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26.05.2024 · Sara Sadik

 Interview & Edit by Raffael Merawi & Hasan Gündogan

Sara Sadik lives and works in Marseilles. Halfway between fiction and documentary, her video and performance work, inspired by video games, anime, science-fiction as well as French rap, puts forward characters facing challenges and striving to achieve moral and physical transformation through initiatory stories.

Raffael: Marseille seems to be at the center of many projects, that you have published.

What does the city mean to you and your work?


Sara: I moved to Marseille after my diploma years ago, because the first time I came here, I felt that's where I was supposed to be. Everyone was going to Paris or Brussels at the time for professional reasons and I didn’t want to at all. Marseille was my heart choice on a personal level. Once I've settled here, it was super important for me to pay kind of an homage to this city, to work with Marseillais, with different structures from Marseille, and just give back what the city gave me through my work. It's a city that I feel resembles me as a person and by extension inspires me in my art.

Hasan: Could you talk us through your first interactions with “art” - whatever you imagine that to be - and maybe even the importance of access to its tools for younger generations especially from non-white backgrounds?

Sara: I would say that my first interaction with art was through TV. I spent all my adolescence watching MTV, Disney Channel, Game One, every reality TV show from Secret Story to The Simple Life, talk shows like Jerry Springer, or just Videos Clip only channels. I don't think at the time I was thinking "this is art", because I didn't have this word in my mind or any real comprehension of what it means. But now, I can say that it was my first interaction with multiple types of artistic forms. All of this has had a huge influence on my work since the beginning. Once I was in Art School trying to figured out what the fuck I will do there, it was an incredible sources of things that I was able to recreate and took inspirations from to create my work.

Video was the thing that was accessible for me, because I was able to learn it on my own without any prior skills, thanks to Youtube tutorials. At first I was using a simple camescope from my school and a green screen (which was just a sheet ), that I replaced with Photoshop montages. It was such a cheap setting that I've used for years and allowed me to make so many videos with no money and it gave me so much freedom. If you have a story you want to tell, you don't always need expensive material. I think that video allows you to find so many interesting, new and unique ways to give life to your story. Again, that's what I liked about TikTok, these teenagers were just using their phones and simple settings, but still creating short videos which sometimes were far more creative and interesting than what you can see in Contemporary Art.

What I’m saying is that, if I speak about my own medium which is video, the tools are pretty much accessible to everyone. For non-white people it's everything else that isn't, starting with the access to Art School.

> Video was the thing, that was accessible for me 

because I was able to learn it on my own without any prior skills, thanks to Youtube tutorials. <


Hasan: In an earlier interview with Kaleidoscope you mentioned how you wanted to create spaces through your work for especially young men to open up and talk about their suppressed emotions or feelings - since that was what you imagined for your little brother to understand him better. To what degree do you believe these safe spaces are present in modern society and what was your experience from working with so many young people and their reaction to your work?


Sara: I think that there is still a huge lack of safe space for them in our society but one of the ones I’m thinking of is social media, especially TikTok. During lockdown, I’ve spent all my time on it, looking at videos, sharing them on my own Instagram. I had this feeling that this was the first time that I saw a space where these young men were able to share all their feelings to the world. There were many really personal and intimate videos where they shared their vulnerability either in a frontal way or funny way. I don’t know how the platform is now, but at the time, I remember that it was really supportive. But, IRL, I don’t think something like this exists that much unfortunately. That’s the exact reason why my work exists, the fact that I feel it’s so important to create other spaces like this, where they can be themselves openly and share what's in their mind. There is so much over-thinking that they have to handle and manage on their own, which, if you think of it, isn't healthy for anyone. I try my best to be a good listener, without judgements and to tell their story in the best, safe and respectful way possible. Until now, the men I worked with always liked my work, the films that I made on them/with them and I'm grateful because they are the ones I want to satisfy.

> I did all the creative process for the characters design, the arenas, the gameplay and I’ve worked with the French duo Studio Gamepaw, who designed and developed the game and gave life to all of this. To create the hookah controllers, I've worked with Google engineers. <

Raffael: Last August, I had the opportunity to visit Arles and play your video game Xenon Palace Championship in your fictional shisha bar, which was on display at the LUMA Foundation. I was really impressed by the hookah hoses that serve as controllers in the competitive fighting game. Can you tell us about the process of developing the game and your first encounter with video games?

Sara: The most clear memories, that I have regarding video-games is playing GTA with my little brother in his room late at night. I come from a working-class family, but my brother and myself were super spoiled when it came to video-games. Every weekend we would go to the huge shopping center with my parents and they would leave us at Micromania for hours. We had all the consoles and games when they came out, our uncle would give us DS cartridges with so many games. So, it always had a huge place in my life, at the same level as TV and French Rap. I’ve used video-games in my work in many ways, but Xenon Palace Championship was the first project for which I was able to create my own game.


The story is about a secret magical hookah lounge where a group of friends go to escape the outside world. In this hookah lounge, there are fantastic creatures called Xenons that emerge from the smoke. I knew that I wanted to create a video-game to expand this story and during my writing process my husband was playing Super Smash Bros Ultimate with his friends and I wanted to make an homage to them and their relationship by creating a fighting game, that they will play on the film. I did all the creative process for the characters design, the arenas, the gameplay and I’ve worked with a French duo Studio Gamepaw who designed and developed the game and gave life to all of this. To create the hookah controllers, I've worked with Google engineers. I wanted to use hookah handles and chose the Bazooka ones, because it was perfect in terms of ergonomy and manipulation. We added a gestures recognition system in them, that allows you to control the characters actions with your hand gestures.


Xenon Palace Championship

> I knew that the world I was entering wasn’t like me, but still, every time it’s put in your face like this, it is still harsh to take.  <

Hasan: I personally grew up with football, French and German Rap music & video games like Call of Duty, GTA or Zelda. So I´ve just genuinely started to have a deeper interest in art & its history very “late”, because it just never really had any importance in my surroundings or “bubble” in my youth. As we kind of touched speaking about topics regarding access & spaces (to & for art / culture), I was wondering how far you've imagined virtual spaces as alternative to physical one´s in terms of worlds where feelings of liberation, equality or inclusiveness have a common nurturing ground where storytelling can be represented in a appropriate way? So could you maybe elaborate on that and the topic of accessibility to art / institutions for marginalized communities?


Sara: Speaking for myself, virtual spaces allow me to expand my worlds and stories outside of the narrow reality box. All my work is based on real-life stories and social issues, but I use virtual worlds as a tool to augment this reality. 

It's a space of freedom where everything is made possible, through which I can fully create and give life to my stories, in a way that could not be possible in our present reality, without any restrictions. Unlike reality, virtual worlds are a space where we can fully exist, as we want, in the way we want to.


Regarding access to art and institutions, I think it’s something super poorly done. Even if I can see that it’s something that people on the inside are trying to work on, most of the time they are doing it so badly because they have a  « we are bringing them the culture » mindset, which for me is bullshit. It has to be an exchange, not a dominant type of thing. I have an example of what I'm trying to say with one of my teachers in Art School, who was the only one I wanted to talk to. He would give me artists and works to look at, texts to read, if I wanted to and based on my own work, subjects, culture and references that he respected. He was the only one who wasn't acting like I was an uneducated ignorant which is exactly how most of these institutions think.

Hasan: This kind of leads me to a very important and present topic, that I also saw in your Instagram stories. The general silence of a lot of cultural figures & artists regarding Palestine. Now, almost 8 months later and a ceasefire still not in sight while probably the last bit of morality in the west died, what was your experience like in these times - especially regarding the cultural spheres?

Sara: To be honest at the beginning it was kind of comical to see all those artists, institutions and curators, who were always acting like they want to support non-white artists and their voices, shit like "we are the first one giving them a platform" and the one time they can prove it, no one hear of them. This type of person doesn't fool us but still you just lose any little faith you had in your professional sphere. Either you are with us or not. I don’t want to work with people that don’t align or at least understand and respect what’s important for me. I knew that the world I was entering wasn’t like me, but still, every time it’s put in your face like this it is still harsh to take. 


Raffael: Upon discovering your work, I was reminded of TRIPLEGO's music video for his track DIE. In your creations, elements from popular youth culture, like football jerseys, designer accessories, and the usage of social media such as Snapchat, are frequently blended into the protagonists. How does music contribute to your artistic practice and furthermore do you have a typical starting point for a new project (such as music etc…)?


Sara: French rap always has a huge place in my work. It contributed to who I am as a person and obviously as an artist also. It comes really early in the process, once I'm starting my worldbuilding I create a playlist of songs that work with it. Then it's injected into different parts of the work. I'm taking inspiration from video-clip shots for images I'm creating. I'm using a lot of quotes in my texts or my titles and we also work based on this playlist to create the score and sound-design of the films together with my music composer.

Raffael: When I first saw your film Khtobtogone, I felt "saudade", a complex and deeply emotional feeling of nostalgia, longing and melancholy for something or someone that is absent or lost. Khtobtogone goes beyond mere reminiscence; it involves a bittersweet longing for experiences, moments of relationships that have passed and may never return. How do you manage to convey such feelings through digital art, which is often considered to lack these nuanced human emotions?


Sara: That’s actually one of the main things that I’ve started to think of and worked on, how to bring back emotions to an emotionless CGI character. This was the first film for which I worked with the monologue voice-over process, which is now what I use in all my films. At this time, it was the best way for me to give these emotions back to my character. Since no emotions were perceptible on his face, I needed to make the invisible visible, which is what’s happening in his mind. I feel like it’s also super representative of all my work is about, giving access to inner hidden emotions that are rarely visible to others.



Raffael: ​Lastly, could you please share with our readers some video games, literature or music that have influenced you?

Sara: I'm a huge fan of Teen Dystopia and Sci-Fi and Fantasy in general, but it's more the films adaptations than the books that influenced me since I need visual support to really immerse myself in the story. I'm thinking of the Hunger Games saga, Battle Royale, Mad Max, Harry Potter, Sucker Punch, Black Panther, Maze Runner, Dune… Typical blockbusters but that's my thing.

As for music, again it's exclusively French Rap like Jul, PNL, Ninho, Kaaris, Timal, Naps… Regarding video games there are a lot of them, it really depends on the project I’m working on. I would say that the one which influenced me the most is Death Stranding. Beside that, to name a few, there is GTA, Call of Duty, Final Fantasy, Halo, Fortnite as well as more exploration and walking sim games like What Remains of Edith Finch, Undertale, Firewatch, Outer Wilds, I like to binge watch a lot of live stream of these type of games when I’m working.


Sara´s Game List

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