Btihal Remli

Studio Visit

Magie, Aberglaube und Fotografie

Btihal Remli describes herself as a visual storyteller with a focus on art and documentary photography. Btihal explores stories related to identity, religion and belief, gender and socio-cultural representation in her home country of Morocco. She also seeks to explore the juxtaposition between her
Btihal Remli - Magic, Superstition and Photography German identity and her deeply rooted Moroccan heritage.

"Hi, I am Btihal Remli

I see myself as a visual
storyteller. And my work mainly revolves around belief, superstition and reality. And this
between superstition and reality.
What interests me most about it somehow, I would say, are the hidden forces, or rather the invisible forces that shape cultural practices.

But exactly how I actually got into photography was a coincidence. Like everything else in my life.

My master's thesis at the academy was about rituals
in the context of spatial theory. And I chose photography as my medium. Yes, a kind of laziness.

And then it turned out to be much more difficult. Just saying that, this phrase "photographing immaterial spaces"... Yes, you can't see them in the end. But you can document everything around it and try to understand it. In principle, you can photograph everything and present everything in some way, but what should you really present to the public in some way? What things are actually there to remain secret?

Well, as a photographer you simply have a lot of power in that sense.

So the work I'm working on at the moment doesn't have a name yet. In 2017, I had this grant from the Magnum Foundation - I was already living in Morocco at the time - and I naively started this project about supernatural beings, so-called Djin, and yes, in my application I wrote that I was simply traveling through the country and somehow photographing this cult And then I came into contact with magic and how magic is actually used.

And it actually goes hand in hand with supernatural beings. And then I asked myself how I could somehow go one step further? How can I somehow document what I have experienced in a different way?
document it?

Because it wasn't just the pictures, it wasn't just the people I met. There was also this whole atmosphere that you enter into. There are smells everywhere. So there are all these incense substances. When you enter a store, when you go into certain villages, when you enter a marabou.

And that's exactly how I thought about creating my recipes for perfumes. Let's call it "Magic in a Bottle" for now. That's what I'm working on. And they are magical fragrances that you can work magic with."

"Whether I believe in magic depends geographically on where I am. When I'm in Germany, I don't really believe in it at all, but when I'm in Morocco, somehow anything is possible. Suddenly, I see things differently, I perceive them differently and then I'm also somehow afraid to sleep in certain places, to enter old houses and so on.

There were places where I simply wasn't allowed to take photographs at all. Sometimes I went to ceremonies and rituals where it was tolerated, but where I was also told that the supernatural beings didn't like it and that I would cause myself a lot of problems. I usually did it anyway because I believe that these things are only as strong as the belief in them. But some really strange things happened: I took photos in forbidden places and sent my film to the lab in Vienna and it got lost. Then I photographed again in the same place, still had pictures left on the film and was then traveling in Marrakesh, where I was stopped by the police because I was photographing near a Royal Building. They took my film away from me. I thought that was strange. Then a film was completely overexposed and batteries in cameras that I had just changed were suddenly flat. Then I asked myself, okay, maybe I shouldn't publish everything I experience here and I think that's also a very important question in the ethics of photography: how far are you personally prepared to go, what should you really present to the public, which things are actually there to remain secret?"

Artist Info

Btihal Remli



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