Mounir Fatmi, ‘The Machinery’, 2011, ADN

“Machinery” is made up of thirty circular saw blades of different diameters, which form a vast wall installation.
In his work, mounir fatmi recursively subverts everyday objects, in this piece a tool dedicated to construction – or destruction. As is often the case, it is subversion on two counts: as an everyday object recreated in plastic, but also as a significant object in the context of the installation.
Most of these sharp blades are covered with calligraphy inscriptions of texts from the Surah or Hadith, evoking the beauty of God or man's capacity, or desire, to obtain knowledge.
You may think you don't need to understand the meaning of these writings to be struck by the beauty of the calligraphy, contrasting violently with the aggressive and dangerous nature of the circular saws. This is one of mounir fatmi's major preoccupations: displaying an ambiguous beauty – a trap – which, of course, does not exclude objects produced by art. But, he argues, words are never harmless. And, breaking down the boundaries between the support and the surface, between the material and the text, these more-than-menacing jagged blades put anyone who gets too close in danger. The viewer is made aware of their absolute vulnerability when confronted with the object as when confronted with the words.
The installation deliberately takes the form of a gear mechanism. The unrelenting and fatal wheels seem to signify some sort of world order. If this machinery could be set in motion, it would be both a power to destroy, tear to shreds and devour, and also a process of massification and alienation. But is it the object or the text that is at issue? Is it a declaration of knowledge or, on the contrary, an absence of knowledge?
Regardless, the blades of “Machinery” cut to the heart of the matter and plunge into the substance of the earth. It is as if a penetrative force was needed to cut through this compact and confused mass, to attain openness and wisdom and to demystify images. This force is needed to learn to be critical.

Translation: Caroline Rossiter.


About Mounir Fatmi

Working in video, installation, drawing, painting, and sculpture, Mounir Fatmi examines human vulnerability. He constructs visual environments (comprising such objects as saw blades, stereo speakers, construction hard hats, and flags) and plays with language in a way that questions preconceptions of politics and religion and unearths injustices buried by history. In his 2009 work The Machinery, 30 aggressive-looking industrial saw blades are inscribed with elaborately drawn Islamic poems relaying a peaceful message. Using current events as content for projects, Fatmi investigates the origins of contemporary issues and crises.

Moroccan , b. 1970, Tangier, Morocco, based in Paris, France

Exhibition Highlights On Artsy

Memory, Place, Desire, Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, Haverford College, Haverford