Bouchra Khalili, Winning Artist, Abraaj Group Art Prize 2014
Garden Conversation, Digital film, colour, sound, 16 min 22 sec
‘Garden Conversation’ restages a mythical encounter between two renegade heroes, seeking their wisdom for our time. In January 1959, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara met the exiled hero of the Rif War (1921-1926), Abdelkarim Al Khattabi, at the Moroccan Embassy in Cairo. An anti-colonialist, Khattabi resisted two armies, the French and Spanish, and his movement pioneered modern guerilla techniques that inspired many leaders, including Guevara and Ho Chi Minh.
Bouchra Khalili’s film blurs historic fact and poetic fiction to conjecture what the ghosts of Guevara and Khattabi might speak of were they to meet today. Their conversation is scripted from the writings of Khattabi and Guevara regarding struggle, its methodology and its purpose. A young man and woman who speak Moroccan Arabic and Iraqi Arabic – yet fully understand each other – embody their ghosts. They meet in one of the oldest surviving colonial possessions in the world – Melilla, in the Moroccan Rif – where Khattabi lived, was imprisoned, and became a revolutionary.
The film was shot on location in Los Pinos de Rostrogordo, a park that is part forest and part garden, surrounded by the sea. It overlooks the border fence that was built to prevent north and subSaharan immigrants from reaching Europe and that serves to isolate Melilla as a Spanish territory from its Moroccan context.
Moroccan-French artist Bouchra Khalili was born in Casablanca. She later studied Cinema and Visual Arts in Paris. Her work in video, photography and prints, articulates documentary practice and conceptual approach to investigate methodologies and discourses of resistance as elaborated by members of minorities. Khalili’s work has been shown internationally, as recently at ‘The Encyclopedic Palace’, 55th Venice Biennale (2013); ‘Intense Proximity’, Palais de Tokyo (Paris, 2012); The 18th Biennale of Sydney (2012); ‘Mapping Subjectivity’, MoMA (New York, 2011); The 10th Sharjah Biennial (2011); among others.
Recent solo shows and screenings include ‘Wet Feet and More’ at DAAD Galerie, Berlin (2013); ‘The Seaman’ Bouchra Khalili (b. 1975, Casablanca) at Freedman Gallery, Albright College (2013); ‘Wet Feet/Dry Feet’ at Tarragona Art Center, Spain (2012), Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin, and Deutsches Film Institut in Frankfurt, among others. Khalili has received numerous awards as ‘DAAD Artist-in-Berlin’ (2012); ‘The Vera List Center Fellowship’ (The New School, New York, 2011-2013); and CulturesFrance Award in 2010.
In 2012-2013, she was commissioned by The Perez Miami Art Museum to produce an original artwork for its inauguration in December 2013. Bouchra Khalili lives in Berlin. She’s represented by Galerie Polaris (Paris), and galerieofmarseille (Marseille).