By Arnaud Stinès, Director of Rurart's Contemporary Art Space
In Le jardin des délices, éd. Rurart 2006
If relation predominates in the approach of artists who consider their own work as relational aesthetics, that of Slimane Raïs doesn't aim at this relation but at an artistic object, most often an installation – digital drawings for Les Migrants (The Migrants) – which relies on encounters that the artist created. Thus, Slimane Raïs' artwork can in no way be seen as the fruit of performances that suffice in themselves but the result of a process that the artist set up and necessitating the voluntary participation of the populations in question. The relation is not an aesthetic object itself. It is only the spring for creation, a medium.
The most ambiguous example might be Pour Parler (To Talk). However, if Slimane Raïs sets up something that places the telephone relation at the heart of the artwork, an immaterial reality the artist is, above all, careful in the choice of the telephone booth, artistic presence in the exhibition area. He does not keep any trace of conversations for which the content matters less that the conceptual process that consists in considering the communication situation with an artist as a work of art in itself, the result of a performative utterance.
Slimane Raïs does not contemplate his procedure under the angle of a social tie framework in the production. The creation mechanisms that he sets up do not aim at weaving a relation between the participants with his work: that one – whether it deals with a direct encounter or a message on an answering machine – happens exclusively with the artist, with the idea of producing the artwork. Far from the artist-mediator position that is at the heart of certain relational aesthetic propositions, where the artist puts in relation, generates a direct social tie between the actors-spectators which is the object of the approach, Slimane Raïs positions himself exclusively as a creator who is preoccupied with the aesthetic function of his artwork. This position involves letting himself go to the encounter without any prior intention concerning its content of this. The function of his artistic approach is not in anyway motivated by an act entailing a micro-social change.
For all that, the pieces produced by Slimane Raïs, concretisation of encounters or testimonies that he creates, are systematically tied to a social context in which they are situated. It would be therefore erroneous to think that they are free from all social implication. On the contrary, during a recent interview, the artist tells us: “I only reason in aesthetic terms, not in political terms. However, the moment there is a relation with people, there is a political dimension”.
Slimane Raïs does not strive to reorganise, to whatever extent, the world in which he lives. His artistic propositions question the social organisation rather than trying to modify them. If the mechanisms that he sets up have meaning, it is because he withholds himself from being the actor of his own artwork: this distance with the social context that he apprehends as support for creation is the pledge of his artwork's legitimacy. Slimane Raïs does not seek to dress in the committed artist's costume. That is not his intention. He gives vision and thought for pieces of social life to see and think about, through creations of a major aesthetic justice and a real intellectual pertinence, leaving to the visitor the task of measuring his own social implication.
It is no doubt this very clear position that allows Slimane Raïs' artwork to be impregnated with the highest sincerity.