Yto Barrada, Arbre généalogique [Family Tree], 2005, chromogenic print, 59" x 59" (image and paper), 61" x 61" x 2–1/4" (frame), from an edition of 5 with 2 APs © Yto Barrada

Yto Barrada

Yto Barrada Portrait

Photograph by Benoît Peverelli

Yto Barrada is recognized for her multidisciplinary investigations of cultural phenomena and historical narratives.

Engaging with the performativity of archival practices and public interventions, Barrada’s installations reinterpret social relationships, uncover subaltern histories, and reveal the prevalence of fiction in institutionalized narratives.

Barrada arrived at her artist practice through studies of history and political science, particularly in the negotiation of political and personal experiences. Her work was introduced for the first time in the group exhibition Impressions d’Afrique du Nord at the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris (1998), in which she presented photographs of subjects taken in Israel and Morocco. Barrada’s first series of photographs, A Life Full of Holes, (1998–2004), used the Strait of Gibraltar as a site of inquiry, examining its status as a border between North Africa and Europe and its impact on the residents of Tangier.

Much of Barrada’s work has since focused on borderlands, microhistories, and autonomous agency within a political landscape. Interested in developing a platform for cross-cultural dialogue and exchange, She founded the non-profit Cinémathèque de Tanger in 2006. Tangier’s first and only repertory cinema and archive, the Cinémathèque operates out of a restored 1930s theatre known as the Cinema Rif, located in one of the city’s main squares. In 2007, Barrada was selected to participate in the Venice Biennale, where she presented her Public Park—Sleepers series (2006–7), wherein photographs of wild irises and men napping in parks become allegories of resistance and spontaneity in the face of civic and commercial development.

In keeping with her exploration of identity, economics, and notions of authenticity, Barrada’s Faux Guide, presented at Pace in London (2015), focused on the fossil and mineral trade as an aspect of cultural production. Using museum collection practices as conceptual strategies, the artist’s multifaceted exhibition reflected on acts of subversion within tourist economies. Her first gallery exhibition in New York, How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself, included a survey of the artist’s practice and included her installation and film essay, Tree Identification for Beginners, revisiting her mother’s 1966 trip to the United States on a State Department-sponsored travel program.

Informed by postcolonial thought and socio-political concerns, Barrada’s interests range from the tensions around borders, immigration, and tourism to the urban landscape, and from children’s toys to botany and paleontology. Her practice encompasses photography, film, sculpture, painting, printmaking, and publishing, while her installations are often comprised of both original work and found objects.

Nonverbal communication, family myths, “hidden transcripts” that unearth new grammars—within the interlinked logic of Barrada’s work lie secrets, pleasures and a celebration of strategies of resistance to domination.


Yto Barrada, Untitled (After Stella, Tangier I), 2018, cotton, madder, 81.3 cm × 96.5 cm (32" × 38") 83 cm × 98.5 cm × 5.3 cm (32-11/16" × 38-3/4" × 2-1/16"), Plexiglas frame © Yto Barrada


Yto Barrada, The Snail, 2009/2011, C-print, 150 x 150 cm (59-1/16 x 59-1/16"), Edition of 5 + 2 APs © Yto Barrada