A hell of a noise greets vistors to the current exhibition Mounir Fatmi: Oriental Accident at the gallery Lombard Freid Projects in New York. Even at the opening reception of the Mounir Fatmi’s exhibition the talk of the guests couldn’t drown out the noise. The source of the violent sound is an ornate Persian rug on which speakers are placed that play recordings from the demonstration in the Maghreb during the Arab Spring revolution.
Mounir Fatmi was born in 1970 in Tangier, Morocco. He lives and works in Paris, France. Mounir Fatmi works in different media, including video, installation, drawing, painting and sculpture.
Mounir Fatmi: Oriental Accident / Lombard Freid Projects, New York. Opening Reception, Friday, March 9, 2012.
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Lombard Freid Projects is pleased to present Oriental Accident, Mounir Fatmi’s second solo show with the gallery. The exhibition features a collection of works never before shown in the United States made between 2009-2012. As always with Fatmi’s work, the art is political in nature and confronts issues in the contemporary Arab world. The native Moroccan, who lives and works in Paris, uses installation, sculpture and video to explore modern day industrialization, recent insurgencies throughout the Maghreb and the Middle East, and the inevitability of history repeating itself.
Oriental Accident, the piece for which the show is named and the center point for the exhibition, speaks to violent tension between tradition and youth in the contemporary Arab world. Recordings gathered from the demonstration in the Maghreb during the Arab Spring play from speakers embedded into an ornate Persian rug. Fatmi references the momentous rebellion again in The Year Zero, bas-relief that forms the number zero within an arrangement of coaxial antenna cables and cable pins. The empty space within the cable work is what gives the pieces its weight, just as the word zero gave numeric meaning to nothingness. Fatmi is referring to the infinite void that follows a new beginning.
Within the severe presence of Fatmi’s politics, the works are sprinkled with references to art history, film and literature. This conceptual dichotomy is also apparent in the visuals of the exhibition. Delicate lace is vandalized with black paint in Oil, Oil, Oil, Oil and the white on white bas-reliefs appear both muted and energetic. Traditional Arabic calligraphy is recontextualized in the videos works Mixology and Modern times, a History of the Machine, the calligraphy morphs to become graceful patterns, contrasting with the backdrop against which the artist is showing them.
Modern times, a black and white projection that dominates the gallery walls plays homage to the early kenotic art of Duchamp, and the iconic Charlie Chaplin film ‘Modern Times’. Rotoreliefs-esque circles create dizzying visual effects as they spin on the wall forming a hypnotic abstracted machine. Excerpts from the Qur’an draw the viewer in to question its meaningful ideals and radical real world counterparts.
Circular imagery visual links all the works and stands in as a symbol for our cyclically violent past. This topical exhibition acts as a key for the events that have changed our perception of the world, particularly the Arab world, over the last 10 years.
Fatmi has shown extensively both internationally and in America. Recent exhibitions include; 54 Venice Biennial, Venice; Dublin Contemporary 2011, Dublin; Cairo biennial, Cairo; Migros Museum für Gegenwarskunst, Zürich, Switzerland, the Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf, Germany, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France, and the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo Japan.
His work is collected by international institutions including the Kunstpalast Museum, Düsseldorf; The AGO, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; The Brooklyn Museum, NY; Fondation Louis Vuitton pour la Création, Paris; Fondazione Casa di Rispiarmo, Modena.