Mounir Fatmi : Depth of Field

Labanque, Bethune, France
23 Apr 2016 - 28 Aug 2016

Mounir Fatmi : Depth of Field

Mounir Fatmi, The Blind Man, 2015. Inkjet print on c-print half-glossed paper, 42 x 30 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg - Cape Town.

Depth of Field, a solo exhibition by Mounir Fatmi, features a series of new work and site-specific installations created specifically for the grand opening of Labanque Bethune Contemporary Art Center.

The ghost of Georges Bataille haunts the exhibition, and connects the underlying themes found in the work presented: the powerlessness of language, the multitude of perceptions, and the divisions between the body, sex, history and religion. Depth of Field questions the relevance of looking at a work of art in a world full of violence and current media fascination.

Entering the exhibition, Mounir Fatmi questions our relationship with the sacred through the installation Commercial, in which bottles of holy water are stacked in shopping carts, ready for mass consumption.

The de-sacralisation of meaning and language continues in the room titled, Dead Language, where fragments of calligraphy are hanging on barbed wire, caught between two glass cabinets, and communicating with each other like ruins, which should be preserved. This muted violence is also present through sculptures, which rise up in front of the viewer, such as Defence 01. Originally intended to separate neighbouring apartments or homes, in this context these pointed, metal structures not only separate the work itself but also physically confronts the viewer.

In the series Evolution or Death, begun in 2004, eroticism and violence come together in one image. A heavy belt made of books, meant to suggest an explosive belt weighs on taut, naked bodies. Is it about violence or knowledge? Can knowledge serve as an escape from violence? In Archaeology, Fatmi presents a darker conclusion. The bones of two skeletons lie on the ground, a broom with a black banner pushes them against the wall. An excavation site or a battleground, the remains are there, the flesh is no more.

The sculpture The Dog’s House, consists of a glass window held together by two blocks of stone. It stands alone as an architectural representation of the ruins of an entire civilization. Male and female genitals are carved in bas-relief onto the blocks of stone. The objects of fantasies, here the genitals are like the frozen remains of desire, they have become erotic myths. We Are Here—Confessions, a minimalist piece installed directly on the wall, represents the intercom of an imaginary building. Onto the intercom panels are the names of literary and artistic personalities who share an affinity with Georges Bataille around ideas of eroticism, obscenity, death, violence, cruelty, sadism and religion.

Through the violent nature of the work on view and its aggressive relationship to the viewer, in Depth of Field, Mounir Fatmi confronts ideas about the loss of language and the body.


Mounir Fatmi is born 1970, Tangier, Morocco, lives and works between Paris and Tangier.
His work has been shown in numerous solo exhibitions: in Mamco, Geneva; Migros Museum für Gegenwarskunst, Zurich; the Picasso Museum, Vallauris, France; AK Bank Foundation, Istanbul; MMP+, Marrakesh. He participated in several collective shows at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; The Brooklyn Museum, New York; N.B.K., Berlin; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Museum on the Seam, Jerusalem; Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow; Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha. His installations have been selected in biennials such as the 52nd and 54th Venice Biennale, the 8th biennial of Sharjah, the 5th and 7th Dakar Biennial, the 2nd Seville Biennial, the 5th Gwangju Biennial, the 10th Lyon Biennial, the 5th Auckland Triennial, Fotofest 2014, Houston and the 10th Bamako Encounters. Mounir Fatmi was awarded by several prize such as the Cairo Biennial Prize in 2010; the Uriöt prize, Amsterdam; the Grand Prize Leopold Sedar Senghor of the 7th Dakar Biennial in 2006; as well, he was shortlisted for the Jameel Prize of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London in 2013.




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