The Barbican Art Gallery presents artist Yto Barrada’s first solo exhibition in a public gallery in London. For this new commission, Barrada uses the large space of the Curve gallery to create a site-specific installation that includes a mural, a new film commission, several sculptures, and a series of live and recorded performances.
The underlying theme of the installation is the complex interaction of a city and its people. Barrada takes as her starting point the hybrid novel-play by Moroccan writer Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine , Agadir (1967) which reflects on the devastating earthquake that destroyed much of the city of Agadir, Morocco, in 1960.
Agadir was written following a mission instigated by the government of King Mohammed V to assess the devastation and reformation of the city. Barrada uses the story to create narratives that actors recreate in the space to give voice to some of rising tensions of a society facing the ruins of the city and the often fragmented political and religious power and social relationships.
A large monochrome mural along the length of the gallery’s outer wall includes sketches of the architecture of Agadir beginning before the earthquake and continuing with the buildings constructed following the disaster.
Throughout the installation are sculptures often made using traditional Moroccan wicker weaving techniques. There are also a series of wicker chairs arranged in such a way that they represent people interacting in a variety of ways.
A film towards the end of the installation includes people talking about the earthquake and includes extracts from Et maintenant Agadir, 1960.
This unusual and thought-provoking free exhibition illustrates some of the issues when a city and its population is faced with a disaster. Quite often people’s identity is tied up with the fabric of where they live and when disaster strikes, it can be a physical and psychological shock. Although places like Agadir can be rebuilt, it can take longer for its people to come to terms with their new surroundings which are often recreated without any consultation with the local population. Ironically, these themes also apply to the Barbican which has its own history of post-war destruction and was rebuilt with utopian ideals but has had many critics and detractors.
Video Review available here
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
For more information , visit the Barbican website here
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