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Palais Badii  /  © Photo: Haupt & Binder


Max Boufathal  /  © Photo: Haupt & Binder


Alya Sebti and Hicham Khalidi  /  © Photo: Haupt & Binder


Dar Si Said  /  © Photo: Haupt & Binder


Walid Raad  /  © Photo: Haupt & Binder


Bank Al Maghrib  /  © Photo: Haupt & Binder


Bank Al Maghrib  /  © Photo: Haupt & Binder


L'Blassa  /  © Photo: Haupt & Binder


Hassan Hajjaj  /  © Photo: Haupt & Binder


Éric van Hove  /  © Photo: Haupt & Binder


Jelili Atiku


Singing Maps and Underlying Melodies  /  © Photo: Haupt & Binder


Saout Radio


Cevdet Erek  /  © Photo: Haupt & Binder



5th Marrakech Biennale: A Quest for Location
Visual & Sound Arts Section - Review and Photo Tour
By Lucrezia Cippitelli |  March 2014

>> Photo Tour through the exhibitions
The Nafas Tour includes all the venues of the Visual & Sound Arts section, and works by almost all the participants.

The fifth edition of the Marrakech Biennale opened to the public, asking invited artists and the public "Where are we now?" Although the Biennale explores cinema, literature, and performing arts, I will focus on the Visual and Sound Arts section, curated by Hicham Khalidi, a Brussels-based, Moroccan-born, and Netherlands-raised curator. I generally don't like to underline geographical proveniences as a special belonging capable of explaining ultimate truth about individuals. But I will make an exception here: the geographical path has a strict relationship with the concept of this edition of the Biennale. "Where are we now" is the question asked by artistic director Alya Sebti, Moroccan-born, France-educated, and Berlin-based, together with Hicham Khalidi. "Two migrants who want to work in Morocco," underlines Khalidi. "It is not a process of migration anymore, is a process of re-migration. A shift between North and South, West and East." Marrakech and Morocco as a starting point for two re-migrants to explore issues of identity and post-coloniality in a broader sense.

According to the Marrakech-based magazine "Dyptik", whose February/March issue number 22 was almost entirely dedicated to the event (and which was extremely visible in all the kiosks of the city during the opening days), in 2012 the Biennale was a game for bearded, Bermudas-clad hipsters, red carpets, and posh events for a reduced élite of expats. This year, a very different atmosphere pervaded the event, starting with the venues. No longer concentrated solely in the Royal Theater, the official program of the Biennale selected three locations spread across the old center of the "Red City" as frames for the main shows: the 16th-century El Badiâ Palace (mostly dedicated to site-specific sculptural projects); the Dar Si Said Palace (hosting interventions related to existing collection of the museum); and the former central bank of Marrakech, the Bank Al Maghrib, transformed by Hicham Benhoud’s sign-installation BIENVENUE a Marrakech (2014; it questions King Mohammed VI’s 2020 goal to attract 20 million tourists in the city) and shows mostly already existing works related to economy, migration, globalization, and identity. The three main venues, a performance section at the Royal Theater, a video section at the L'Blassa, and a series of events happening all over the city hosted more than forty artists, twenty of them with specially commissioned works.

"You have to work within a context. You can not work outside of it," says Khalidi, who developed the exhibition after a long period of field research, which brought him to analyze and synthesize the economic, social, and cultural context of a country 40% of whose inhabitants are under 25 years of age and which has a 5% annual population growth rate, a still very low national product, and an economy based on tourism and agriculture. This exploration evolved with the edition of a reader about the city for the artists and the team involved in the elaboration, production, and communication of the event. Initially, Khalidi even configured the program of the Biennale as a complex network of venues spread all over the country, in order to embrace the whole history of Morocco from the Jbel Saghro Massif with its ancient rock art to the industrial areas of the city. But having to cope with the reality of economic shortage, he decided to work with the main venues of the Medina.

With the subtitle Identity as potential. Identity as fiction, the curatorial project questions the value of the concept of the Contemporary at large, using art strategies as a way to understand national identity. Following the research-based approach initiated in 2014 with the show On geometry speculation (a parallel between Islamic visual culture of the Golden Age and contemporary Western art), Khalidi pushes viewers to reflect upon the relationship between local and global, using Morocco as a point of view on an ongoing global clash. The theoretical approach is not an abstract imposition of a series of critical theories about the present (from Postcolonial to Postmodern critical discourse), but rather the result of the juxtaposition of artworks that explore different themes: the economy, tourism, identity, migration. With the setup of his studio in Marrakech, which also produced a large part of the artworks of the biennale, Eric Van Hove investigated this relationship, transforming a Mercedes-Benz engine into a 100% Moroccan product. Manufactured by local craftsman in a collective process, V12 Laraki is a hybrid between a motor and 500 years of local knowledge of craftsmanship.

To conceive his I will not stroll with Thamy el Glaoui, Jelili Atiku cooperated with the Amazigh, who gave Marrakech its name: mur-(n)-akush, "land of god". Atiku's performance asks about Morocco’s identity: using Amazigh fabrics and design, he organized a procession up to Djemaa el-Fna, himself on a horse-drawn carriage dressed like a king with Berber fabrics, followed by 50 decorated sheep. Younès Rahmoun’s installation titled "77" translates transcendental experience into a physical space, illuminated by copper lamps produced with a local craftsman. 77 is the number of ways of practicing Islam and the number of the lamps installed in the underground room of the Bank Al Maghrib.

An important aspect of the production process of a good part of the works proposed at the Biennale is the relationship that the artists had to build up with the city: every work produced was the result of at least one month of residence in Marrakech. This relationship brought every single artist to develop his or her discourse through a constant balancing between Western art language and local culture and knowledge. This tension is more visible, explains Khalidi, when the inhabitants of the city start to visit the Biennale, bringing their point of view on the artworks.

"Aesthetics and politics" is an expression that could shape the concept of the show in a way that makes the viewer the real center. This focus on accessibility is a legacy of Khalidi's previous projects developed in Europe. As art director of TAG in Den Hague, he focused on the intersection between technology and society, working mainly with the community of a residential area between the city center and its bourgeois suburbs.

A powerful quality of the curatorial selection is the orientation toward sound, a choice that pushes the viewer to shed potential questions about the systemic meanings of the artworks and engage a connection with their locations and physical interactions. Sound involves space and duration and forces even chance observers to experience a context, observe it, feel it, and spend time on it. It is a matter of presence.

For example, this is the clear intention of Clara Meister's Singing maps and underlying melodies, a series of concerts by local musicians in different locations of the Medina conceived as a psycho-geographical experience of the city for Biennale viewers and for a chance public. Ici Maintenant Ou by Saout Radio (Younes Baba-Ali, Anna Raimondo) proposes a similar process of relational engagement with urban spaces through a sonic dérive in a Marrakech cab provided with a program of sounds and music. Cevdet Erek's Courtyard Ornamentation with Sounding Dots and a Prison is a simple and yet engaged site-specific installation at El Badiâ; its immersive power makes it one of the strongest works of the Biennale.


Participating artists - Visual & Sound Arts

Saâdane Afif  (* 1975 Vendome, France)

Wafae Ahalouch el Keriasti   (* 1978 Tangier, Morocco)

Mustapha Akrim   (* 1981 Rabat, Morocco)

Can and Asli Altay   (* 1975 Ankara, Turkey)

Mohamed Arejdal  (* 1984 Guelmim, Morocco)

Burak Arikan   (* 1976 Istanbul, Turkey)

Jelili Atiku   (* 1968 Ejigbo, Nigeria)

Kader Attia   (* 1970 Dugny, France)

Yassine Balbzioui   (* 1972 Kelâat Es-Sraghna, Morocco)

Charif Benhelima   (* 1966 Brussels, Belgium)

Hicham Benohoud   (* 1968 Marrakech, Morocco)

Katinka Bock   (* 1976 Frankfurt/Main, Germany)

Max Boufathal   (* 1983 Paris, France)

Keren Cytter   (* 1977 Tel-Aviv, Israel)

Shezad Dawood   (* 1974 London, UK)

Cevdet Erek   (* 1974 Istanbul, Turkey)

Hamza Halloubi   (* 1982 Tangier, Morocco)

Éric Van Hove   (* 1975, Belgian)

Iman Issa   (* 1979 Cairo, Egypt)

Hassaan Kahn & Ibtesam Gazder
(* 1976 / 1983 Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)

Hamid el Kanbouhi   (* 1976 Morocco)

Hiba, Ghita & Zaynab Khamlichi
(* 2000 / 1995 / 1988 Rabat, Morocco)

Adriana Lara   (* 1978 Mexico City, Mexico)

Gabriel Lester   (* 1972 Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Tala Madani   (* 1981 Tehran, Iran)

Saud Mahjoub   (* 1957 Mecca, Saudi Arabia)

Randa Maroufi   (* 1987 Casablanca, Morocco)

Agnes Meyer-Brandis   (* 1973 Aaken, Germany)

Sandra Niessen   (* 1954 Toronto, Canada)

Walid Raad   (* 1967 Beirut, Lebanon)

Younès Rahmoun   (* 1975 Tétouan, Morocco)

Lili Reynaud-Dewar   (* 1975 La Rochelle, France)
With Dorine Aguerre, Chloé Delarue, Camille Dumont, Lou Masduraud, Lea Meier, Nastasia Meyrat, Laura Vaissade

Pamela Rosenkranz   (* 1979 Sils-Maria, Switzerland)

Khaled Sabsabi   (* 1965 Tripoli, Lebanon)

Saout Radio:
Younes Baba-Ali   (* 1986 Oujda, Morocco)
& Anna Raimondo   (* 1981 Naples, Italy)

Mounira Al Solh   (* 1978 Beirut, Lebanon)

Anne Verhoijsen   (* 1951 Someren, the Netherlands)

Asim Waqif  (* 1978 Hyderabad, India)

Patrick Wokmen   (* 1985 Douala, Cameroon)

Katarina Zdjelar   (* 1979 Belgrade, Serbia)

Special commissions:

A sound performance project curated by Carl Michael von Hausswolff (* 1956 Linköping, Sweden) and Jacob Kirkegaard (* 1975 Esbjerg, Denmark)

Performances by
JG Thirlwell, Franz Pomassl, Anna Ceeh, Maia Urstad, Mike Harding, Brandon LaBelle, BJ Nilsen, Christine Ödlund, Kent Tankred, Jacob Kirkegaard, Tommi Grönlund, Petteri Nisunen, Carl Michael von Hausswolff, Kamarstudios, Leif Elggren, leif e. boman

Singing Maps and Underlying Melodies
A music performance curated by Clara Meister (* 1981 Munich, Germany) in collaboration with S.T.I.F.F., kamarstudios and Moroccan musicians

Please see also:

Marrakech Biennale 5 - Visual & Sound Arts section
Press information, published in 2014

Marrakech Biennale 5 - Basic Information, History
Press information, published in October 2013

Lucrezia Cippitelli
Art critic and curator. Works especially with media and conceptual artists, and process-oriented practices in the public space.

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>> Marrakech Biennale Photo Tour
Visual arts section - all the venues

Marrakech Biennale 5
Where are we now?

26 February - 31 March 2014

Artistic Director: Alya Sebti

Curatorial team:
Hicham Khalidi (visual arts)
Khalid Tamer (performing arts)
Jamal Abdenassar (cinema and video)
Driss Ksikes (literature)

Marrakech Biennale Association

62 Rue de Yougoslavie
Guéliz, Marrakech 40 000
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See also:

Arts in Marrakech Biennale Arts in Marrakech Biennale
Review of the visual arts exhibition, curated by Abdellah Karroum. With an extensive photo tour. By Zineb El Rhazoui, December 2009

Marrakech Biennale 2016 Marrakech Biennale 2016
24 February - 8 May 2016, Morocco. Theme: Not New Now. Curator: Reem Fadda, Assistant curator: Ilaria Conti. Interjections by collaborating curators. September 2015

Nafas  |  Events, Projects  |  Morocco