mounir fatmi
Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

Fragmented Memory, 2017

Fragmented Memory

Goodman Gallery Johannesburg

25 May - 1 July 2017



A copy of the Koran.

A photograph of a Moroccan King.

A calligraphic painting.


These are the only three cultural objects remembered by mounir fatmi from his childhood home in 1970s Tangier – all of which vividly captured his imagination, but he was forbidden to touch.

Fragmented Memory marks a rare autobiographical approach for the Paris-based multimedia artist, in which fatmi takes these coveted objects as a starting point ‘to show how the few elements of culture I had in my childhood home has shaped my artistic research, my aesthetic choices and my entire career’, he says. fatmi adds that ‘in this show, I draw a direct relationship to language, to memory, and to history, because, for me, these three elements depend on one another: without language there is no memory and with no memory there is no history.’

In Suspect Language (Goodman Gallery, 2012), fatmi’s first solo show in South Africa, the artist sort to construct visual and linguistic games aimed at freeing the viewer from their preconceptions of politics and religion to prompt new ways of seeing these structures.

Fragmented Memory expands on this objective, presenting thought-provoking recent work in a variety of mediums (sculpture, installation, photography), some of which use poetic text, to create what he calls ‘aesthetic traps’.

Almost 20 years ago, when fatmi was still in Morocco but about to move to France, the artist wrote a personal manifesto, titled the Coma Manifesto. It is made up of ‘very concentrated sentences that function like medicine’, fatmi says, ‘and started with the poetic and provocative statement: ‘My father has lost all his teeth, I can bite him now’.’ The document has since grown into a series of one-line warnings, remarks, instructions and advice that continue to inform and guide his practice.

In putting this show together, fatmi deviated from previous methods of referencing his manifesto, such as writing lines on gallery walls with black paint, and turns to sculpture to cut out three statements from metal plates for the first time. In this tri-part sculpture, letters have fallen out and lie scattered on the floor as an expression of the disillusionment and disorientation felt by the artist who exists between Christian Europe and a European colonised country, which is also African and Muslim.

fatmi calls himself ‘a migrant worker’, having left home at seventeen to study in Italy and Holland before moving to France, which has given rise to enthralling recent work, such as Roots (2016), a large triptych wall relief made from reels of painstakingly twisted cable wire. The labyrinthine patterns of meandering roots references patterns found in ancient Islamic artwork through which the artist asks, ‘just how deep can a person’s roots go?’.

This exhibition suggests an excitingly self-reflective moment for fatmi who left Morocco because he ‘needed to step back from my country to be able to understand it and analyze its history’ (fatmi) and now takes this journey deeper by mining personal memories.

Fragmented Memory also features works grappling with the concept of collective national memory, such as the new photographic series, The Visible Side of the King 2017, which explores the weight of myths that can be projected onto history. The work looks specifically at the year 1953, during Morocco’s colonisation by France and Spain, when Moroccans reported seeing the face of King Mohammed V on the moon. According to fatmi, ‘the Moroccan people were under the influence of a collective hallucination. To reinforce the image of the king in exile and push citizens to revolt against the regime of France, Moroccan nationalists asked people to stare at photographs of the sultan that they had distributed and then to look up at the moon. There they saw his visage, not realising they were being tricked by an optical illusion. The subterfuge worked: Mohammed V, unaware of the ploy, received demonstrations of support in 1955, just before his return to Morocco and became known as the ‘moon king’.’

Other works, such as the photographic series, History is not mine 2015, also explore subjectivity in historical memory and fatmi’s self-portrait, The Blind Man 2015, forms part of a series in which the artist obscures his eyes with objects symbolising Moroccan identity.

Several works tackle the fleeting nature of language, such as Mother Language 2017, in which laser cut Arabic calligraphy is fragmented, making certain words impossible to read. In The Weight 2017, copies of the Koran published in French, Arabic, Italian and English weigh down one side of a scale, representing all the languages that fatmi has read verses from the Koran in. After many years living in Europe, the artist’s mother tongue now feels awkward even as it remains a core part of his identity, creating the feeling of suspension between two different worlds.

Expositions personnelles I Solo shows (selection)
Ceysson & Bénétière 2019Wilde Gallery 2019CDAN Museum 2018
Göteborgs Konsthall 2018Art Front Gallery 2017Officine dell'Immagine 2017
Galerie De Multiples 2017Analix Forever Gallery 2017Jane Lombard Gallery 2017
Galerie Delacroix 2017Goodman Gallery 2017Lawrie Shabibi 2017
Analix Forever Gallery 2017Maisons des Arts du Grütli 2017ADN Platform 2016
Keitelman Gallery 2016Labanque 2016MMP+ 2016
MAMCO 2015MIAMIBUS 2015Analix Forever 2015
CCC Tours 2014ADN Galeria 2014ADN Platform 2014
Analix Forever 2014Yvon Lambert 2014Museum Kunst Palast 2013
Keitelman Gallery 2013Paradise Row 2013Institut Français de Casablanca 2013
Galerie Fatma Jellal 2013Analix Forever 2013Goodman Gallery 2012
Shoshana Wayne Gallery 2012 Lombard-Fried Projects 2012Galerie Conrads 2011
Fondazione Collegio San Carlo 2011Galerie Hussenot 2011AKBank Sanat 2011
Galerie Hussenot 2010Galerie Conrads 2009FRAC Alsace 2009
Galerie Delacroix IFM 2008Creux de l'enfer 2008Galerie Ferdinand van Dieten 2007
Musée national Pablo Picasso 2007Shoshana Wayne Gallery 2007La maison rouge 2007
Lombard Freid projects 2007Bank galerie 2006CAC d'Istres 2005
Espace des arts Colomiers 2004 CAC Le Parvis 2004Migros museum 2003
Biennales & Triennales I Biennials, Triennials (selection)
13eme Biennale de Dakar 20187th Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale 20181er Biennale de Rabat 2018
57th Venice Biennale 20177eme Biennale d'Architecture de Shenzhen 201711eme Biennale de Bamako 2017
15eme Biennale d'art contemporain Alios! 2017Biennale Poznan 2016Setouchi Triennale 2016
10èmes Rencontres de Bamako 20155th Thessaloniki Biennale 201516th Media art Biennale Wro 2015
1st Trio Biennale, Rio de Janeiro 20152nd Bodrum Biennial 2015Fotofest Biennial 2014
5th Auckland Triennial 201310th Dakar Biennial 2012 White House Biennial 2013
Manif d'Art 6 20123rd Thessaloniki Biennial 201111th Lyon Biennial 2011
54th Venice Biennial 2011XIIth Cairo Biennial 20101st Mediterranean Biennial of Haifa 2010
Port Izmir 2, international triennial of contemporary art 20108th Dakar Biennial 2010Biennale Cuvée 2010
Xth Lyon Biennial 2009Art Tel Aviv 20098èmes Rencontres de Bamako 2009
1st Brussels Biennial 2008Pontevedra Biennial 200824th Biennial Memorial of Nadezda Petrovic 2007
1st Luanda Triennial 2007 52th Venice Biennial 20078th Sharjah Biennial 2007
2nd Seville Biennial 2006 Gwangju biennial 2004 7th Dakar Biennial 2006
4th Dakar Biennial 20007th Biennal Art Media 1999
Expositions collectives I Group shows (selection)
Maison Populaire 2019Bedford Gallery 2019 Evliyagil Museum 2019
Jane Lombard 2019James Cohan 2019Mathaf 2018
MACAAL 2018Fondation Boghossian 2018Sammlung Philara 2018
Nasher Museum of Art 2018Ellen Noël Art Museum 2018Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea 2018
MOCAK 2018Bozar Center for fine arts 2018Philharmonie de Paris 2018
The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery 2018Goodman Gallery 2018Institut Français de Saint Louis 2018
Pensacola Museum of Art 2018 Von der Heydt-Kunsthalle 2018Gifu Museum 2017
Huntsville Museum of Art 2017Bandjoun Station 2017Institut des Cultures d’Islam 2017
Bellevue Arts Museum 2017Mudac 2017Primo Marella Gallery 2017
Goodman Gallery 2017MACAAL 2017Museum De Wieger 2017
Conrads Gallery 2017Galerie Ceysson & Bénétière 2017Keitelman Gallery 2017
Musée du Pays de Hanau 2017Château de Servières 2017CEAA 2017
Fondazione Fotografia Modena 2017H&R Block Artspace 2017Bedford Gallery 2016
Beijing Today Art Museum 2016Hôtel des Arts 2016Museum of Old and New Art 2016
Labanque 2016Les Photaumnales 2016Al Maaden 2016
Kunsthalle Faust 2016Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg 2016Archives Nationales 2016
Bardo National Museum 2016Arles 2016Musée d'Art Moderne de Troyes 2016
Rotor 2016Goodman Gallery 2016Musée Bartholdi 2016
Institut d’Art Contemporain 2016Santander Art Gallery 2016Brandts & Viborg Kunsthal 2016
Fondazione VIDEOINSIGHT 2015A Tale of a Tub 2015Contemporary Istanbul 2015
ADMAF 2015Goodman Gallery 2015Keitelman Gallery 2015
Galeria Municipal do Porto 2015Fabra i Coats 2015AMOCA 2015
Monastère Royal de Brou 2015CAC La Traverse 2015FRAC Franche-Comté 2015
ZKM 2015The National Library 2015Station 2015
La FabriC - Fondation Salomon 2015Van Abbemuseum 2015The Brooklyn Museum 2015
MMP+ 2015Sharjah Museum 2015Kamel Lazaar Foundation 2015
Sextant & + 2015Gwangju Museum of Art 2014QAGOMA 2014
N.B.K. 2014CAyT Centro de Arte y Technologia 2014Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery 2014
Station 2014Institut du Monde Arabe 2014Art Gallery of Western Australia 2014
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art 2014Palais de Tokyo 2014L'art dans les chapelles 2013
MAD Museum 2013Marseille - Provence 2013V&A Museum 2013
30 ans des FRAC 2013MAC Marseille 2013MAXXI 2013
Museu de Arte Moderna de Salvador de Bahia 2012Institut du Monde Arabe 2012Edge of Arabia 2012
Apexart 2012B.P.S. 22 2012Dorsky Gallery 2012
International Center of Graphic Arts 2012Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art 2011Fondation Blachère 2011
Brooklyn Museum 2011Dublin Contemporary 2011Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts 2011
Museum on the Seam 2011Tri Postal Lille 2011Meeting Point 6 2011
The New School 2010Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil 2010Fondazione Fotografia Modena 2010
Aargauer Kunsthaus 2010KAdE 2010Kunst Museum Bochum 2010
Moscow museum of modern art 2010Art Gallery of Ontario 2010Fondation Gulbenkian 2009
Centro de Arte de Santa Monica 2009Beirut Art Center 2009Salina Art Center 2009
Kunstverein Medienturm Ilz 2008Te Papa museum 2008Studio Museum Harlem 2008
Haus der Kunst 2008Centre Pompidou 2008CAAM 2008
Centro de Arte de Santa Monica 2008Johannesburg Art Gallery 2007CAC Le Parvis 2006
CAPC musée d'art contemporain 2006Bank Galerie 2006Les Abattoirs 2006
Moderna museet 2006Mori art museum 2006Wereldmuseum 2005
Centre Pompidou 2005The Stenersen Museum 2005Saw gallery 2005
Konstmuseum 2005Hayward Gallery 2005Museum Kunst Palast 2004
Tri Postal Lille 20042nd international contemporary art meeting 2003Espacio C 2002
O.N.A. Foundation 1999CAC Castres 1999Musée des beaux-arts de Dôle 1999
Musée des arts décoratifs 1999  
interventions publiques I public space projects (selection)
metavilla 2015Collateral Project to the 12th Havana Biennial 2015Prison Qara Meknès 2015
Art Paris 2015Analix Forever 2014Sculpture Beach Art Dubai 2012
Le Printemps de Septembre 2012Narracje 4 2012Ivry 2010
FIAC Tuileries 2010 Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt 2004