Meriem Bennani by Sunny Shokrae. Courtesy of Clearing.
Installation view of Meriem Bennani, “Party on the CAPS,” at the Centre d’Art Contemporain, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Clearing.
In 2015, the world was introduced to Fardaous Funjab (2015–17), a documentary about an avant-garde hijab designer who makes outlandish versions of the Muslim headgear: a Metallica hijab; a birthday hijab with a cake on the top. Alas, no such designer exists—she is a character concocted by Meriem Bennani. The artist was drawing upon her upbringing in Rabat, Morocco, and playing on the contemporary obsession with reality television and Instagram.
In the years that followed, Bennani staged solo shows at the now-closed (but deeply influential) Brooklyn gallery Signal, as well as one at MoMA PS1. In the words of Jocelyn Miller, the curator of the latter show, “Meriem’s work foregrounds powerfully charismatic women with tenderness and humor—one of the most subversive and empathetic art forms we have to complicate the ways we understand ourselves and others.”
At this year’s Whitney Biennial, Bennani is presenting another absurdist documentary via specially designed viewing contraptions on the museum’s outdoor terrace. This time, she’s focusing on teens who go to French schools in Morocco that date back to colonial times. Bennani briefly pulled out of the exhibition to protest Whitney vice chairman Warren Kanders, but decided to stay after his resignation. Bennani was recently picked up by the Brussels- and Brooklyn-based gallery Clearing, and currently has a solo exhibition at their New York space. In October, she’ll have a solo exhibition at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, and in 2020, she’ll show at the Julia Stoschek Collection in Berlin.