THE MOROCCO FACES, BY LEILA ALAOUI

Although much of the program has already finished, PhotoEspaña still has exhibitions to offer. We recommend that you take advantage of these last days to enjoy some excellent showings. We highlight the work of Leila Alaoui, which can be seen in the Arab House until September 22nd.

Leila Alaoui, “Esauira”, 2012

The exhibition "The Moroccans" has been organised thanks to the collaboration of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco and the Leila Alaoui Foundation. It puts together 30 stunning portraits that the photographer made between 2010 and 2014, within a personal project in which she tried to reflect the reality of her country and the power of the look of the individual. Fleeing from the traditional image that pays attention to the contextual elements, she sought to capture the essence of the person and, at the same time, to reflect the details of a way of life, of culture and traditions condensed in the chosen outfit and clothing.

Leila Alaoui, “Moulay Abdeslam”, 2010

This project could not be understood without knowing part of the life of the Franco-Moroccan photographer. Leila was born in Paris but spent her childhood and youth in Marrakech. At that time, her imagination was feeding on the persistent stories of emigrants that seek a better life venturing through the Mediterranean and the tragedy associated with these forced trips, often frustrated and risky. With the passing of the years and her inclination towards photography, Leila saw in this artistic discipline the possibility of generating a discourse of social awareness that would allow her to bring to light many of the stories she had heard as a child and that still were, in the 21st century, entirely common.

“Tameslohte” (Marrakech-Safi 2010) ©Leila Alaoui Foundation

Fully focused on social photography, her work has mostly been developed in the North African countries of the Mediterranean basin. With diverse themes that seek a sort of social justice through the image, her narrative has dealt with emigration, refugee movements, women's inequality, interculturality or national identity. One of her characteristic techniques was to set up an improvised photography studio in the street and invite anyone who wanted to be portrayed. Many of her projects have had the selfless collaboration of numerous citizens, attracted by her equal speech and proximity.

Leila Alaoui, “Plaza de Yamaa el Fna”, 2011

In "The Moroccans", an exhibition curated by the writer and critic Guillaume de Sardes, the humanistic and committed nature of Leila's work is evident. Her photographs want to be the voice of many who have no chance to speak. Her portraits are direct, genuine encounters with people who openly look at the camera to hardly offer their faces surrounded by traditional fabrics. Each look invites us to reconstruct a personal story, but at the same time shared by all of them, which tells us about a common history.

Unfortunately, Leila Alaoui died in 2016 after an attack in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), a city where she was working on a project proposed by Amnesty International on the status of women. Her work visits our country for the first time in a beautiful tribute to her social commitment and her talent as a photographer.

 

Among the specialised professional profiles that we find in the cultural sector, and more specifically, in the field of visual arts, one of the most recent occupations is that of the curator. The ‘80s put attention on the role of the artist, with its innovative character and the enhancement of its figure as an essential articulator of creative proposals, while the end of the century moved the interest towards the exhibition centres themselves and their work as custodians of current production and as spaces to accommodate all proposals. The change of millennium strongly introduced in this panorama the role of the curator. Perhaps together with a social identity crisis, perhaps with the complexity that contemporary projects are currently acquiring, the need for building, articulating and delving into artistic discourses became evident.

Although the functions entrusted to this profession are not entirely new, since previously they belonged to conservatives, critics or experts according to the themes, the role has gained solidity because it combines all these purposes while allowing the specialisation of other professionals in their fields of competence. Now, as some curators themselves point out, the genuine spirit of this figure, who was born to facilitate the understanding of the discourse, create narratives within a sometimes chaotic and scattered context, mediate between the works and the spectator and create bridges between contemporary art and society.

The art of our day raises a multitude of unknowns for the visitor who must face proposals many times away from the aesthetic standards, which gives way to uncertainty and confusion; but, in turn, these works employ a closer language, materials and even compositions detached from the sophistication and the technical display of yesteryear, something that, far from favouring proximity to the message, generates some distancing. What we have just described is part of the very essence of current art. The questioning of the formalist guidelines and the recourse to tangible elements that are more utilitarian than embellishing are the new criteria of creation, where, above all, the message to be conveyed stands out.

Likewise, another inherent characteristic of the work of our time is the artists' concern for more immediate themes, for social, political and economic issues that seek to create a narrative and conceptual revulsion, leaving behind the aesthetic priority or, rather, making of the message its own aesthetic. In this context, strange as it may seem, contemporary creation encounters a linguistic barrier hindering the viewer's understanding. And to this circumstance, the abundant current production is added, covering a wide range of themes that are nothing more than a transcript of our diverse and globalised society.

The curator helps to facilitate this understanding by articulating a coherent discourse that allows the grouping of related ideas to set up the message. This requires to have an in-depth knowledge of the current state of the art, the lines of work of the creators, the most recent aesthetic proposals and the real demands of society to bridge the dialogue and allow the approach to art. If art deals with the same issues that concern us all, how can we not share its postulates? Cultural mediation requires the work of the curators to open a small window for reflection and to enable a space for exchange and idea generation. We share the thought that José Guirao expressed in a recent interview: "The curator is someone who reveals something new, and it would be a mistake for curators to become managers."

Understood this way curator’s role, many institutions have joined the trend of creating specific calls for new professionals to give light to their proposals. Let us remember, as an example, the call "Unpublished" of La Casa Encendida, or "Curator wanted", of the Community of Madrid or the call of Curating of La Caixa.