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With "Bouraq", the Tunisian artist Mourad Salem revisits Israel, the visionary and wonderful journey between Mecca and Jerusalem. "The Eye and the Night" at the Institute of Islamic Cultures. Siegfried Forster / RFI

"The Eye and the Night", the promising exhibition opens Thursday, September 19 at the Institute of Islamic Cultures (ICI), in Paris. " The night, before being a motive, is a real experience, bodily, sensorial ", proclaims Géraldine Bloch, the curator of this overview. It features works by eighteen artists from Europe, the Middle East and Africa. With their eye as a painter, photographer, sculptor or poet, they clear our minds around night experiences. Interview.

RFI : What is the particularity in this relationship between Islam and the night ?

Géraldine Bloch : We could start with a very simple thing, the female name Leïla. It's one of the first names we hear most often in the Arab world and in other Muslim countries. And Leila means "the night". In France, nobody is called "the night". So, the idea started from there. Then there was the question of the place of the night in the Koran. An absolutely major episode of the Qur'an is the revelation of the divine message to the prophet that came true in an absolutely amazing, wonderful night on a nocturnal and heavenly journey, the Israel . The idea was to anchor the eye and the night in this question: what do we see at night when there is nothing to see?

"I would like to talk to you about fear", a series by the French artist Mouna Saboni, about wounds inflicted on women encountered in Egypt. In the exhibition "The Eye and the Night", at the Institute of Islamic Cultures. © Siegfried Forster / RFI

In what way are the eyes of these artists of Muslim origin exposed here different from the eyes of other artists ?

In the exhibition, there are some artists who have no direct connection with Islam, they are not Muslims, but - as an artist and beyond Islam - all have a special relationship to the night. Then there is a Muslim cultural background on the issue, whether Muslim or not. This importance of the moon in Islam, of what is called "the night of doubts". It is one of the founding nights where every believer is invited to find himself the appearance of the rising crescent moon to know if it is the beginning of Ramadan or the closing of Ramadan.

They are also civilizations where we live at night. The night, before being a motive, is a real experience, body, sensory, synesthesia. It seems to me even stronger in Islam than in other civilizations, because it's really a collective experience.

"Sufic Triptych II" by the Egyptian artist Armen Agop and "It's always night or we would not need light 33 ° 37'90N, 44 ° 31'74E (Ibn Muqla) by the German artist Timo Nasseri in the exhibition "The Eye and the Night" at the Institute of Islamic Cultures. © Siegfried Forster / RFI

East side, we know The Thousand and One Nights , side Western, we know the chiaroscuro of Rembrandt. In Islamic cultures, what is for you the major artistic invention in relation to the night ?

For me, it would be more literary. When one thinks, for example, of poetry and the Arabic language, the semantic field of the night is absolutely incredible, much wider than at home. There is also the example with the video of Anri Sala, Lak Kat (" mother tongue ") , which does not speak of the night, but the way we say [in Wolof, Ed] the word "black" , or how one describes darkness and these visual phenomena of dark and light. So, it's interesting to see how the night is crossed, at any moment, by a political field, a historical field ... I wanted a very physical relationship to things, a little intimate, that we can through this exhibition to remember all those little inner feelings that night creates. From the worst to the best.

In her series "Moongold", the Lebanese artist Stéphanie Saadé captures the moon with her mobile phone and hides and enhances the moon in her images with gold leaves. © Siegfried Forster / RFI

► The Eye and the Night , exhibition at the Institute of Islamic Cultures (ICI), Paris, from September 19, 2019 to February 9, 2020.

► The ICI accompanies the exhibition with a very rich programming exploring the night by crossing the disciplines: concerts, conferences, literature, poetry, cinema, workshops ...