screenwriter, a lawyer—whom we hear deciphering and interpreting the images in voice-over) alongside talking-head chats with inhabitants of Vancouver, the “green dictatorship” where he had an exhibition last summer. “I asked the people I interviewed to describe the ideal city,” the artist deadpanned. “They answered at random: kayaks, gigantic condos, wine that doesn’t get you drunk, and a very high ratio of girls to guys.”

But in fact, the subject matters little, for let’s say it straight out: You could hardly see these videos, because the artist had done everything imaginable to obscure them within the installation Untitled. Projected on metal mesh, paper, or Plexiglas—and only intermittently—the images were diffracted; they disappeared sometimes and lost their narrative thread, which had already been unstitched. Typical of a generation raised on tweets and Google Images, Beloufa—like Ryan Trecartin but in a different formal register—dehierarchizes and endlessly reencodes images and their messages. As the art critic Gaël Charbau explains in a text accompanying the exhibition, Beloufa goes so far as to induce a “paranoid experience where one suspects that an image placed in the space alludes to a ‘sign’ present in a video, which itself refers to the nail color of a television host, whose picture is stuck elsewhere and so on, following the logic of a great puzzle.” For his next project, Beloufa will turn his attention toward the “relationships between imagery, myth, and histories in the manner of Wikipedia, of augmented reality, of preventive wars, and of web 3.0”—a world, as the artist puts it with his slightly cynical humor, “where images and information are dehierarchized, and where a YouTube video of a man seeing a rainbow or of a cat playing the piano can have been seen by more than a tenth of humanity.”

Claire Moulène

Translated from French by Molly Stevens.