Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art in partnership with A Space Gallery,
Toronto May–July, 2015
by Blake Fitzpatrick
The rupturing effects of global change – as epitomized recently by news stories about migrants in over-crowded boats, with bodies on deck, in the hull, and in the sea – come to roost at the local level, where the risks of globalization are most exposed but also potentially transformed through acts of resistance. Artist Yto Barrada works in Tangier, Morocco, a city located on the North African coast at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar, what Barrada calls “a jumping-off place”1 in the global flow of the dispossessed travelling north from Africa to Europe. Barrada’s exhibition Beaux Gestes, presented by the Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art and A Space Gallery in Toronto during the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, interprets the effects of modernization and the global economy on locality. In her photographic and video work, Barrada turns her camera to the vernacular, finding in vacant lots, playgrounds, palm trees, and the indigenous botany of the region a range of subjects with which to invent a visual “grammar of Tangier.”2 She pays quiet attention to the local and, in solidarity with the indigenous, draws our attention to minor sites of resistance in a transitional geopolitical landscape.
In this dual-venue exhibition, a mix of video installations, photographs, and posters combine to produce a parallel depiction of a city that is itself composed of fragments, loosely associated pieces, and contradictions. As Hamza Walker writes in the issue of Prefix Photo that accompanies the exhibition, “Barrada’s images, as much as they are about a place, are also a portrait of a condition.”3
3 Hamza Walker, “Beaux Gestes: On the Photographs of Yto Barrada,” Prefix Photo, no. 31 (May 2015): 48.
[See the printed or digital version of the magazine for the complete article and more images.]