Yto Barrada reconstructs contemporary Moroccan history through an examination of historical objects in her latest exhibition at Carré d’Art, the Musée d’Art Contemporaine in Nîmes.
French-born Moroccan artist Yto Barrada’s investigation into identity and cultural roots reveals a fascination with her home country’s historical objects, the ways in which they have been collected and the forgery industry that has developed around them.
The act of collecting—by the scientist and ethnographer; the artist; the museum curator; the amateur collector; to the child collecting rocks that look like camels—is both a preoccupation of the exhibit and it’s mode of presentation. Barrada’s new body of work also appropriates aspects of museum practice— including the readymade and the vitrine—as part of its conceptual strategy.
The notion of recreation or better yet, reassembly, evident in the archive, is very clearly not lost on Barrada. She explores it without reserve in her mixed media work Plumber Assemblage, where she takes previously used and discarded pipes, the very same used by plumbers in Tangiers’ Grand Socco square to advertise their skills, and reassembles them attaching shower heads and other parts to create “makeshift tripods” (PDF download).
Barrada’s film Faux Départ (False start) goes a step further as it reveals fossil excavations in the regions between the Atlas Mountains Sahara desert and a thriving industry of counterfeiters that has developed to meet the demand from museums and collectors wanting a piece of history. Barrada reveals that fabricating history is easily done but, she asks, at what cost and to what end?
Thus contextualised, “Faux Guide” is a lens through which audiences can begin to chip away at constructed histories, which over the course of time have become inextricably tied up in Moroccan identity. In one sense it is Barrada’s declaration that Moroccan historical narrative and its presentation has been so manufactured that we may never know the truth. Another reading suggests that truth can be resurrected by a thorough examination of the ephemera left by previous generations.
Undoubtedly what shines through in this exhibition, as a result of Barrada’s head on confrontation with this archival material, is a coming to grips with the leavings of modernity. As Lunette Rouges noted in her June 2015 article in Le Monde,
Barrada inserts herself into a much broader problem, that of the true, the Museum, aesthetics, the modern. This entire exhibition is thus a questioning of modernism.
Negarra A. Kudumu
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