Hiding in Plain Sight

Yto Barrada

b. 1971, Paris, France
Lives and works in Tangier, Morocco

Yto Barrada, Geological Time Scale (assembled group of primarily monochrome Beni Mguild, Marmoucha, and Ait Sgougou pile rugs from Western Central, Middle Atlas, Morocco), Mid-20th Century, mixed media, dimensions variable

Geological Time Scale (2015) focuses on the channels through which traditions become solidified by the conditions of colonialism. This iteration of the work references geological modes of mining and playful fort like elements with the rugs stacked on a custom-built table. Comprised of some 50 modern monochrome woven Berber rugs collected from different tribes in Morocco, the site-responsive installation references the work of a historical figure: the early 20th-century French Army general and colonial administrator, Louis Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey. Lyautey’s impact on Moroccan history is still palpable in some aspects of the country’s culture today. Notably, he played a role in the creation of a catalogue featuring traditional Moroccan rugs listed by style and origin. Hewing to his self-defined notions of artistic legitimacy, Lyautey excluded the simple, modern, and brightly colored Berber rugs from the catalogue. For Geological Time Scale, Barrada employs colors based on international visual codes used by geologists. The work serves as an exploration of how cultural objects are born and reinvented throughout their lifetimes, and how the legacy of colonialism looms large in interpretations of such objects.

Yto Barrada, La Contrebandière [The Smuggler], 2006, film, video, colour, mute, 10 minutes and 45 seconds

This short silent film documents a woman smuggler in the process of transporting fabrics from Ceuta (Spanish Morocco) to be sold in Tangier, Morocco. The video depicts a step-by-step demonstration of the work through which many women in Ceuta make their livelihood. Known as “mule women,” these Ceuta residents make daily trips across the border into Tangier because a law requires that a person may only import as much as they can carry on their person into Morocco. The subject of this work, T.M., is an elderly woman who spent 30 years of her life trafficking heaps of fabric wrapped around her body into Tangier. Barrada documents the various steps in this tedious and laborious work: with help of a young girl, T.M. wraps the final layers of fabric and covers the merchandise with a long djellaba, a loose-fitting outer robe with long sleeves, before making her journey. Barrada’s use of a loop effect in the video emphasizes the monotonous nature of living between and among borders. As part of the film’s exploration of the ethics and aesthetics of borders, T.M. is filmed in front of a black back drop as if she were starring in an advertisement. The slow and structured film traces the challenges of migratory life, which are often rendered invisible in mass media.

Yto Barrada

Yto Barrada (b. 1971, Paris) is recognized for her multidisciplinary investigations of cultural phenomena and historical narratives, with a focus on Morocco. Barrada has been the subject of over twenty monographic exhibitions at institutions including Jeu de Paume–Site Sully, Paris (2006); Göteborgs Konsthall, Gothenburg (2009); Centre de la Photographie Genève, Switzerland (2010); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2014); and the Serralves Museum, Porto (2015). Barrada has shown at the Tabakalera International Centre for Contemporary Culture, San Sebastián, Spain (2016), M – Museum Leuven, Belgium (2016), and exhibited The Sample Book at Vienna Secession, Austria (2016), a body of work that developed on Faux Guide (2015). One-artist exhibitions of Barrada’s work from 2018 include those at Barbican Centre, London; American Academy in Rome; and Aspen Art Museum, Colorado. In 2019, Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon presented the one-artist exhibition Moi je suis la langue et vous êtes les dents, and Barrada’s exhibition The Dye Garden, which debuted at the American Academy in Rome in 2018, will be shown at the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase. Barrada’s work is held in numerous public collections, including the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Paris; François Pinault Foundation, Venice; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; International Center of Photography, New York; Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland; Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris; Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo Internacional, Mexico City; Museu Serralves, Porto, Portugal; Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Pérez Art Museum Miami; Tate, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, among others.