biennials, contemporary art

Photo diary: Marrakech Biennale 5

March 7, 2014

I lucked out with this: a press trip to the fifth Marrakech Biennale. Having never before visited North Africa, culture shock kicked in before we had even checked in at the (palatial) hotel.

As you see from this piece of guerilla marketing, the event asks ‘Where are we now?’. On my first night I was advised by some more experienced local hands to have adventures and ‘get lost’ here.

mb5 poster

Asim Waqif’s sound sculpture, The Pavilion of Debris, jockeys for attention with a number of nesting storks. The locals revere these migratory birds and the city was once home to a stork hospital(!)

mb5 asm waqif 2

My understanding of nomadic war machines is limited, but I imagine they would look something like this super-charged crossbow. Max Boufathal reportedly has popular culture in his sights.

mb5 max boufathal

This is perhaps the most talked about exhibit on opening week, an F1 engine made locally using craft materials. 50 different craftsmen and women were apparently used to construct this sculptural beast.

mb5 erci van hove

Possibly one of the strangest gigs this musician has ever been booked for. Gabriel Lester walled up a gnawa band inside a performative sculpture. I’m still not quite sure why, but it was compelling.

mb5 gabriel lester

Here you see an offline, open source, 3D printer engaged in crafting the model of a star shaped clay dwelling. Operators, Urban Fab Lab, aim to one day work on life-size scale in rural Africa.

mb5 fabbers

This was Hicham Benohoud’s iconic signage on the Bank Al Maghrib. Whether or not the Biennale has flipped this city on it’s head, there were plenty of sights to flip out this foreign visitor.

mb5 hicham benohoud

My favourite work, a geometry lecture at twilight in the city sqaure. As you can just about see, Saâdane Afif is here discussing the circle with an audience of everyday Moroccans, who were rapt.

mb5 saadane afif

Of all the venues, this unfinished opera house was the most impressive. The Theatre Royal now houses a sound installation by freq_out, in which 12 composers work in 12 stirring frequencies.

mb5 freq-out

Finally, a proper showstopper by Alexander Ponomarev. Take one desert, one helicopter, one monumental installation of a ship and mix up with a set of letters in the sand to breathtaking effect.

mb5 ponomarev

And finally, a tortoise, attempting in vain to climb a step at the festival hub El Fenn. So long little guy! I get the feeling he’ll still be here in 2016; let’s hope this cosmopolitan Biennale is as well.

mb5 tortoise

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