Yto Barrada – Riffs is the first large-scale museum exhibition by the French-Moroccan artist. In 2011 she was selected by Deutsche Bank as “Artist of the Year” 2011. The award includes an exhibition made possible by the financial institution, which was presented at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin followed by stops in Brussels, Chicago, Birmingham, and Rome, and which can now be seen at Fotomuseum Winterthur. For more than a decade, Yto Barrada (*1971) has confronted the political realities of North Africa in her photographs, films, and sculptures. Her work engages with life in her hometown of Tangier, Morocco, whose particular situation along the Strait of Gibraltar is emblematic of the historical upheavals experienced by many countries in northern Africa. “I’ve always been attentive to what lies beneath the surface of public behavior,” says Yto Barrada. “In public, the oppressed accept their domination, but they always question their domination offstage. Subversive tactics, strategies of class contestation, forms of sabotage used by the poor – this is what I am most interested in.” Yto Barrada monitors the changes in her city with hawk-like attentiveness, responding to them with actions, images, and films that nevertheless maintain a remarkable calm, distance, and restraint. Neither iconic nor bellicose, they do not purport to be a weapon of enlightenment, nor do they offer a complacent, arrogant visual world that knows exactly how to behave and what to attain. As if the artist would always take a step back, her quiet, nearly static square color photographs offer visual fields opening up onto a landscape, an urban constellation, a being, a repose. They reveal objects, buildings, and people so we might engage with them as observers, immersing ourselves, seeking, exploring, contemplating. We see here a sign and a gesture, there a rebellion; strikingly de-dramatized, real and allegorical at the same time.
Yto Barrada – Riffs was conceived by Friedhelm Hütte, responsible for the Deutsche Bank art program, and Marie Muracciole, independent curator and art critic. There is an accompanying catalog.
We would also like to thank the Werner H. Spross-Stiftung and the French Embassy for their further support.