My work is made by emptiness.

A transcript of this audio recording is available for download.


Massinissa Selmani, born in 1980 in Algiers, lives and works in France and Algeria


In Massinissa Selmani’s words, his work is an invitation “to fill in the gaps, to question the way we remember and write history, beyond any linear structure.” His tripartite installation Unexpected Distances evokes this subtle resistance to the logic of progression by reimagining the space of the line. Element one: a torn piece of tracing paper, taped to the floor with white masking tape, a rudimentary scale measurement sketched along one of its axes. Selmani projects on to this paper a video of running water that is partially obstructed by a branch. The wood’s resistance to the flow of water creates an oscillating movement on the surface of the tracing paper, like the movement of a cursor. Element two: a sheet torn from a ringed sketchbook on to which a butane gas canister—typically used in homes to fuel cooking ranges—is sketched in red pencil. The sheet is affixed directly to the wall without a caption. Element three: a large, thick, blank piece of drawing paper curling in on itself, pinned to the wall with a metal rod, which leans against the paper and the wall to connect the paper to the floor.

Unexpected Distances speaks to a form’s capacity to endure constraint, or to return to its own material center after having been stretched or compressed. The broader stakes of his formal inquiry concern an existential persistence to sociopolitical circumstances beyond one’s control. Selmani’s work responds to the standard organizing principle of linear progression, which endangers the future because it threatens people with the dispossession of their own processes of perception.

Images of the artist and his artwork are copyrighted by and presented courtesy of the artist.