Started in 2010 by the Réseau d’Art A-48, the Orient'Art Express Festival is an artistic and cultural project dedicated to contemporary creation. It seeks to be an exploratory and experimental space, one open to all artists and to the debates they provoke. Réseau d’Art A-48 also aspires to be a space for reflection, exchange, and dialogue, a kind of permanent forum that provides resources for information and approaches related to contemporary art practice and where the visitor can find a convivial environment in order to develop his or her own critical sense.
The exhibitions and encounters organized by Réseau d’Art A-48 interrogate the relationship between centers and peripheries to consider the possibilities for producing and diffusing contemporary creation from a site such as Oujda, a small city in eastern Morocco far from the center. To do so, the 2014 Orient'Art Express Festival, under the direction of Azzedine Abdelouhabi and with Abdelkader Damani as the curator of the international exhibition, invites the public to participate in conferences and round tables about contemporary art and urges intellectuals to reflect on the current state of contemporary artistic thought.
Introduction by curator Abdelkader Damani:
Not be Apart from the World
There is in this desert no apparent way, no visible trace, these are only sands blown by the wind. We sometimes see mountains of sand in one place, and soon afterwards, they are transported to another place. The guide in this desert plain is the one who has been there and came back several times, and is gifted with a very clever mind. One of the amazing things I've seen is that our driver had lost an eye, the second one was badly ill, and despite this, he knew the way better than any other mortal.
Ibn Battuta, Travels: Book III India, Far East, Spain and Sudan, Paris, La Découverte Poche 1997
Invited as Curator of an exhibition in Oujda, Morocco, I could not but heed the figure of Ibn Battûta (1304 - 1377) that some see as a geographer and I read as a historian of forms and colors. A lifetime spent looking at a world to describe, to write and to transcribe it. And therefore to represent it.
I left home and, caught out there in the world, I forgot to return. The life of this explorer can thus be said in very few words. Make a trip of a lifetime, and then return for a final appointment: write the story of his presence on earth. Transform it into an artwork.
How many of us cherish this dream? Everyone.
How many realize it? Artists.
They go away, the artists. This is all they do: they become Ibn Battûta.
* * *
We are the orphans of a pre1492 world. Andalusia ends its adventure in Spain; Europe builds itself and builds the world, it goes to its conquest. The crossing of the Atlantic opens the possibility of making a travel around the Earth and with it a strange illusion: the world would be finite. At the end of centuries of history, we call it globalization, the end of exoticism, the end of the history ... anyway! we would all become, each and everyone of us, alike, there are no more Others, since there would be only one model: European modernity, others would say "the American way of life." The peoples of the earth came unwillingly into a modernity defined for many centuries. However artists do not stop screaming out loud that the world is infinite, the unexpected is always there, the word "Other" still makes sense and most importantly, the trip is always possible.
Not the journey that makes you move from one airport to another, a biennial to another, from one urban center to another, and leaves you in the marked trails of this belief of a "finite world": a curious decor made of contemporary art in white boxes, and miles of shelves of consumer products. I'm talking about another trip: that of a departure towards the unknown. This is where artists and great travelers meet, and meet the great traveler Ibn Battûta, who is for us the tutelary figure of this edition.
* * *
To produce an artwork is essentially to be lost after a first walk and make the decision not to find one's way back. Go into deadlocks as endless as they are. Walk in order to touch the walls, smell the odors, hear the sounds, sighs and cries of beings. Watch the world until exhaustion and finally make an end of it.
"Not to be apart from the world," said Albert Camus, "[...] essentially: not to get lost, and not to lose what, in itself, sleeps in the world." Ibn Battûta awakened all what's sleeping within him in the world, and he made a symphony of it.
The exhibition, on the occasion of the 5th edition of the festival Orient'Art Oujda, is an attempt to play Ibn Battuta's trips as a partition, a "new experience " of the exhibition to pour in the stream of arts' history. A story of multiple emptinesses which should be filled on every opportunity with its forgetfulness. The exhibition is a journey into and through the artworks, but also through the city and perhaps the Oriental region (of Morocco). Like Ibn Battûta the viewer is invited to wander from one place to another recomposing the intimate journeys of artists into a single narrative, his own.
Each place will be a step on a journey understood in all its dimensions: self-exploration, exploration of the world, the experience of otherness... In this course, contemporary art approaches texts of Ibn Battûta, his descriptions of the world like in Tuhfat al-nuzzar fi gara’ib al-amsar wa-‘aga’ib al-asfar.
* * *
My desire for this exhibition is to make it a trip between the West (Europe and America) and the West (the Maghreb). These two geographical eras form a history of art one must narrate in one story. Thus, I choose to remember historical figures (Bruce Nauman, Richard Long, Marcel Broodthaers ) who have marked my entry into contemporary art and whom I consider a fragment of the memory of these two Wests. To these characters who make up the trip into time, the works of contemporary artists from Egypt, France, South Africa, Morocco, Algeria etc. weave through the city a myriad of stages of an infinite rihla (trip) to art .
From The measure of the world of Jean-Marc Cérino, to Berlin, Istanbul, Zagreb, and to a passer-by of Fabrice Lauterjung, a Garden of Delights of Slimane Raïs, a square as a single territory in Bruce Nauman's work, a Shadow procession in William Kentridge's, a Magic lantern that makes journey around the world in Christian Boltanski's... the exhibition is a wandering, a relationship to the world by wandering in order to tell it in the manner of Édouard Glissant.
Independent curator, born in Algeria. Director of the Veduta section of the Biennale de Lyon, France. Among his last projects: Co-curator of Dak'Art Biennale 2014, Dakar, Senegal.
Not be Apart from the World
International Art Exhibition
5th Orient'Art Express Festival
13 August - 13 September 2014
Art Gallery on Moulay Al Hassan Blv.
Municipal Cultural Complex
Lalla Meriem Museum
Charif Al Idriss Library
Moulay Sliman Foundation
Bab Al Gharbi
Gafait oasis, 80 km from Oujda