Adelita Husni-Bey
Postcards from the Desert Island

Postcards from the Desert Island is a remake of a 50s educational film Holiday from the rules in which four children interact with an omniscient narrator who teleports them to a tropical island where there are no rules. As in Lord of the Flies, the little children’s anarchistic society quickly breaks down. Finally, when the narrator asks the children if they want to leave the island they answer unhesitatingly: “instead of making up a lot of rules, why don’t we go home where we already have them?”.

Adelita Husni-Bey’s film shows her collaboration with a self-run public primary school based in Paris, founded in 1962 by the French educator Robert Gloton, a militant of the experimental pedagogical movement Éducation Nouvelle. During a 3three-week workshop, the artist invited the children to turn their school hall into a desert island. The film documents how the group of youngsters embraces a social life in a no-man’s land, showing how they relate to some of the key principles and unresolved problems of self-governance, such as imagining a life without institutions;, questioning of punishment and the struggle for power, wondering how to deal with immigration and civil disobedience, and where to draw the line between public and private realms.

Born in Milan, Italian-Libyan Adelita Husni-Bey is an artist and researcher. Her practice, which encompasses drawing, painting, collage, video, and participatory workshops, concentrates on micro-utopias, and on how the collective memory works as well as questioning the mechanisms of political and economic power and control. Her background in sociology as well as fine arts has helped in criticizing prevailing systems of organization of advanced capitalist societies in areas such as labour, schooling and housing. She questions the type of visibility there is in producing an artwork on ‘under-represented communities’, and looks for alternatives as a form of reaction to the way Western society is structured. In that sense, her role as an artist strives to instigate reflection on, and effectively produce, alternative social imaginaries.