Bilal Berreni (Zoo Project)

Bilal was always drawing. He drew everywhere and on everything. His drawings soon spilled out of his sketchbook and onto the street, which became his playground. At the age of eighteen he created the name “Zoo Project,” and within a year Paris was covered with his gigantic murals: white forms with expressive, thick black outlines in a style that was simultaneously raw and poetic, simple and evocative. The quotes that sometimes featured on these works were never didactic or Manichaean, but added a bittersweet touch, an absurd counterpoint. The approach was deeply political, but never lost its poetic quality.

Bilal soon gained recognition among the street artist community. Art galleries courted him, but he was already far away. In Tunisia during the revolution, he painted the martyrs before moving on to a refugee camp on the Libyan border where he painted life-size canvas portraits of the refugees.

These artistic installations in conflict zones, made with and for the people he painted, attracted the interest of the French national press (Le Monde, Libération)… but Bilal had gone again. Living alone in an isolated shack in the heart of Lapland in the middle of winter, he was at work on a graphic novel that he intended to recount his experience…

He then set out on a new adventure: the movie It’s Quite Good Being Crazy, with French filmmaker Antoine Page. Their road trip through Russia was interspersed with in-situ interventions (murals, installations, portraits, etc.) by Bilal, whose drawings would become an integral part of the narration of the movie.

Bilal went on to follow the hobo trail through the United States, jumping from train to train, getting arrested, ending up in jail, writing a short story about his experiences…

That was his life: a life full of ideas, projects and achievements, a life full of daring, with no time for fear or compromise.

Bilal’s story ended in Detroit, when he was 23 years old.