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.
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(!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.