Internationally very well known, mounir fatmi is among the protagonists of the current Venice Biennale, where he is participating with two extremely fascinating projects, in the Tunisian Pavilion within "The Absence of Paths" exhibition, and in the NSK State Pavilion.
Invited to exhibit at prestigious museums such as the Georges Pompidou Centre, the Brooklyn Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo and the MAXXI in Rome, his works are part of large public collections including those at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Louis Vuitton Foundation pour la Création in Paris and the Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha.
Focusing on topical issues such as identity, multiculturalism and the ambiguity of power and violence, mounit fatmi over the years has managed to constantly reinvent himself, exploring a wide variety of stylistic languages ranging from video to installation, photography and performance. He follows a narrative pathway that in addition to confirming his remarkable lexical ability, combines personal ingredients and actual testimonies, tracing important passages of contemporary history.
The Milanese exhibition entitled Transition State will trace the distinctive features of his vast poetic synthesis, emphasizing the concept of cultural "hybridization": a combination of prejudices and stereotypes which are first revealed and then discredited, reinforcing an overall vision based on dialogue between religion, science, the ambivalence of language and how these transform over the course of history.
Martyrs is a clear example of the power of language over the truth: it is a diptych made of black wooden panels whose surface is sliced by a multitude of lines that seem to move like wounds on a body's skin. The emblematic title plays on the semantic variants of this word, whose meaning has transformed through the course of history. From the ancient Greek word martus, which meant "witness", to the definition of a man who sacrifices himself in the name of faith, up to the present definition in which a martyr is improperly compared to the concept of kamikaze.
The theme of martyrdom also returns in the video The Silence of Saint Peter Martyr (2011), with the protagonist St. Peter the Martyr, also known as Pietro da Verona, who was a 13th-century priest of the Dominican Order that was atrociously executed because of his strong opposition to heretics. The calm of the scene, where the subject slowly moves his finger and mimics the peaceful gesture of silence, is violently opposed to the audio of the video itself with a disturbing and aggressive background.
The inspiration he draws from religious material is reconfirmed in the photographic series Blinding Light (2013), a project with both conceptual and visual manipulation of the so-called "Healing of the Justinian Deacon", a miracle that was also immortalized in a famous painting by Fra Angelico. The story tells of two saints who were famous for their medical skills, Cosmas and Damian, who entered Justinian's room one night and exchanged his sick leg with a healthy leg from a recently deceased Ethiopian man. Upon reawakening, Justinian was surprised to find that his leg had healed, but was of a different colour. Playing with superimposition between the ancient painting and modern surgery scenes, mounir fatmi amazes with his versatile lexical ability, which allows him to tackle major issues with surprising cultural sensitivity, including ethnic identity, hybridization and the notion of diversity.
The sensory vision of viewers is then exhorted in the video Technologia from 2010, where the convulsive succession of geometric structures and Arab calligraphic motifs of religious nature give rise to a highly hypnotic process. The spectator struggles to watch while his hearing is also put to the test with harsh noises.
The juxtaposition between the object, its use and its cultural significance is central to the installation Civilization (2013): a simple work of art with a pair of black men's shoes placed over a book bearing the inscription "civilization". With these two objects, which are often used to indicate a person's level of civilization, the Moroccan artist questions the seduction of material objects and its deceptive power in contemporary culture.
During the opening ceremony of Thursday, October 26th at 7 pm, a performance at the presence of the artist will be held. It will be built around his installation Constructing Illusions, a participatory work that plays on the equilibrium between imagination and reality: concepts that often mingle with each other until they manage to completely exchange meanings.
mounir fatmi was born in Tangier (Morocco) in 1970, and currently lives and works between Paris and Tangier.
He has been exhibited in major international museums, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, the Georges Pompidou Centre, the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, the Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha and the MAXXI of Rome. He has also participated in many Festivals and Biennials, such as the Venice Biennale which he is again participating in this year, as well as the Biennials of Sharjah, Dakar, Seville, Gwangju and Lyons. fatmi has also received numerous awards, including the Cairo Biennial Prize (2010), Uriöt Prize, Amsterdam Prize and the Leopold Sedar Senghor Grand Prize of the Dakar Biennial in 2006. In 2013 he was selected for the Jameel Prize of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
Milan, June 2017
curated by Silvia Cirelli
Milan, Officine dell’Immagine
via Carlo Vittadini 11
October 26th 2017 - January 7th 2018
opening: Thursday October 26th, 7 p.m.
Hours: tuesday – saturday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.; monday and holidays by appointment
Catalogue available in gallery