1993-2003, an African transition
Bâtiment Georges Henri Rivière (GHR)—Fort Saint-Jean (320 m²) |
From Friday 23 November 2018 to Sunday 3 March 2019
Mohammed Kacimi (1942-2003) is one of the most important post-war Moroccan plasticians. An innovative artist with a deep sense of commitment, and both an instigator and a witness to the globalisation of contemporary Arab art, he has had a major and lasting influence on the evolution of his country’s artistic landscape and served as a model for a number of young Maghreb artists, who today are internationally recognised.
The exhibition is devoted to Mohammed Kacimi’s « African period » (1993-2003)—the high point of his oeuvre—which sees him break with western art and the different aesthetic trends that influenced him in his journey, to open up a new, far more personal sphere of work, characterised by an unrestrained, free and ever more transdisciplinary expression.
By shining a light on this major period, the goal is to better understand how the work of Mohammed Kacimi was able to participate in the construction of a new Mediterranean imaginary.
Via a selection of exemplary works and significant archival documents (325 works made up of paintings, sculptures and also archives: manuscripts, texts, drawings, photographs, videos), this exhibition reveals the key role played by this plastician, who opened up the way for new generations of artists from the Arab world to make the jump towards a new contemporaneity, fed by his own cultural anchors— « an African transition ».
General curator: Nadine Descendre, art historian and critic
Interview with Nadine Descendre, exhibition curator
Who was Mohammed Kacimi? How can his journey, influences and what he felt committed to be summed up?
Nadine Descendre (N. D.)
The man and the oeuvre are intimately interwoven with this artist, who was both flamboyant and coy, and whose crucial role beyond the borders of Morocco we are only today discovering.
Totally self-taught and from an early age engaged by art during young years that were difficult, yet nevertheless rich in relationship, social and political experiences, he demonstrates an intellectual curiosity and acuity, that his sense of independence, travels and encounters will rapidly confirm.
The evidence is clear that his first pieces of plastic work demonstrate a mastery and exceptional originality. His works are influenced by western art, but already they indicate aspects that are his alone and that are born from his personal imagination.
Social networks do not exist yet, but the world is his. He thinks universally. He is concerned about others. He seeks through art a truth that would be his own, and which could enable him to simultaneously grasp the present, and discover and share the keys to understanding his time. For all these reasons, hungry for justice, peace and democracy, he is convinced that as an artist, there is a way to create and defends what he feels commitment to and which are connected to Morocco and, more broadly, the Arab world. Because art is an agitator of ideas, he knows that his truth is also beyond, and not only within, the isolation of his studio. Thus, early on, he is no longer satisfied with travel. He shares his art with other disciplines (poetry, dance, theatre); he revives a certain usage of traditional arts; he writes, and also inserts texts and signs into his paintings; he plays with colors and pigments as a completely separate subject; and in particular, he takes on the risks of in situ and temporary installations: he creates unsurpassed situations, painting on stage, accompanied by musicians and activist intellectuals, who read their texts. He does not fear initiating critical debates about the cultural deficiencies and realities that he judges as unsatisfactory ...
He will never cease to reinvent himself, even if certain recurring themes punctuate his journey, such as les Marches (the Marches), the waiting lines of migrants, feet, but also buffer zones, the ocean, the desert, and the "irrepresented" body in the series Traversées (Crossings), where there is nothing but thought ... until this other version of himself, a minor anonymous character, constantly rising, namely the man and the body, quickly becomes the first tool of his thinking beyond images and stories. The storyteller moves the canvas and the artist beyond even as astral space, to a time with no presence, where there may be a way to see the dawning of the light of a small truth ...
For this exhibition, why did you choose to focus on the latter years of his life, his «African period» ?
Because it is a major period! Over time, Kacimi is ever more troubled by what he discovers, by what the world seems to be becoming. His response as an artist is a type of rejection. He gives himself over to a life that he knows will be short. There is an urgency.
With the Grotte des temps futurs (Grotto of future times), he gives himself fully to put in place a new form for his work to express "the world he has in his head", his humanity and his anxieties. His artistic maturity flourishes fully at the point when it is in tune with an awareness of his Africanness. In 1994, he is hosted in the enormous studio of the Hôpital éphémère in Paris: many exceptional encounters and confrontations take place there – notably with Pierre Gaudibert, then with the actors of Revue Noire and Simon Njami in 1997 with the exhibition Suites Africaines (African continuations) – and his painting reflects this. The subjects he thinks about and his world are no longer focused, definitively, only on that part of his Africanness that speaks to him, that he wants to deconstruct grain by grain via the world, that ultimately constitutes for him a spiritual history of the world and mankind. His other self is this storyteller, a sort of universal "griot", whom he makes his own and in whom he discovers powers to convey, to tell of the world, to initiate action and to prevent action from happening ...
In 1997, Kacimi writes the following text that warrants being cited :
«The African artist is not only the representative and communicator of the exoticism and ancient rites that feed weakening imaginations. The creator in Africa is the passer-on of their own story with everything that it has that is complex, ascending, ritualistic and bedazzling. Faced with transformations, local and international repressions, misery and political aberrations, faced with tyranny in all its forms including that in their own tradition, the contemporary African artist is the archaeologist of the passing of time, of stratas, of signs, and of matter from the age of the beautiful Lucy (and the discovery of origins) until our present time. It is a state of being that is directly relevant to events.
Africa is not only a geographic place that is a producer of signs, rites and safaris as it often is portrayed in western imagination, but also the one of death, cultural deforestation, desertification and all types of manipulations.» (Paris, March 1997)
In what way was Mohammed Kacimi a passer-on for new generations of artists of the African continent ?
The disaster of the world is playing out before his lucid eyes. He sees it like an irreversible leak into the future, faced with what mankind has set in motion and no longer knows how to stop (oil, nuclear, scientific excesses, alienated medias). He knows that rebellion is the enabler of war and he does not want this solution, which is not really one, subordinating the strongest to controlling the other and encouraging the cult of domination.
Very early on therefore, he is on a quest for artistic experiences that will bring him to other solutions than those offered by painting alone. He judges it as having become not active enough, too egocentric, too wrapped up in his time. Animated by everything he has seen on the ground more or less everywhere in Europe since the 1970s, he aims for an intersection of disciplines: clashing genres, disengaging himself from the art market (which he doesn't follow), grasping new territories. And it is this way that new mindsets are forged with the young Maghreb artists, who here and elsewhere, in their homeland and throughout their diasporic presence, have made coincide so naturally tools, attitudes and another way to create, that can be qualified today as "proactive", this neologism that describes the taking on by each of us the responsibility of their life! The young artists of the African continent have in effect been able to find through an artist such as Kacimi (then others, but far more recently) an openness that made possible new fields of expression for them, and effectively propelled them onto the international scene. Thus, via painting or sculpture, to speak, to express and to reinvent oneself artistically each day – all is possible in Morocco today, but this has not been the case for any length of time.