Marrakech Biennale : exposed

5th Marrakech BiennaleYesterday was my first visit to the Marrakech Biennale. Founded by Vanessa Branson, it’s a month-long festival of arts in all their diversity.

There is so much to choose from in the programme, but the first weekend is the time for openings, launches, vernissages, receptions and parties. The theme of my day yesterday was exposed.

In French, the word for “exhibition” is exposition – literally, exposure. The works I saw at the Ecole Superière d’Arts Visuels represented a wide range of media, approaches and origins. I liked the twist on traditional Moroccan crafts in the Share(d)esign show – I only wish there had been more of them! My favourite part of the “If You’re So Smart, Why Ain’t You Rich” collection – examining the value of the knowledge economy – was a multi-media collage presented by Marco Montiel-Soto (pic right). Entitled “Memories are made of chance and mistakes: archaeology of a journey in Morocco”, it looked like the kind of scrapbooks I loved to prepare after travelling when I was younger. A sonic installation recounted Marco’s anecdotes of several trips to this country, including one of an attempted passport theft on arrival in Tangier. Fortunately this – on his first visit – didn’t put him off and he has become a real maroc-o-phile!

artist Marco Monteil-SotoAlso at ESAV, I saw a set of three films by Moroccan directors which exposed the ugly underbelly of Morocco’s big cities. Fissures (Hicham Ayouch, director of Fevers, whihc won best actor at Marrakech in 2013) is set in Tangiers and two shorts, Hrash (Ismael Iraki) and Jezebel by Amir Rouani are based in Casablanca. None were ‘easy’ films to watch, none had a happy ending, but all three gave an insight into the mean streets of those cities and the lives of people living in the fringes and the shadows. A discussion with the three directors following the screenings exposed their motivations, their techniques and the difficulties of reaching a wide audience when Maghreb films don’t follow a set formulas and themes.

Our final event of the day was Freq_Out at the Theatre Royal. This impressive venue looks great from the outside and the lobby has beautiful zellij mosaic work and chandeliers. The performance space, however, was never completed and stands as a great shell of exposed concrete and brick open to the sky. Apparently, one reason it was never finished was a serious design flaw concerning the acoustics. The Freq_Out performers flipped this on its head, transmitting a montage of low frequency bass lines mixed with musical and broadcast extracts. I loved absorbing the sound and gazing up at the sky (and couldn’t help thinking the auditorium would make an amazing venue for a superclub!)

share(d)esignToday, we will escape the city and head out to the Atlas Performance in the Ourika Valley. Art in the open air is my favourite!

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