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Bérénice Saliou: The exhibition "Corps et figures du corps" (Bodies and figures of bodies) features more than 70 artists with extremely diverse practices. Contemporary artists such as Mohamed El Baz and Hassan Darsi are shown next to more traditional painters such as Miloudi or Kacimi. Can you tell us about your curatorial concept and the way exhibitions are born?
Mohamed Rachdi: "Corps et figures du corps" is a deliberately eclectic exhibition that aims to show the diverse approaches to the subject of the body, within the field of modern and contemporary art in Morocco. The show seeks to present a large range of artistic practices from different generations and sensibilities: drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, installation, video, dance, performance…It is a matter of displaying the diverse artistic approaches in their treatment of the body, from their play with technical procedures to their use of cultural references, exploration of forms and their affirmation of singular aesthetic attitudes. Thus, this exhibition wants to underline the artists’ consciousness of the body’s incontrovertible reality and, most and foremost, the impossibility of working without its effective and symbolic implication. What about the treatment of the body in artistic proposals within Morocco? How do Moroccan artists, but also foreigners who live and work in Morocco, deal with the body in their works? "Corps et figures du corps" mostly aspires to answer these questions.
BS: The representation of the body remains a very sensitive topic in Islamic countries. How have you approached it within the exhibition?
MR: This exhibition seeks to demonstrate that this abusive prohibition (there is actually no clearly formulated ban in the main source of the Islamic law, that is, the Koran) of figurative representation does not really have a lot of relevance to modern and contemporary art in Morocco. In fact, a mere look on the sample of artistic production that is displayed within the "Corps et figure du corps" exhibition is enough to make one realise how omnipresent figurative representation is. Artists not only figurate bodies, but also represent them – and at times present them in all their concreteness – in the most total and sensual nudity. In reality, there are not a lot of inhibitions about the body and its representations in the current context of Morocco. These past few years, the Moroccan art scene has welcomed more and more creators living and working in the diaspora on an international scale. For instance, Lalla Essaydi – and Yassmina Alaoui, who works with Marco Guerra. This being said, the cultural, religious and social context has not yet matured enough to show many other artistic proposals that are more audacious in their reaction towards the body. I am thinking, for example, about some pieces by Hicham Benhoud that I produced in France in 2004 within the framework of the "Interferences" exhibition. But, isn’t it the case in many other countries (including Western countries) where considerations of religious beliefs still weigh?
BS: You recently joined the Société Générale as head of the Artistic Patronage Department. Can you tell us about your missions?
MR: Indeed, I got involved in the Société Générale in April 2008. My role is to work for the valorisation of the cultural heritage of the Société Générale by developing exhibitions that are able to fill a venue of more than 1500 m2, enriching the bank’s collection, which already has more than 1,050 pieces (not to mention a fund of art objects including carpets, ceramics, coins and currency notes…) and organising events (roundtables, lectures, colloquies, publications…). Thus, it is an almost museum-like structure in a country where there is no museum of modern and contemporary art yet.
BS: The exhibition regularly hosts groups of children and students, which is quite rare in Morocco. Is the Société Générale engaged in artistic education actions?
MR: In addition to groups of visitors, we welcome pupils and students from primary schools to universities and sometimes also groups of teachers. Our mission is different from that of art galleries, more and more of which, thankfully, have opened in Morocco. The vocation of these galleries is primarily commercial, playing a vital component in cultural production – hence the accelerated rhythm of exhibitions – whereas our mission is artistic patronage. We do not sell artworks; on the contrary, we buy them in order to help artists and galleries. Of course, acquisitions also allow the enrichment of our cultural heritage. And cultural heritage lives only when shared. It is up to us to create conditions for sharing with the public and to work for a better knowledge of art. That is why we take our time to conceive and create ambitious exhibition projects. Once an exhibition is installed, it must stay open for a long enough time to offer the public the possibility to visit, talk about it and come back to immerse themselves in the artworks and build artistic knowledge. Within this framework, our mission is to organise guided tours, particularly for schools, because it is clear that there cannot be any artistic and cultural flowering without education.
BS: What is the contemporary art world in Morocco like today? Has artistic patronage felt the effects of the credit crunch?
MR: It is made manifest that Morocco is a country under total construction, at different levels. The sector of production and diffusion of art does not escape from this dynamic. Everything is still to be done, but we have what is necessary to succeed. We have good artists, more and more good galleries, auction rooms and an increasing number of collectors; art magazines and other publications have started to appear…However there is still a lot to do, particularly in the realms of art education, graduate studies and research. As for artistic patronage, I think the Société Générale does a good job in fostering the development of the arts and their diffusion. Anyway, it keeps supporting the arts, even during crisis periods. The aim is to provide artistic patronage, no matter what.
French independent curator, lives in Marseille. As co-founder and Director of the Trankat Art Residency in Tétouan, she is heavily involved in Morocco.
Corps et figures du corps
11 December 2009 -
30 April 2010