All posts by Samuel Warren

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—

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.”

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?”

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.

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.