Marrakech Drift


Karthik Pandian, Untitled (2012)

"While traveling sideways at 110 KM an hour, I realized that the order of videos on the internet emerges out of a far greater chaos,“ London-based artist Jon Nash tells me on a busy Marrakech street corner about his accidental collision with a traffic barrier in his performance work, Morocco Drift. Later at the artist dinner, Berlin-based artist Aleksandra Domanovic tells me the story of how her sculpture Monument to Revolution was moved to make way for the Princess of Morocco in CyberPark. With the stories adding up, it was obvious Higher Atlas, the 4th edition of the Marrakech Biennale, curated by Carson Chan and Nadeem Samman, was no ordinary foray into exhibition making. 

Miles from the nearest white cube in Casablanca, set in a city known for its historical attractions and film locations, Higher Atlas unexpectedly set artists on an unusual fittest test. Building an exhibition to be experienced first hand, the curatorial duo commissioned artists to fashion new, site-specific works derived from local influences. However this curatorial ethos was interrupted by a last minute change of venue. Working from an idiosyncratic vision, a newly elected government opted to move the biennale from the ruins of the sixteenth century El Badi Palace on the Medina’s outskirts (a UNESCO World Heritage site) to the unfinished Théâtre Royal in the Ville Nouveau.

Perhaps because within the confines of its historical sites, Morocco’s tourism board sells itself as an internet bookable chronotopic anomaly...