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Passerelle Artistique V

Environmental awareness event in the public space, organized by La Source du Lion in Casablanca.
By Helen Adkins | Aug 2006

Organization and History

The two-yearly "Passerelle Artistique" events are organized by the art group "Source du Lion" (Lion Spring). Established in 1995, the group was founded by the artists Hassan Darsi, Mohamed Fariji, and Rachid L'Moudenne. The name originates from a district of Casablanca (Aïn Sebâa), where for two years Hassan Darsi worked with artists just out of art school. Since 2001, the group whose motivation is to sensitize people living in an urban reality to social, urban, and political issues, has dedicated the "Passerelle" event to environmental awareness. The object of the artistic intervention is to clean up and rehabilitate the disastrously neglected Hermitage Park in Casablanca. Established between 1917 and 1927, this once most beautiful urban park in Morocco was in a pathetic state: one third of its total surface of 17 hectares was an illegal tip. The former horticultural park situated in a densely populated area of town had otherwise become the stage for rape, theft and illicit occupations. The initial project involving the creation of a detailed maquette of the park (scale 1/100) enabled a drastic visualization of the actual state of dereliction. When in May 2003 the maquette was finally completed, Mr. Drief, the Wali of Casablanca assisted its public presentation in the garden of the Villa des Arts in the town centre; three days later, the Hermitage had been delivered from 2000 truckloads of refuse!

In July 2002, Hassan Darsi had issued the following declaration:
"The maquette is not simply a reduced model
It is a prototype of irresponsibility
The maquette refers not to the past and not to the future
It refers to the current decrepit state
The maquette induces no willpower
It establishes the absence of willpower
The maquette is a collective realization
Likewise, its non-realization is equally collective."

On the grounds of the success of the project and the obvious need for further-ranging measures, two additional editions of the "Passerelle Artistique" (2004, 2006) have focused on the Hermitage. All three editions of the project were curated by Florence Renault-Darsi.

Passerelle Artistique V – From the park to the city and back

This year's project concentrated on publicizing the project beyond its local boundaries both in an artistic and geographical sense, in order to build up a new reputation for the Hermitage and restore public trust in the park. This was translated into an opening of the park towards the city through works and performances beyond the Hermitage precincts, together with working projects within the park itself. A study and research program presented the history of the project and made public the final rehabilitation program. Realized by the landscape gardening firm Atelier Vert in collaboration with Source du Lion and now well on its way, the rehabilitation integrates many artistic propositions elaborated over the years or during various workshops. These include modular sports grounds and zebra crossings by Kamiel Vershueren and Lauran Schijvens (Rotterdam), the Park of Colors by Michel Moffarts, the Hermitage Geogram by Paul Gonze (Brussels), the Gardens of the World project by Hassan Darsi (with the participation of students from the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam), the artistic garden workshops, and the competition for children's games proposed by Source du Lion (Hassan Darsi et Florence Renault).

A majority of works that were developed during an intensive email exchange of several months consisted in public interventions and performances. This year's "Passerelle" was well received by the population, any initial distrust now gone. On municipal, national, and international levels, the Hermitage Park initiative is a pilot project stirring much interest. Here, I propose a brief introduction to some of the projects.

Gabi Farage designed a mobile street stand for public discussion of questions concerning the Hermitage and Younès Rahmoun produced a series of hand-drawn, computer printed tracts on park attractions such as birds, trees, playgrounds etc... In an exploration of the "Human Face of the Park", Hassan Darsi pasted the 327-meter long wall separating the El Bidaoui train line from the park with a collection of 78 photographs portraying people met in the park during the course of one day. The piece was completed by a flyer distributed at railway stations and taxi stands and providing details of how to access the park.

With his triptych entitled "San Simon Re-construction", Mahmoud Khaled created an illusionistic three-dimensional garden space enclosing a mattress to rest on. Simultaneous public participation projects on Nador Street just outside the park include Hasnâa Sabir's voting urn for the inhabitants of the neighborhood to drop their thoughts into and Abdelwahid Noura's performance at the main entrance: the artist wraps his face in nylon threads coming from doors in the street, thereby creating an invisible link between the park and its surrounding neighborhood.

In the Park of the Arab League, Mohamed El Baz staged a silent manifestation to express the simple wish to exist – to be – with mainly young participants. The invitation "to converse around a glass of orange juice" on an orange colored two-seater wooden platform and table by Michel Moffarts was located within the Hermitage Park, as also Christine Quoiraud's walk and dance, together with children from the 2006 artistic workshops.

Finally, Wanda Hoescht and Rym Benyahia shot a documentary film on all the different facets of this year's "Passerelle".

Invited artists: Mahmoud Khaled, Mohamed El Baz, Amina Benbouchta, Hassan Echair, Younès Rahmoun (Collectif 212, Hassan Darsi (Source du Lion), Gabi Farage (Bruit du Frigo), Christine Quoiraud, Wanda Hoesch, Rym Benyahia (Asiles NGO), Michel Moffarts (CO21), Hasnâa Sabir (School of Fine Arts, Casablanca), Othman Fekraoui, Abdelwahid Noura (Institute of Fine Arts, Tetouan)
Invited organizations and institutions: Culture and Information Center K@2, Liepaja. Latvia, Asiles NGO, France - Libanon, Bruit du Frigo, Bordeaux, Moulay Rachid Cultural Complex, Casablanca, De Plantage Foundation. Schiedam, Netherlands, School of Fine Arts, Casablanca, Institute of Fine Arts, Tetouan, Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam
The project is principally supported by Africalia and the French Embassy's Service for Cooperation and Cultural Action (SCAC). "Source du Lion" benefits from a basic yearly municipal support.

Helen Adkins

Independent art historian and exhibition curator based in Berlin, Germany.

Passerelle Artistique V

26 May - 5 June 2006
Casablanca, Morocco

Concept and realization:
Hassan Darsi, Florence Renault-Darsi

Florence Renault-Darsi

Source du Lion
(Hassan Darsi, Mohamed Fariji, Florence Renault-Darsi, Marion Renoud-Grappin)

Tarek Fayed, Hicham Ramch, Abderrahim Chawky, Saïd Rami

Invited artists:
see the list below the text

Martine Derain (Marseille), Editions Le Fennec, "Echo Hermitage", to appear in November 2006

La Source du Lion

Rue 3 N° 25. Hay Essalam - cil
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Related Content:

Hermitage 1
Artists of La Source du Lion take actions against the new masterplan for the park in Casablanca.
Source du Lion4
The art association in Casablanca, Morocco, and its environmental protection project for the public park l'Hermitage.
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