Not New Now
The 6th Marrakesh Biennale

“Doubt is the beginning of wisdom.” Such lines have made the poems of Abderrahmane El Majdoub part of everyday culture in Maghreb. The quatrains of the poet and Sufi mystic, who died in 1568, are deeply ingrained in the collective memory of this region. Now his poems, which originally were handed down orally, have served as inspiration for Yto Barrada’s contribution to the sixth edition of the Marrakech Biennale entitled Majdoub Rag Flag. For this textile installation, Deutsche Bank’s “Artist of the Year” 2011 recycled remnants of old fabrics. They were sewed into flags on which lines from El Majdoub’s poems can be read. Barrada’s patchwork banners wave at Bahia Palace, forming a counterpoint to the magnificent marble tiles, mosaics, and stucco arabesques that adorn the building, a World Heritage Site. The artist confronts the opulence of past eras with an aesthetic of arbitrariness and modesty.

Barrada’s installation perfectly matches the artistic theme of this year’s Marrakech Biennale. Under the title Not New Now, the curator, Reem Fadda, attempts to sow doubt – above all about our cultural obsession with the new. Terms like recycling, folklore, materiality, responsibility, and ecology form the associative framework of her exhibition project. At the same time, Reem Fadda engages with societal conditions in North African and Arab countries, which are often characterized by poverty, violence, and religious tension. She invited around 50 artists, of whom apart from Yto Barrada, Kader Attia, Mona Hatoum, and Adrián Villar Rojas are represented in the Deutsche Bank Collection. As always at the Biennale, initiated in 2005, the focus is on artists from the two worlds that come together in Marrakesh – the Maghreb and the sub-Saharan regions. The Marrakech Biennale does not only look at the present, but also shows artists from the Casablanca School, who during the years after the end of French colonial rule mixed local and international influences. By combining Hard Edge painting like that of Frank Stella with abstract forms of Moroccan folk culture, they provide a Moroccan answer to Modernism.

The 6th Marrakech Biennale pays tribute to the French-Moroccan photographer Leila Alaoui, who was killed by an Islamic terrorist attack in Burkino Faso. She had been working on a women’s rights project there on behalf of Amnesty International. With series on issues including identity and migration, she was represented at the Marrakech Biennales in 2012 and 2014.  To commemorate the artist, who died at the young age of 33, the Biennale is presenting her project l’île au Diable, which pays homage to workers from former French colonies. The death of Leila Alaoui exemplifies the threats that many people in North Africa and Arab countries face. But the makers of the Biennale are not intimidated. In a statement they write: “May your memory rekindle in us the impetuous desire to live and create, to fight against all injustice, all obscurantism, and to build a solidary and caring society.”

6th Marrakech Biennale – Not New Now
2/24/2016 – 5/8/2016