The Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) presents the exhibition Before Our Eyes. Other Cartographies of the Rif, in which a specific geographic region – the Rif Mountains in northern Morocco – becomes a springboard from which to discover a place and a specific way of making, understanding and conceiving artistic production that goes beyond institutional and commercial networks. The exhibition, which is in line with the Museum’s ongoing interest in contemporary art from the southern Mediterranean area, will include works by individual artists as well as pieces that have been anonymously or collectively produced. Through a selection of recent and specifically commissioned works arising from expeditions and artist residencies in the Rif region, the exhibition offers a series of investigations on the subject, the work of art as document and the work as object.

Before Our Eyes. Other Cartographies of the Rif explores the tradition of expeditions in the complex region of the Rif to reflect on how this specific context can be translated into artistic production at the present time. The artists invited to take part in the exhibition are Mustapha Akrim, Yto Barrada, Gabriella Ciancimino, Shezad Dawood, Ninar Esber, Patricia Esquivias, Badr El Hammami, Camille Henrot, Mohamed Larbi Rahali, Grace Ndiritu, Younès Rahmoun, Francesc Ruiz and Oriol Vilanova. Their works will question our perception of history, its meanings and the narratives that construct it in a very specific context. Also included in the show, as a reference, are a series of drawings from Brion Gysin’s notebook Les Chants de Marrakech.

Themes such as orality, rituals, the origins of traditions and their rewriting in order to produce new readings of history; comics understood as a medium allowing for the circulation of alternative histories to the official one; the different processes that legitimise a work of art; archives as mechanisms for storing historical facts selectively; the singularities that have turned Morocco into a captivating place for Europeans and North-Americans; the migration flows between Africa and Europe; and the changing role of women in society, among many others, are the starting points for the works presented in the exhibition. They reflect on and question the creation of the artistic object, its relation to archive practices and its integration into museum dynamics.

Besides works created by this group of artists, the exhibition also includes anonymous objects used in the geographical and cultural context of the Rif throughout the twentieth century and at present. Installed in the Museum galleries, these pieces question the definition of artistic objects and the mechanisms and methodologies that give them cultural visibility and for whom.

Before Our Eyes. Other Cartographies of the Rif also explores the exhibition format, developed here in a non-linear manner, while inviting the viewer to find other possible ways of approaching the works and the histories they hide – histories that were always before our eyes but only now have become visible.

The origins of the project

The exhibition Before Our Eyes. Other Cartographies of the Rif is part of Sous nos yeux, a curatorial project formed by exhibitions, artist residencies, encounters and productions.

Sous nos yeux originated in the artistic expeditions that, under the title Le Bout du monde (The End of the World), have been organised by Abdellah Karroum – director of the independent space L’appartement 22 in Rabat, Morocco, and MATHAF, Arab Museum of Modern Art, in Doha, Qatar – since 2000 in the territory of the Beni Oulichek and Beni Said tribes, in the Rif region. Karroum, co-curator of the exhibition currently presented at MACBA, has invited curators, critics and artists to participate in a project that strengthens the relation between artists and the inhabitants of the mountains of northern Morocco. Taking place in the difficult context of the present circumstances, this cultural interchange has created working networks beyond the official institutional conventions. Throughout the project, artists from different parts of the world have joined and established a dialogue where the very specific context of the Rif Mountains has become their work’s point of departure.

The project explores the artistic vocabularies of a group of artists identified by curator Abdellah Karroum as the ‘Generation 00’. Used first to refer to artists in Morocco who share a common approach at the turn of the twenty-first century, Karroum’s idea of ‘00’ refers to the concept of a rupture with linear art history. It promotes the dialogue of ‘Art and History’, placing each artistic production within its immediate context and conceiving of each artist as a citizen who questions fundamental ideas such as movement, resistance and freedom in the world. Developed with regard to a specific cultural and social context, the concept of the Generation 00 rapidly became a prism for interpreting projects on different continents, indicating how the issues raised by Karroum’s Generation 00 extend well beyond art spaces and are active beyond territories.

The exhibition includes productions and documents of the expeditions organised since 2007 and the productions made for La Kunsthalle (Mulhouse, France), where the first two parts of the project were presented.