Coming to an End & Looking Ahead

Students in Curatorial Praxis concluded class this week with the last of the student presentations about the artists to be represented in the show and a bit of cake, courtesy of Professor Solomon (featuring the work of Mohamed el Baz, one of our Artists in Residence).

End-of-class cake. Photo by Cora Johnson-Grau. Cake by Professor Carol Solomon. Artwork by Mohamed el Baz.
End-of-class cake. Photo by Cora Johnson-Grau. Cake by Professor Carol Solomon. Artwork by Mohamed el Baz.

While the semester has come to a close, work on the show will continue throughout the summer and right up until the show’s opening on October 24. Students turned in the final drafts of their catalog entries in class, but the catalog design process is ongoing. Professor Solomon will continue to figure out how exactly all the works will actually get to us—shipping art, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a complicated endeavor—and, of course, the exhibition itself will have to be installed, a feat that will require the hard work of Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery staff, volunteers (including some Curatorial Praxis alums who will be on campus next semester), and perhaps a few of the artists themselves.

Look for more updates as the exhibition’s opening approaches. Until then—

Curatorial Praxis & the Exhibition

Several weeks ago, students in Professor Carol Solomon’s Curatorial Praxis class were assigned an artist whose work will be featured in the upcoming exhibition Memory || Place || Desire.  The students have spent most of the month of April researching the artists and drafting text to accompany their pictured works in the exhibition’s catalogue.  By the end of the last class on Wednesday, each student will also have given a short presentation to the class outlining his/her artist’s background and style.

Students in Professor Carol Solomon's Curatorial Praxis class with artist Mohamed El baz (left).  Courtesy of Lisa Boughter.
Students in Professor Carol Solomon’s Curatorial Praxis class with artist Mohamed El baz (left). Courtesy of Lisa Boughter.

The presentations and drafting process provide extra insight into each artist’s inspirations and how they have been influenced by the Maghreb.  Nick Schoen, one of the students in Professor Solomon’s class, has been researching Mustapha Akrim, an artist that visited Haverford a few weeks ago through the Mellon Creative Residencies Program.  “Focusing on Mustapha has made me realize that he’s really not just an artist, and a lot of the other artists that will be featured in Memory || Place || Desire aren’t either,” says Nick.  “Mustapha is a visionary.  He is trying to change Morocco for the better through his art, and I have a much better appreciation for him and his goals after meeting and reading about him.”

In addition to the presentations and catalogue entries, the class has also been putting together short recordings on their artists to help create the exhibition’s audio tour.  Mike Ferrara, the student that is spearheading this project, thought it would be interesting to have the students talk casually about their artist for the recordings, rather than just read the text that will be featured in the catalogue.  The recordings are nearly completed.

The class as a whole has spent some time debating the layout, fonts, and cover of the exhibition’s catalogue in the past couple weeks.  A group of students has also been brainstorming the installation design of the exhibition itself in the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery.

A student in Professor Carol Solomon's Curatorial Praxis class.  Courtesy of Lisa Boughter.
A student in Professor Carol Solomon’s Curatorial Praxis class. Courtesy of Lisa Boughter.

The Creating of an Exhibit Continues

With the school year coming to a close, and the departure of the artists in residence, the students of Carol Solomon’s Curatorial Praxis class continue to progress in the making of the Memory || Place || Desire exhibit.

Students gather around Mustapha Akrim's Article 25. Photo by Lisa Boughter.
Students gather around Mustapha Akrim’s Article 25. Photo by Lisa Boughter.

Recently, the class met with Matthew Seamus Callihan, Associate Director of the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery and Campus Exhibitions, to discuss the setup of the gallery.  Now, a group of students from the class have been working on several possible layouts using Google SketchUp.  The application helps students to create an accurate model of the exhibit space, and allows them to rearrange the gallery’s moveable walls and even import scaled art works onto the walls. Using SketchUp, the students are able to present a lifelike version of what the gallery space will actually look like when all of the works are in it, and thus many issues involving space can be realized in this digital format before the final set up is devised.

While the class has been educating each other on each of the artists that have works in the exhibition, Professor Solomon has been working on a satellite exhibition: The Hand of Fatima.  The exhibit features several Hamsas—literally meaning five—or Hands of Fatima, which will be on display.  Hamsas are hand shaped amulets, usually used in jewelry or wall hangings as a sign of good luck and protection. These amulets have Jewish and Muslim origins, and the Hamsa is referred to the hand of Fatima in Islam (named after Mohamed’s daughter) and the hand of Mariam or Mary in Judaism and Christianity.  This exhibit will coincide with Memory Place Desire and will be located in Magill Library’s Sharpless Gallery.

Photo from Judaica Mall
Example of Hamsa. Photo from Judaica Mall.

Interview with Mustapha Akrim

Mustapha Akrim’s residency concluded on March 27, following a farewell dinner and an interview with students about his work earlier that day. He answered questions over the course of forty-five minutes, speaking on a range of topics. Perhaps the most pressing question was the significance of his materials, especially the concrete in which Article 13, his most famous work, and Article 25, a version of which he created during his residency at Haverford, are cast. He attributed his materials to his time spent working construction with his father, a builder: “When I was in the building [industry] with my father, in the building you can find all the materials, concrete, the wood… everything… a lot of time I use the concrete, the idea became the petrification of this article. It’s very hard, it’s not accessible. It does not exist in the society, just on the paper.”

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Akrim assembles the version of Article 25 that will appear in the exhibition. Photo by Lisa Boughter.

He refers here to Article 25 of the Moroccan constitution, which lends its title to the piece—a literal rendering of the text of this section of the constitution in concrete. Article 25 “talks about the freedom of expression and opinion,”  says Akrim, but “for me, when I read this part of the article that talks about the freedom of expression and opinion, when I look at my society, it’s very far [from that]; it’s not possible. I watch the TV or see in the newspaper, somebody goes to prison because he talked about the king or about government or about some person, official person, where is this freedom, where is this opinion, where is this expression?”

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The finished work. Photo by Lisa Boughter.

Akrim is among Morocco’s most prominent and political artists today, and we were privileged to host him for the time we did. Look for his Article 25, alongside the works of many other distinguished artists, in the show next fall.

Fall 2014 Exhibition Coming Together

Memory || Place || Desire: Contemporary Art of the Maghreb and the Maghrebi Diaspora, the exhibition opening at Haverford in October 2014, is beginning to take shape.

Inside the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery.  Courtesy of www.haverford.edu.
Inside the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery. Courtesy of www.haverford.edu.

Last week, students in Professor Carol Solomon’s Curatorial Praxis class met with Catalogue Designer Anthony Smyrski to start hashing out the details of the exhibition’s catalogue, discussing everything from the type of paper that will be used to the spatial orientation of what will be printed on each page.  This week, students in the class visited the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery to get to know the space that will be the future home of Memory || Place || Desire.  Matthew Seamus Callihan, Associate Director of the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery and Campus Exhibitions, spoke to the students about all of the fine details that must be considered in the curating process.  One such detail is the gallery’s six movable walls, which can be assorted in any number of ways to customize the space for each showing.  There will also be several video works as a part of this exhibition, so making sure they do not overwhelm viewers will be another challenge.

Mustapha Akrim at Haverford.  Courtesy of Lisa Boughter.
Mustapha Akrim at Haverford. Courtesy of Lisa Boughter.

The list of works that will be included in the fall exhibition is nearly finalized, and it includes two from Mustapha Akrim and three from Mohamed El Baz.  Both of these Moroccan artists visited Haverford in March (as a part of the Mellon Creative Residencies Program) to create works specifically for the upcoming exhibition.  There will also be works in the show by Driss Ouadahi, Kader Attia, eL Seed, and Mounir Fatmi, among others.

Mohamed El Baz during his Open Studio.  Courtesy of Lisa Boughter.
Mohamed El Baz during his Open Studio at Haverford. Courtesy of Lisa Boughter.

Artist in Residence Hosts Concrete Workshop with Students

Moroccan artist in residence, Mustapha Akrim, has extended his participation in the Haverford College community to working with some of the school’s art classes.  In a workshop led by Akrim alongside Professors John Muse and Erin Schoneveld, Akrim showed various students from the Tri-Co how to construct art with concrete.

Mustapha Akrim guides students through the process of mixing concrete.  Photo by John Muse.
Mustapha Akrim guides students through the process of mixing concrete. Photo by John Muse.

Students were assigned to choose any word, in any style, to that they would make a mold of and create out of concrete. In order to explain how students arrived at their respective word choices, Professor Muse recalled that the class discussed “words, concrete, and typography” together and how each principle could relate to each other.  Like with Mustapha’s Article 13 and Article 25, the students considered how their words would be interpreted once molded into concrete.  One group of students played with the use of concrete as a very permanent material and the impermanence of promises, especially those made over text message, by creating the word “Yes” surrounded by a speech bubble.  Other students focused less on the metaphorical meaning of concrete, and focused more on the typographic style of the words.

Professor Erin Schoneveld discusses the nonsensical word, "cevbil" that students made up.  Photo by John Muse.
Professor Erin Schoneveld discusses the nonsensical word, “cevbil” that students made up. Photo by John Muse.

Akrim uses concrete in part for its accessibility and his familiarity with the material, and partly because of the permanence that it represents. Because many of Mustapha’s works relate to the dichotomy between what the government promises its people and what the people actually receive, concrete serves as a vehicle for showing this irony. This workshop allowed students to fully understand the effort that goes into Akrim’s work and how it is as much a complex creative experience as it is physically labor intensive process.

Students begin the process by splitting the polystyrene board into more manageable pieces.  Photo by John Muse.
Students begin the process by splitting the polystyrene board into more manageable pieces. Photo by John Muse.

To start off the tutorial, Akrim directed the students to cut their words out of the polystyrene mold with a drill.  After cutting squares surrounding each word out of the polystyrene, they placed the print out of their words on the polystyrene and poked holes through the page, outlining each letter.

Students outline the word "grow" repeated three times, onto the board.  Photo by John Muse.
Students outline the word “grow” repeated three times, onto the board. Photo by John Muse.

Students traced over the imprinted poke holes left in the polystyrene, then began to cut out their words; the negative space being left in order to be filled in with concrete.

Students partake on the final step: pouring the concrete mixture into their mold.  Photo by John Muse.
Students partake on the final step: pouring the concrete mixture into their mold. Photo by John Muse.

Students left their molds in Mustapha Akrim’s studio for a few days, and are set to retrieve them tomorrow, Saturday March 29.

 

 

 

Mustapha Akrim at Haverford

Akrim works on a version of Article 25 in Ryan Gym’s squash courts, to be displayed in the upcoming exhibition. Photo by Lisa Boughter.

Artists often must take day jobs to support themselves, but Mustapha Akrim is unusual in that he came to his artistic career through his day job.  Having graduated from the National Institute of Fine Arts in his native Morocco, Akrim found it difficult to find employment after graduation; so to pay the bills he worked with his father, a builder.  In his off hours he used his father’s workshop for artistic projects, and he continues to draw inspiration from his father’s career.  His 2011 work Bidoun (Without) is a vivid example: “I took my father’s tools and put them all together,” says Akrim of the toolbox-like result—and then, of course, “I bought him new tools.”

Pouring concrete. Photo by Lisa Boughter.

The title of Bidoun (Without) refers to the lack of steady jobs for young Moroccans like himself, a theme echoed throughout his oeuvre.  His most famous piece, Article 13, is a rendering of the eponymous section of the Moroccan constitution, which reads, “All citizens have equal rights of education and employment.”  But Akrim says, of this and similarly lofty provisions, “this exists just in the constitution—and the social reality, the economic reality, that’s another thing.”  To make this point, he casts Article 13 in concrete—the medium of his father’s handiwork.

Filling the mold for Article 25. Photo by Lisa Boughter.

Akrim will be creating several works for our upcoming exhibition, Memory || Place || Desire, including a version of his Article 25.  Drawn from the 2011 revision of the Moroccan constitution, which was implemented by the king to placate dissenters during the Arab Spring, Article 25 guarantees that “all citizens have the freedom of thought, ideas, artistic expression and creation”—but like Article 13Article 25 is also cast in concrete.  Moroccan artists may be guaranteed freedom of expression, at least in the letter of the law; but these promises are empty, just like the shape in which he arranges the words of Article 25.

The finished concrete pieces. Photo by Lisa Boughter.

Akrim will be in residence at Haverford through March 27.

Inside Mohamed El Baz’s Video Project

When Moroccan artist Mohamed El Baz visited Professor Carol Solomon’s Curatorial Praxis class last Wednesday, February 26th, he did more than just display some of his works.  He recruited students in the class to help him create his video installation for the upcoming exhibition.  The video, which was created by having students sing a song that was significant to them and spin around the camera as if they were taking a ‘selfie,’ was filmed entirely on campus.

Mohamed El Baz in Professor Carol Solomon's Curatorial Praxis class.  Courtesy of Lisa Boughter.
Mohamed El Baz in Professor Carol Solomon’s Curatorial Praxis class. Courtesy of Lisa Boughter.

One of the participants was Elisabeth Hawthorne ’17, who chose to sing the Irish folk tune “Raglan Road.”  “There was an uncanny, uneasily personal relationship with the camera,” she recalled.  As for the spinning itself, Hawthorne noted, “it is harder than it seems.”

Another student said the singing itself made her feel “invigorated.”  “There was a freedom I had never really experienced before that moment and I enjoyed every moment of it.”

Both students also had very positive things to say about the actual experience of working with Mohamed.  “I got the sense that he was sure of his process and method of creation whereas I had no idea what to expect,” said Hawthorne.  The other student described the unique experience as “fun and new.”

El Baz, who is currently at Haverford thanks to the Mellon Creative Residencies Program, describes all of his work as falling under the title Bricoler l’incurable, or “Mending the Incurable.”  His art is dynamic, to say the least.  Recurring themes include violence, freedom, and the occasional irony, among other things.  As parts of recent works, he has had his viewers shoot paintballs at a map of the world and has even figured out what modern drug prescriptions would be given to some of history’s most famous artists.

The video installation was unveiled at an Open Studio night on Tuesday at the squash courts under Ryan Gymnasium.

Professor Carol Solomon and Mohamed El Baz.  Courtesy of Lisa Boughter.
Professor Carol Solomon and Mohamed El Baz. Courtesy of Lisa Boughter.

Open Studio

Tomorrow night (Tuesday March 4th), 7:00-8:30 PM join the Mellon Creative Residencies and Haverford College for a special Open Studio night, welcoming internationally-recognized Moroccan artists Mohamed El baz.

Meet the artists and explore past work and work in progress for the Fall 2014 exhibition Memory, Place, Desire: Contemporary Art of the Maghreb and the Maghrebi Diaspora. Following an introduction by Prof. Carol Solomon, Mohamed El baz will reveal a never before seen video installation.

The artists have travelled from France and Morocco to the Tri-Colleges for an immersive six-week exploration of contemporary art in the Maghreb, hosted by the Mellon Creative Residencies Program.

The Open Studio will be held in the Drop Shot Squash Court, in the Ryan Gym Basement at Haverford College.

Light refreshments will be served.

For more information, contact Mellon Creative Residencies Coordinator, Tom Bonner at tbonner@haverford.edu or visit http://www.haverford.edu/HCAH/mellon_creative_residencies/

Mohamed El baz

Moroccan artist Mohamed El baz has been in residency for a couple days now, and his installation for the forthcoming exhibition is taking shape.  With a tongue in cheek spin on the whirling dervish (see below), Mohamed has asked many students to aid in his project.  The play on the whirling dervish is to have students sing a song that has great meaning to them while they are spinning.  Though this project is young, it will be fascinating to see where it will go and what the project’s final form will look like.

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