Winter 2014 | Gallery

Reinventing Fire

By and

This issue marks the last installment of a six-quarter cycle of the Gallery that spotlights artists from the Maghreb leading up to the 2014 edition of the Marrakech Biennial. Each subsequent gallery will showcase artists who deal with the every day in their work to reveal the conceptual threads and regional connections that underlie the expanding North African art scene. Previously, Alya Sabti focused on Morocco with Younes Baba-Ali, Everyday Activist, Wafa Gabsi addressed Tunisia in The Daily Route, Yasmina Reggad (/A.R.I.A/) looked at Algeria with The Economy of Hope [Working Title], Alya Sebti and Holiday Powers investigated the use of new media to represent the quotidian with Poetics of the Everyday, and Bérénice Saliou explored the everyday act of mobility and the complications that arise in Cartography of the Everyday.

They saw it arise before being able to master it themselves. They watched it, questioned it, and domesticated it. Butterflies burn their wings endlessly on it. Humans perpetually create it. To each their fire tragedy. When humans mastered fire, they invented art.

Today, and for the first time, power is both globalized and ethereal. Finance now governs us through speculation. Gone are the days when people were rich because of the money they owned, they are now rich due to virtual rates imposed onto politicians. The value of wealth is no longer measurable, it is merely an Illusion. The concept is not philosophical but purely advertising. Ideas of states, politics, companies, Gods, human rights etc., in which we are coerced into believing, are also only an illusion in which we are aware that the planet’s resources could provide for three times the current world population, yet millions are starving.

When the politician casts a favorable light onto the financier, art becomes the last standing human value. However, art is also largely infested by individuals born rich, oligarchs and hedge fund managers. As for politics, this “global monetary elite” created normative precedents on reflection, finance, artistic production, and dissemination: art fairs, workshops, grants … The artist now merely invents ways to toe the line and irretrievably breaks away from its essence: “to be the guilty conscience of his time” (Saint- John Perse).

At the edge of history, there is only one step further to total obscurity and alienation. For the work to be free from the chains of History and Politics, the artist must instead be steeped in it. It is from this space and time that a “beyond” is possible so as to mold another space and time. There is a “here and now” for the artist but their work at times either invalidates or goes beyond the notion of “here and now”. The work does not obey the same rules. The work does not know the same weightlessness to which the body is subjected.

It is thus by being part of history that the artist is able to overwhelm it through their work. Like fire, creation is a space of opposites: it both shines and burns. And it is by being in contact, by perpetuating dialogue and confrontation with their contemporaries that the work may be singular. Artistic practice is uniquely plural. Like fire, it warms people and devours things.

“I is another,” wrote Rimbaud and the entire definition of the artist is there: a receptacle of alterities, beyond the individual realm, a space for the visible and the invisible, for the unspeakable and speakable, and for the possible and impossible. A “oneself” and its overflow, an other and its multiplications, one person and a community at the same time. What other task for the artist than to ignite a new fire, right where the artist is standing, among their tribe of birth or the tribe adopted. As the first man creating the very first fire, what is the task of the artist if not to turn daily routines into absolutes and solitude into alterities?

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