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Mounir fatmi
The Human Factor
Experimental video | mov | color | 15'57'' | Morocco / France | 2018
« The Human Factor » is an experimental video work that explores the idea surrounding Art Deco and Exoticism. Exhibits concerning the native people of the colonies at the Paris Colonial Exposition which took place in 1931 during the interwar period, as presented within pavilions reminiscent of the architecture of the Black Africa, North Africa, and Indochina regions, had illustrated ties to the leading colonial rule and authority of the times. « The Human Factor » is a deconstruction of Marcel L’Herbier’s film L’inhumaine (1923). To this day, this film is considered as a manifesto of the Art Deco movement. This masterpiece in silent film that was filmed against the backdrop of modern and ornate set design, serves to vividly depict the various influences artists of the time had gained from the creations of distant foreign lands, as well as the very spirit that had permeated the era. L’inhumaine reconfigures the innovative methods of artists, decorators, costumers, and architects such as Robert Mallet-Stevens, Fernand Léger, Alberto Cavalcanti, Claude Autant-Lara, Pierre Chareau, Michel Dufet, Joseph Csaky, and Paul Poiret. This video work attempts to present another aspect of Art Deco that lay beneath the powers of colonialist ideology and its universal ambition. It should be noted that the influence of colonial art was not something that had emerged during the two wars of the twentieth century. Such had in fact existed since 1907 in the form of the “The Colonial Society of French Artists,” which was aimed at expanding colonial territory through art that would serve as beneficial to France. Awards and provisions of expenses to travel to the colonies were provided by the society, aiding artists such as Van Dongen, Matisse, and Paul Klee to sojourn in North Africa. By 1919, the Les Arts à Paris magazine had already introduced Art Nègre (African Art) as a “new aesthetic” that could have a great influence on European art. For example, African masks and sculptures became a subject of interest and source of inspiration for artists such as Picasso, as well as Fernand Léger who derived the ideas for his costume designs and stage sets for the Swedish ballet troupe “La création du Monde” through referencing “Aboriginal and African Art.” Furthermore in 1930, the “Exhibition of African Art and Oceanic Art” was held, organized by Tristan Tzara, Pierre Loeb and Charles Ratton. This exhibition served as an important step in the history surrounding primitive art in the West. Here, the Paris public was able to view a selection of primitive sculptures presented along with the works of Pablo Picasso, André Derain, Georges Braque, Joan Miró, Paul Guillaume and Félix Fénéon. Finally, at the 1931 Paris Colonial Exposition that served to present colonial ideologies in an explicit way, the distinct characteristics of respective ethnic groups in the colonies were only introduced under conditions of conveying France’s blessings to the colonies, in addition to solely the positive aspects of colonial development. With the exception of several masks, statuettes, and archaeological items, very few, if any, works made by the native people of the regions were exhibited. As opposed to such works, people in general had preferred the spectacle of pageantry created within the realms of dance, folk arts, and art, which in itself was a convenient perspective for the French and Western audience as a whole. It must also be known that these perspectives had not necessarily been shared among French artists. A group of surrealists including figures such as Louis Aragon, Georges Sadoul and André Breton, with the support of French Communist Party, had opposed the colonial exposition through distributing fliers featuring slogans that discouraged people from visiting. The Human Factor is a video work that approaches the issue surrounding the Paris Colonial exhibition, which had publically presented the relationship between what one might refer to as Avant-garde Primitivism, and the Exoticism of the Art Deco as inspired by the colonies. Studio Fatmi, September 2018.
mounir fatmi was born in Tangiers, Morocco, in 1970. He studied at the Academy of Arts in Rome, at the Casablanca Art School, and at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. He spent most of his childhood at the flea market of Casabarata, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Tangiers, where his mother sold children’s clothes. Such an environment produces vast amounts of waste and worn-out common use objects. The artist now considers this childhood to have been his first form of artistic education, and compares the flea market to a museum in ruin. This vision also serves as a metaphor and expresses the essential aspects of his work. Influenced by the idea of defunct media and the collapse of the industrial and consumerist society, he develops a conception of the status of the work of art located somewhere between Archive and Archeology. By using materials such as antenna cable, typewriters and VHS tapes, mounir fatmi elaborates an experimental archeology that questions the world and the role of the artist in a society in crisis. He twists its codes and precepts through the prism of a trinity comprising Architecture, Language and Machine. Thus, he questions the limits of memory, language and communication while reflecting upon these obsolescent materials and their uncertain future. mounir fatmi’s artistic research consists in a reflection upon the history of technology and its influence on popular culture. Consequently, one can also view mounir fatmi’s current works as future archives in the making. Though they represent key moments in our contemporary history, these technical materials also call into question the transmission of knowledge and the suggestive power of images and criticize the illusory mechanisms that bind us to technology and ideologies. Since 2000, Mounir fatmi’s installations were selected in several biennials, the 52nd and 57th Venice Biennales, the 8th Sharjah Biennale, the 5th and 7th Dakar Biennales, the 2nd Seville Biennale, the 5th Gwangju Biennale, the 10th Lyon Biennale, the 5th Auckland Triennial, the 10th and 11th Bamako Biennales, the 7th Shenzhen Architecture Biennale, the Setouchi Triennial and the Echigo-Tsumari Triennial in Japan. His work has been presented in numerous personal exhibits, at the Migros Museum, Zurich. MAMCO, Geneva. Picasso Museum La Guerre et la Paix, Vallauris. AK Bank Foundation, Istanbul. Museum Kunst Palast, Du?sseldorf and at the Gothenburg Konsthall. He also participated in several collective exhibits at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Brooklyn Museum, New York. Palais de Tokyo, Paris. MAXXI, Rome. Mori Art Museum, Tokyo. MMOMA, Moscow. Mathaf, Doha, Hayward Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, at Nasher Museum of Art, Durham and Louvre Abu Dhabi. He has received several prizes, including the Uriöt prize, Amsterdam, the Grand Prix Léopold Sédar Senghor at the 7th Dakar Biennale in 2006, the Cairo Biennale Prize in 2010, as well as the Silver Plane Prize, Altai Biennale, Moscow in 2020.