SoPARTS Spotlight: Yesmine Ben Khelil

Yesmine Ben Khelil is a young artist who was born in 1986 in Tunis, Tunisia. Lives and works in Paris, France and Tunis, Tunisia

they live (argile,paillette, verre, acrylique et photographies anciennes) 2016

source: Yesmine ben Khelil

What drives you to wake up in the morning & what keeps you up at night?

I write a to-do list every night for the following day, although it’s filled with items I never get to do :)


Why art? Your work confronts physical borders and boundaries—how can art break down walls?

I don’t know if art can break walls but If it does, it‘s in a poetic way. I think it’s important to make works which talk about political issues without specific goals or messages, simply by offering another way to see things. 


What were your motivations to get involved with social justice? What specific issues do you try to address through your art?

It’s not about motivations, actually I’m not denouncing anything, I try to capture something from the present and in the context where I am living, don’t addressing these kind of issues it’s being in denial. 

I try to talk about many issues in the same time, I mix them to create several levels of understanding, it can be the unemployment, the smuggling, the police violence, the post colonialism and most of all the cultural and ideological emptiness, finally everything is super imposed and everything is linked.


For every pain, there is a pill. For both personal and social “pains”, what is your medicine?

 I would say that my medicine is all that allows to « get out of oneself ». The art, cinema, music, reading and doing something with hands.


What is a normal day for you like during the artistic process?

It depends, when I am in a research phase, I spend a lot of time on my computer watching videos, looking for images, reading articles and everything that is scrolling on social networks and that can be a material for my network. Then I do exactly the same thing by searching in second hand bookshops.  When I am in a creation phase, I don’t have schedule and the most difficulties with this is knowing when to begin but also knowing when to stop.


Do you have any rituals in the studio?

I put on music and I make tea (sometimes I spend more time to do these 2 activities than working)


What does community mean to you? How does that community affect your creative output?

It means a group of people who shares common ideas, I don’t really have the community spirit, I guess I belong to a community, a little in spite of myself. That surely affect my work but I can’t say how. 


Is there anything you would change in your life, if you had the chance? In the world?

Probably like every Tunisian would be to have a second nationality from an occidental country,  to be able to travel where I want :) even if, as a matter of principle, I’m not comfortable with the idea of complying to an unfair system. All of us should have the right to circulate freely, so if I had the chance this is what I would change.


Can you share a story about social injustice? How do experiences like these manifest in your work?

 There are many stories to tell about social injustice, I wouldn’t know which one to choose.  In a country like Tunisia, people experience injustices every day. In an insidious way we are all subjected to the arbitrariness. So the simple fact to be afraid of being arrested and imprisoned for anything and everything like eating in a park during Ramadan or smoking a joint, is an injustice with which we live daily. I try to make visible this constant fear in my works through character

Yesmine Ben Khelil's quick list of influences

Yesmine Ben Khelil's quick list of influences