180° Behind Me
Göteborgs Konsthall, Göteborgs
2018.06.08 - 2018.09.16
Curator: Stina Edblom
The first major solo presentation by Mounir Fatmi in Scandinavia comes at a very particular time. In the spring of 2018, Freemuse – an independent organization working with defending the rights and freedom of artistic expression - published its first global report assessing the global state of artistic freedom. It is an important and chilling document about censorship and violations of artistic expression experienced across the globe, including the traditionally democratic western countries. Having himself experienced the consequences of a culture of silencing, Mounir Fatmi is an artist dedicated to exposing and deconstructing oppressive ideological and religious dogmas in works that shed light some of our most pressing political questions today.
Seeking to illuminate the role of artists in a time of crisis, the exhibition at Göteborgs Konsthall particularly addresses the urgency of free speech and seeks to open up the political potential of language as resistance. Engaging in notions of language, and the written word – its beauty, violence and fragility – Fatmi’s works expose the layers of interpretation and reinterpretation that comprise our history, but also speaks directly to a culture of censorship and silencing.
The exhibition titled 180° Behind Me presents both new works commissioned for Göteborgs Konsthall along with a selection of existing works, some of which have taken on new forms and meaning for this exhibition. In a wide variety of artistic mediums, including video, photography, installation, sculpture and wall painting, Fatmi´s works are characterized by a minimal yet stylized aesthetic. Allowing the works to appear against a white backdrop of the gallery space, the installations are almost seductively beautiful, bringing the viewer closer only to uncover the many layers of meaning and sharp political potential of the works. Exploring human doubt, fears and desires in the tension between East and West, and between ancient tradition and accelerated contemporaneity, the exhibition allows us to experience the full diversity and complexity of Fatmi´s practice.
In several works Fatmi integrates Arabic calligraphy. The beauty of words, and their power to both bring together and shatter, is consistently present. The use of calligraphy connects us to notions of inside and outside – of understanding the words as language or as patterns – and what the addition or loss of meaning brings to a reflection on the relationship between self and the other.
The photographic series Peripheral Vision that consists of four black and white portraits of the artist is a focal point for the exhibition and connects to its title - 180° Behind Me. In the images Fatmi holds a large white geometry protractor that measures the field of human vision. The work reflects on the way that we look at what surrounds us and speaks for a renewed comprehension of our limited vision of the world, which can be read within a decolonial critique of western eurocentrism.
Also present in Fatmi´s work is a critique of consumerism. In sculpture and installation, Fatmi works with old technologies and materials such as VHS tapes, antenna cables, fluorescent strip lights, copy machines, printing presses and typewriters. In the choice of materials, he contests linear notions of time and the supposed progression of society. Instead concepts such as disappearance and repetition, including history’s tendency to repeat itself, emerge as key themes. Here the materials are containers of information while also functioning as archives in and of themselves. The works appear as monuments to the utopias of modernity and to the narratives which are gradually erased from our memory.
It is a great pleasure to present Mounir Fatmi´s aesthetically beautiful and conceptually challenging practice at Göteborgs Konsthall. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Mounir Fatmi and studio fatmi who have so generously engaged us in the journey of curating this exhibition.
Stina Edblom, Artistic Director, Göteborgs Konsthall