Yto Barrada was born in Paris in 1971 and grew up in Tangier, Morocco, a city whose complex colonial history and present generation’s restricted mobility she reveals through sculpture, photography, and film. Barrada’s films sketch informal portraits of individuals in her community, her own family, and the larger encapsulating governing conditions of Tangier, humanizing larger political concerns through intimate portrayals of ordinary individuals. In much of Barrada’s work, she focuses on Tangier’s relationship to Spain, a coastline only nine miles away, which was all but closed to Moroccan immigrants after the signing of the 1991 Schengen agreement, and the dissecting body of water – the Strait of Gibraltar – that defines much of how the artist understands contemporary life in Morocco.
For her High Line Channel program, Barrada presents five works. A Guide to Trees for Governors and Gardeners (2014) follows a mechanized motorcade as it processes down the street to the sound of beating drums and cheering fans. La Contrebandière (The Smuggler) (2005) and Le Magicien (The Magician) (2003) portray two people in the performance of their titular role: the smuggler exposing how she transports fabrics from Ceuta, Spain to shop owners in Tangier, and the magician performing his idiosyncratic spectacle. Beau Geste (Kind Gesture) (2009) and Hand-Me-Downs (2011) are both narrative, longer form works. The former reveals nuances about land use, ownership, and regulation in Tangier through a story about neighbors rescuing a plot of land and a palm tree. The latter film, Hand-Me-Downs, takes found family film footage and pieces it together under a voice-over narrating 16 different myths of unreliable family stories.
Image: Yto Barrada, Hand-Me-Downs, 2011. 16mm and 8mm film transferred to digital video, color, sound; 15 minutes. © Yto Barrada 2015. Courtesy Pace Gallery, London; Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg, Beirut; and Galerie Polaris, Paris.