Toni Serra / Abu Ali

The work Wahab (1994) introduces us to a way of understanding video closer to the experience felt when reading, closer to poetry or to philosophy, than that which follows technological development. In this sense, this poem by Toni Serra delivers an intimate and free form of writing, a spontaneous form of literature, which seems almost automatic. This has been recorded, with an unsteady hand, willing to seek rather than to find things.

In this work, now a classic in Toni Serra´s filmography, some old Egyptian tunes are played along the drawing of a common litter plastic bag which flows freely –  we could actually describe it as a dance by – with the wind.  We know that when this breeze stops the whole composition that we are seeing in our screens will cease to be, this lasts three minutes. While the wind keeps blowing, a reality will appear in front of our eyes, a materiality will be enacted, it all seems to follow a rhythm orchestrated in advance.

When writing turns into language, therefore air and wind, when words disappear without leaving any tracks, when we can’t find any traces of the event seen, just in that moment, in that given instant, is where this work takes place.

If we are to believe gossip, some have pointed out that the movie maker Sam Mendes when filming his well know work American Beauty (1999), copied exactly the concept and shape of Toni Serra´s work in one of the scenes of the film. In one of the best remembered moments of the movie we see another type of bag, a white one, floating freely through a completely different street which has nothing to do with the Tanger street which appears in Wahab, all followed by a voice over which says: this is the most beautiful scene I have ever recorded, not because there is something special about it, but because it becomes an excuse to start thinking, to remember things. Maybe this is true and Mendes had seen Toni Serra’s work before, but who cares? The case is that sometimes, life puts things into order, it provides a given rhythm and duration, and that, even if it happens with a litter bag, is always beautiful to see.

The momentary rhythms which come into being in this video manage to confront the viewer with the contingency of something that can happen without a sense or meaning, something that just happens. It’s a case of luck, of chance. But once this has been recorded, the author frames something that should had happened without leaving a trace, this constitutes an act of creation which opens up the possibility of the new, of the unknown, it brings us a bit closer to the act of invention. As a poet once said: to laugh is to think, if I want it to be so.

Technical datasheet

  • Title: Wahab
  • Direction: Toni Serra / Abu Ali
  • Production: Me Pierdo Productions. 1994.
  • Team:

    Soundtrack: Mohammed Abdelwahab.

  • Duration: 00:03:00
  • Original format: Mini DV
  • Formats: Betacam Digital - DVD
  • TV systems: PAL
  • License: Copyright