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“Y mi padre me dijo, debía tener yo nueve años : “Quiero que te fijes en las banderas, en las aduanas, en los militares, en los curas, porque todo eso va a desaparecer y podrás contarle a tus hijos que lo has visto”. Ocurrió todo lo contrario. Hay más banderas, más fronteras, más militares que nunca.” Jorge Luis Borges (1)
“Politics are everywhere; there can be no escape into pure art and thought or, for that matter, into the realm of disinterested objectivity or transcendental theory.”Edward Said (2)
I've never had any education in politics, but since I was a child I've faced many political situations, especially in the 90’s during the reign of Hassan II in Morocco. We couldn’t talk about politics in public, not even at home: "walls have ears!” The Schengen area was created at a time when thousands of young Moroccans tried to reach Europe illegally. From Tangier, my hometown, the European continent is so close that it can be seen with the naked eye. Only 14 km of seawater separate the two continents. It is said that Hercules created this maritime border. Even Hercules was concerned about geopolitics! We have been deprived of our fundamental rights: the right of expression and the right of movement. We only have the right to dream, and it is not nothing.
When in the art world, the artist is represented as a traveler, a “world citizen”. The modern world is constantly creating walls and barriers between "US" and "THEM". After we celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, we woke up in the 90s and 2000s with walls that separate not only a city but states and continents: Mexico / USA, Europe / Africa, Palestine / Israel. I do not know if the representation of the contemporary artist as a citizen of the world takes into account the current geopolitical situation, or if it is a concept purely suited for the art market.
Being a Moroccan immigrant living in Europe, how can I not be affected by political issues?
In its debates concerning the orient, Arabs, or Islam in European media, led by the extreme right party, it is interesting to see how Orientalist discourse and clichés are back in the news: Orientalists do not believe in democracy and freedom, their women are submissive, Islam is a violent religion and Muhammad is a false prophet ...
I think that the process of creation is manifested by a questioning of tradition, a critique of what is established, canonical and monolithic. Every culture and nation teaches the texts and theories that favor its traditions, its language and its history. On the other hand, the individual work of the artist is an orphan in the culture. The artist's work is political by nature. The art mission as Adorno wrote," Is to Bring Chaos into Order ".
This is a time in which people are more fascinated by the "good life" and "beautiful people" that represent "the art scene" than by the urgent questions of art. It should be remembered that an artist, as Edward Said wrote, is “an individual endowed with a faculty for representing, embodying, articulating a message, a view, an attitude, philosophy or opinion to, as well as for, a public. And this role has an edge to it, and cannot be played without a sense of being someone whose place it is publicly to raise embarrassing questions, to confront orthodoxy and dogma (rather than to produce them), to be someone who cannot easily be co-opted by governments or corporations, and whose raison d’être is to represent all those people and issues that are routinely forgotten or swept under the rug. (4)”.
My art is deeply fed by the political situations that I experienced. I do not think that the political position of the artist is private. For an artist there is the intimate, which is not published or displayed, but which is also not private. Politics is still there in his work, but sometimes not visible because it is not a slogan or a program; it is not an image of propaganda. It is aesthetic. There is no aesthetic act that is not a political act as well.
If an artist cannot save the world, he (or she) can save our hope in it.
Translated from the French by Mohamed El Halloubi and Laure Deselys
(1) Jorge Luis Borges interview with Ramón Chao