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“Comings/Goings”: The Exhibition as a Displacement towards its Contexts. by Abdellah KARROUM

Wednesday 30 May 2007

[عربي] [English]

This notion of leaving innocence behind, as a means of discussing that which is affected by its environment, leads me to consider the passages from the individual to society and from the local to the global. If I were to speak about the social landscape, you might think of the exchanges between people and all of a sudden, of that which weaves together these exchanges and what is at stake: the economy, customs, beliefs, and conventions. For me, this question of landscape inevitably recalls my childhood and the discovery of the social space and environment in which I then found myself. The first image is that of the countryside in front of my house and of my family. The second is of the cats and birds sho were part of our house’s entourage. The third is the valley and that which it hid and the destination of the birds that disappeared in the sky, letting my imagination find the forms of other animals in its clouds. And then finally, the discovery of my first city, Melilla so close, which was going to destroy my imagined countryside. Because of this consciousness (of the city), I had to reimagine everything. In my opinion, I would limit the social landscape as an observation field to the artists as individuals. Then I would expand my field of vision and analysis to the public which participates and interacts with the artists’ propositions to, finally, locate the result of these meetings and/or actions within the larger social landscape. But this social landscape will be defined by the horizon of these interactions, the inscription of the works, and the extent of the challenge of interpreting them in order to understand it (the social landscape). The Maghreb is not a place where one goes around freely, neither in the political sphere nor in the cultural one; the homogenous vision of North Africa is, above all, an attempt by local and international politics to use the region according to their ideological ideas to achieve economic gain. Each attempt at identification, of an Africa or a North Africa as a cultural entity, is an attempt to patch together disparate identities. The panoramic Maghrebian landscape only exists in Orientalist fantasies and in the medieval idea of an “arabo-muslim” world which maybe has not existed since the era to which we try to link it. I would therefore like to suggest a reading of this landscape that begins with my own experience of displacement while also considering the happenings that I now organize. If 1989 marks the physical fall of the Berlin Wall, it signifies for me the beginning of a “post-contemporary” period which corresponds to my first passage from one country to another (Morocco to Spain) and from one continent to another (Africa to Europe). This “historic” link has become an abstract reference from which to construct the meaning of these comings/goings between the crossing of spaces and the artistic experiments. These passages translate themselves concretely in the happenings and exhibitions of L’appartement 22 as well as Le Bout Du Monde expeditions. They are routes shared with artists, often of my generation, whose work situates itself in spaces which go beyond exclusive small places and still resist the uncontrollable globalization where all individuality is lost. Indeed, these Comings/Goings create a double visibility for the artists who appear and who transform these places where they have invested themselves into chosen centers, abolishing the model of the center versus periphery. If 11 September 2001 imposed a new interest in international cooperation, it also marks for me the conclusion of a reflection on the aesthetic of passages, the result of my work on nomads in contemporary art. Of course, art acts according to the jolts of history, sometimes apprehending its forms and representations, and foresees in them their consequences. The situation of artists in Egypt and Algeria interests me on many levels, most notably because they are confronted by experimental political and social situations (necessary to understand without judging). The work of Hamdi Attia (Cairo, New York) on the representation of an imaginary world (“World Map,” 2006), whose oceans, continents, countries and cities were inspired, sometimes dictated, by the artist’s friends in New York, shows rather well the relativity of geopolitics in the real world. Doa Aly (Cairo) learns different jobs in order to make his work, thus adopting a method that functions contrary to the convention of style. Amal Kemawy (Cairo) uses animated and theatric video to construct visual narratives in order to poetically discuss the individual’s malaise in societies dominated by the bad. Maria Karim (Casablanca, Marseilles) ventures to question her own biography through the imaginary of her childhood friend and classmate who dropped out of school at a young age, the dialogue of “Wafa Lisa” (2005) rendering this coming/going between artist-author and narrator even more complex. These are the artists that I would like to bring into the international sphere. In the same vein, Liliana Basarab (Romania) will be exhibited in Rabat because the questions that she askes should be of interest to the entire world. In addition to the richness of her aesthetic, I see the possibility that her work could offer an exhibition space like L’appartement 22. Following discussions with Adel Abdessaemed (Paris), the work of Sislej Xhafa (Kosovo, New York) proposes a political and social function for art which proves itself necessary to the rethinking of these questions of art, as much in the North African countries as elsewhere. All of these artists work in the places where they actually live, but they are also implicated in the questions that affect the entire planet. Informed, these artists react to the current climate and dream of “remaking the world,” here and at the other end of the world. The work of an artist is often confused with its author’s biography. Being from a certain country and having a passport does or does not give one access to certain spaces. But the notion of a homeland remains relative and fragile. An Irish artist living in France and Andalusia with a project in Morocco can make a work that will have an impact in Singapore… L’appartement 22 exhibited the work of Seamus Farrell (Paris, Cadiz) who identifies as an Irish artist born in London. He works all over the world. While always remaining faithful to his conception of art and its relationship with the world, he infuses his work within the context of its materiality and its “visual recycling.” As an independent professional, I do not see myself as particularly responsible for the artists from the countries of the Maghreb. In retrospect, I accompany and accept my engagement with the reception of artwork and the artists with whom I work as much in Europe as in Africa. The work of Adel Abdessemed has been of interest to me for nearly ten years but it was not a question of me meeting him because he is originally from North Africa. His work that I showed at L’appartement 22, “God is Design” (2005), asks questions with a very strong anti-ideological sense that are pertinent globally. Before him, I had already invited Fabrice Hyber (Paris), who for a long time has pursued large-scale projects about the relationship between the West and the Islamic East, to L’appartement 22. The reflection provoked by his work could complete that of Jocelyne Dakhlia about contemporary art in the Islamic countries. An interest in Fabrice Hyber’s work, outside of their technically fantastic execution, is the interaction with the realm of adopting an ecological and really innovative approach to constructing a work without beginning or end. One of the objectives of his UR undertaking was to put into place a real commerce to test this relationship, notably the fabrication of Djellaba in Egypt and their subsequent importation into France. That Fabrice Hymer appears in my curatorial work is not because he is French but that it is obvious to me that his project deserves to be “seen” in the Moroccan context. The appearance of an artist in a country’s cultural landscape is tied to his/her project and to a particular institutional or media conjuncture. As such, the work of an artist can appear with force in Shanghai, Berlin, Rabat, London, New York, and Dakar at the same time. The work that I do through these L’appartement 22 projects is based on a permanent investigation, as much in Morocco as in France, and on a larger scale, in Europe and in Africa. But as soon as we begin to think in terms of a country or a continent, misunderstandings grow regarding identity paradigms. I choose not to bypass them, but to introduce myself in their symbols and representations, hence the necessity of interrogating contemporary creation, its stakes, and its networks. Experiencing art renders transparent the idea of utopic capital which gives birth to an activism that transgresses borders and boundaries. Art is not tied to a single place. Instead, It operates according to permanent comings and goings, moving between convictions, beliefs, ideologies, ecologies, languages, and taboos, in order to suggest a convivial or simply livable world. It is now a question of interrogating which methods are put in place to inscribe these ideas and projects in the societies that they are hoping to transform. Does the artist have access to the tools of action which participate in change? To finish with this notion of comings and goings, between the universe of the imaginary and the world to which it corresponds, I propose an integration of the artist’s project with he cooperative roués of other modes of action and to develop the idea of WORK (Experiences with or without histories). These are the ideas to discuss in the coming weeks, whatever the focus of the 52nd Venice Biennial is.

(Translated from the French by Emma Chubb)

1- Titre de travail d’une recherche menée à l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS, Paris), sous la direction de Jean-Loup Amselle.

Title of a research project undertaken at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (University of the Social Sciences in Paris), under the direction of Jean-Loup Amselle.

2- Termes proposés pour le Symposium de la première Biennale des Canaries. Terms suggested for the first Canary Islands Biennial symposium.

3- L’étude d’Ibn Khaldoun analyse déjà, dans ses prolégomènes (Muqaddima), les multiples paysages sociaux de l’Afrique du Nord. The work of Ibn Khaldoun already analyzes, in his prolegomena (Muqaddima), North Africa’s multiple social landscapes.

4- Voir la documentation des projets sur le site de L’appartement 22 : www.appartement22.com See the documentation of the projects on the L’appartement 22 website.

5- Site des expéditions Le Bout Du Monde réalisées depuis 2000 : http://lebdm.free.fr The website for the expeditions Le Bout Du Monde since 2000:

6- "Recyclage visuel = les trois R : réduire/réutiliser/recycler (reduce/reuse/recycle)". "Visual Recycling = The Three Rs: Reduce/Reuse/Recycle"

7- Exposition « God is design » de Adel Abdessemed, L’appartement 22, du 08 août au 07 octobre 2006. Exhibition "God is Design" by Adel Abdessemed, L’appartement 22, 8 August - 7 October 2006.

8- « Créations artistiques contemporaines en pays d’islam », ouvrage collectif sous la direction de Jocelyne Dakhlia, éditions Kimé, Paris, 2006. "Créations artistiques contemporaines en pays d’islam (Contemporary Artistic Creation in Islamic Countries)," anthology edited by Jocelyne Dakhlia, Kimé Editions, Paris, 2006.

9- L’entreprise UR, conçu par Fabrice Hyber en 1991 et créée en 1994. The UR company, conceived by Fabrice Hyber in 1991 and created in 1994.