to Barrada (b. 1971; lives and works in New York and Tangier) combines the strategies of documentary with a metaphoric approach to imagery in her photographic, film, and sculptural work. Her artistic practice also involves engaging her local community with its own cultural history, most visibly by the renovation of a 1930s movie palace in the heart of Tangier. In 2006, Barrada reenergized the abandoned structure in the city’s famed Casbah district as a way to engage with the collective memory and material history of Tangier. Cinéma Rif, as the theater is named, was brought to life as both a cultural center and a place to discover the films and remarkable history of filmmaking in Morocco.
An Album: Cinémathèque Tangier, a project by Yto Barrada includes films, artworks, and artifacts that speak to the artist’s connection with the social and political realities that shape her hometown. In the gallery, screenings of short works from the cinémathèque’s archive show Tangier as it has been imagined only through movies. Sculptures by Barrada—Palm Sign and a set of dioramas that depict cinemas during the heyday of grand theaters—are presented with her film Hand-Me-Downs (2011), a montage of Super-8 home movies from the 1960s. Artist-commissioned and official film posters showing the romantic Tangier of film legend are also on view. Together, these elements create a kind of album that portrays Morocco’s rich and complex visual and cinematic culture.
For Naomi Harris, 16 years of living in New York City was long enough. “I don’t actually know where I belong anymore,” Harris said with a laugh while traveling in Oregon. “I know I don’t want to be in New York. It’s loud and expensive, I go to bed by 10 at night, and I get up early and walk my dog. Why am I in the city that never sleeps?”
A couple of years ago, Harris spent four months traveling around her native country for a series titled “Oh, Canada.” The self-described lover of puns (she is working on a similar project in the United States titled “U.S. of Eh!”) said documenting and traveling throughout Canada wasn’t as tricky as the United States. “Canada definitely is easier than the U.S. as far as figuring out going from west to east or east to west,” she said. “In the U.S. you have to pick a region and focus on that area, but for me Canada is so much easier because you have 10 provinces, and if you drive from coast to coast, you’ll hit all of them, so that made it a heck of a lot easier.”
From American Suburb X:
Alexia Webster, HOGSBACK, stands out from the other works that’s exploring a place and its people with her richly saturated colour photographs that carries a darkness, and something magical, fantasy-like about them. Besides the cosmic environments, Webster has made portraits of people and animals in the forest and the village of Hogsback. The visual impression is so vivid and almost surreal that some animals are looking ’photo-shopped’ into the lush flourishing green, blue, and brown surroundings. Many of the photographs are taken during night with ambivalent light sources enhancing the mystical atmosphere. A brief history is given of the first settlers, the missioners, that ancests to the people now either living in the town or being in exile due to their ’black’ origin. ”Today, 19 years after the fall of apartheid, the village is still a hauntingly beautiful but unsettled landscape struggling to come to terms with the ghosts of its past and the inequalities of the present. This project explores the village now and searches for a glimpses of those spirits, including my own ancestors, who roam these ancient and haunted forests.”
Naomi Harris profiled in Lenscratch.