Claiming Moroccan, French, African, and Berber roots, El baz was born in 1967 in El Ksiba, Morocco. Though his family relocated in 1975 to Dunkirk, France, he retained strong cultural ties and memories of his childhood. After attending regional art school in Dunkirk, he studied at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Cergy, France and the Institut des Hautes Études en Arts Plastique, Paris. El baz now lives in Lille, France and Casablanca, Morocco. His work has been widely viewed in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, although it has received little exposure in the United States.
Since 1993, El baz’s artistic corpus has functioned as an ongoing, cumulative work at-large termed Bricoler l’incurable (Mending the incurable). This expanding “toolkit” of Détails allows him to play with the reiteration, adaptation, and reconstitution of thematic subjects including chance, subjectivity, intimacy, ritual, and violence. His use of combinatorial systems as a schema of artistic creation results in non-linear, non-hierarchical juxtapositions that El baz sees as working to cure the ills of the world.
Bricoler l’incurable. Détails / Love Supreme is one of over 30 images in the ongoing photos-feu (fire photographs) series, begun in 2004. In these works, flames are superimposed on the heads of figures in images taken from newspapers. Assigning the quotidian a spiritual dimension, El baz appropriates the Islamic artistic convention of representing the Prophet’s face in the form of a flame, as seen in Persian miniatures. El baz reworks this prosaic newsprint image into a richly connotative rumination on the spiritual in the everyday. The title cites John Coltrane’s meditative 1964 album A Love Supreme, a “spiritual quest that grew out of his personal troubles.” 1
Bricoler l’incurable. Détails/The Farm is from a series devoted to endangered species. In this work, El baz again employs the technique of superimposition as a conceptual device. The viewer sees two images at once. The layering of a world map on the body of the white rhinoceros generates subtle messages and textured symbolism. The tattooed continents are positioned such that Africa sits at the belly of a beast near extinction.
Bricoler l’incurable. Détails/ Fuck Death is a site-specific multi-media installation. The piece is split between video screen and a neon brain that floats above, an uncanny ensemble. The video consists of a montage of dissonant sounds and images. With the aid of the hovering brain made of light, the work is intended to trigger associations, thoughts, and possibilities in the visual memory of the beholder.
—Michael Ferrara & Elisabeth Hawthorne
- Eric Westervelt, “The Story of ‘A Love Supreme,’” NPR.org, March 7, 2012. ↑