Yto Barrada (Moroccan, b.1971, Paris) studied history and political science at the Sorbonne and photography in New York. Her work— including photography, film, sculpture, prints and installations—began by exploring the peculiar situation of her hometown Tangier. Barrada’s work has been exhibited at Tate Modern (London), MoMA (New York), Renaissance Society (Chicago), Witte de With (Rotterdam), Haus der Kunst (Munich), Guggenheim (Berlin), the Centre Pompidou (Paris), the Walker Art Centre (Minneapolis), Whitechapel Gallery (London), and the 2007 and 2011 Venice Biennales.
She was the Deutsche Bank Artist of the Year for 2011, after which her exhibit RIFFS toured widely. Barrada is also the founding director of Cinémathèque de Tanger. She is a recipient of the 2013-2014 Robert Gardner Fellowship in Photography (Peabody Museum at Harvard University), the 2015 Abraaj Group Art Prize and a 2016 Canon Tiger Award for Short Film. In 2016, she was nominated for the Marcel Duchamp Prize.
LONDON, April 20, 2012—Pace London is delighted to announce an exhibition of work by Moroccan artist Yto Barrada, on view at 6-10 Lexington Street from May 24 to July 14, 2012. This exhibition marks the first time Barrada’s work has been presented in a commercial UK gallery and many of the works on view have never before been presented in this country.
Yto Barrada (b.1971) lives and works in Tangier, and the city is a key source of inspiration and subject matter for her work. The exhibition, entitled Mobilier Urbain, is an ensemble of sculptures and photographs which examines, among other themes, the relationship between unchecked urban development, the botanical landscape, and the subtle forms of resistance that humans—and plants—attempt against the forces of monoculture.
The works on view in Mobilier Urbain span Barrada’s varied career. Gran Royal Turismo (2003) is a table-sized automated model of a rather bleak little city, preened for the arrival of a political dignitary. When a convoy of black Mercedes emerges from a tunnel, palm trees push out of the ground, sidewalks and walls flip to reveal freshly painted surfaces, and flags blossom ahead of the convoy’s arrival route. The city has been transformed for the eyes of the officials in those cars.
A recurring motif in Barrada’s work is the tree, notably the palm tree—both a co-opted icon of exoticism and a pawn to be played in the game of urban planning. A new work entitled Twin Palm Island (2011) places two palm tree-shaped signs onto children’s wagons. The work raises questions about the ranks of palm trees, transplanted from the warm south, which line Tangier’s avenues. Also called to account is the maturity of the officials who place them there. Photographs from the series Autocar show details of the company logos painted on the sides of buses in the Port of Tangier. It is of particular resonance to Barrada that the photos do not give away their stories, but simply allude to them: the illiterate children who read the destinations by these icons and smuggle themselves into the undercarriages and wheels wells of the buses, in the hope of escaping to the European destinations the icons represent. Telephone Books records another kind of coded language, the drawings and tally marks which the artists’ grandmother used to record family telephone numbers, as she could not read or write.
Of Mobilier Urbain, Marie Muracciole, the curator of Barrada’s traveling exhibition RIFFS, writes: “For Yto Barrada, Tangier is a collage of temporalities, where official history is peeling off the damp walls, a city transformed by Europe’s Schengen accords into a geopolitical dead-end. But for the artist, the city is also the stage of a necessary resistance to the global economy's absolutist logic of development.
In this exhibition, sculptures—Gran Royal Turismo (a model in which « Potemkin » set dressing rises out of the ground, ahead of the arrival of an official convoy) and Twin Palm Island, (a movable piece of illuminated signage, which literally transports its exotic cargo)—dialogue with the artist book A Guide to Trees for Governors and Gardeners, an acerbic and droll critique of modern Urban Planning.
Barrada opposes the dominant discourses with a less-visible regime of signs. She gives them a surface on which to appear with photographs like Telephone Books.”