Shezad Dawood, Towards the Possible Film, 2014. HD video and Super 16 transferred to HD video, color, sound, 20 minutes. From Marrakech Biennale 5.

Shezad Dawood, Towards the Possible Film, 2014. HD video and Super 16 transferred to HD video, color, sound, 20 minutes. From Marrakech Biennale 5.

Marrakech Biennale 5

Marrakech Biennale

Shezad Dawood, Towards the Possible Film, 2014. HD video and Super 16 transferred to HD video, color, sound, 20 minutes. From Marrakech Biennale 5.

In posing the question “Where Are We Now?” the Fifth Marrakech Biennale skipped over the perennially problematized terrain of geography and its discontents to concentrate instead on being in time. Rather than accepting the present as a fixed moment, the curator of the visual- and sound-arts program, Hicham Khalidi, brought together works that explore the experience of the contemporary as what philosopher Peter Osborne calls a “disjunctive unity of times.”

This clash of temporalities structures the narrative of Shezad Dawood’s Towards the Possible Film, 2014. A mix of HD and Super 16 transferred to HD, the twenty-minute video animates a passage from Robert Anton Wilson’s quantum physics–inspired novels Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy (1979), in which the author describes a fatal encounter between Aryan Cro-Magnons and blue-skinned astronauts, visitors from the future who also had a hand in shaping the past. Dawood locates his retelling in the quasi-Martian stretches of Sidi Ifni, a Moroccan surf beach known for what its own mayor describes as “the horror of the landscape.” The artist translates unattributed citations from thinkers such as Pierre Clastres and Amiri Baraka into Tamazight, an ancient Berber dialect recognized only recently as one of the country’s official languages. The violence that inevitably takes place is framed as directed against the future, in defense of the past.

Violence is not the only response to a sense of dislocation in time. Resignation hangs heavily in the photographs of Charif Benhelima and Patrick Wokmeni, who depict denied asylum seekers and disenchanted migrants, respectively, as individuals caught outside the bounds of time and place. Katarina Zdjelar fixes on a past rejected by its present with Into the interior (The last day of the permanent exhibition), 2014, a film that solemnly surveys the dismantling of dioramas during the final days of Belgium’s last colonial museum.

Other artists co-opt the tradition of craft, which, like a local dialect, can contain an immense history while still projecting into the future. Éric van Hove commissioned more than forty artisans to fabricate surrogates of the 465 individual components of the Mercedes-Benz V12 engine, the only part of the Laraki (Morocco’s first luxury car) unable to be produced within the country. In V12 Laraki, 2013, Van Hove attempts to correct this oversight by fashioning an entirely Moroccan-made engine from such materials as tin, terra-cotta, bone, and goatskin leather. The engine itself was placed on a pedestal in the former Bank Al-Maghrib, while surplus parts of it were put on display in Dar Si Said, home to the Museum of Moroccan Arts.

Amid this same collection, Adriana Lara quietly intervened with works from her series “Interesting Theories,” 2010–, which transposes accumulated abstractions onto carpets produced in collaboration with local craftsmen. Saâdane Afif appropriated another type of tradition, moving into the space of public rituals with the daily performance Souvenir: Part 1, The Geometry Lesson, 2014. Each evening at sundown, a lecturer would set up a table alongside the snakecharmers and sword-swallowers of Jemaa el Fna, the city’s main thoroughfare, only to deliver a primer on basic geometric shapes. After each lesson, the performer peddled small wooden spheres, cubes, pyramids, and cylinders, all painted a plain white and priced as souvenirs.

Within the ruins of El Badi Palace, Cevdet Erek experimented with a more abstracted form of decoration. Courtyard Ornamentation with Sounding Dots and a Prison, 2014, propelled “percussive dots” from loudspeakers installed in selected points around the prison of the sixteenth-century palace. The sounds collided in the “sweet spot” at the center of the courtyard, but the piece could be experienced, with slight variations, from other locations within the complex. The beat borrowed from Sufi rhythms, which, perhaps not coincidentally, are built on the same triple meter as the waltz. This shared rhythm taps into the sense of common ancestry suggested by Dawood’s blue-skinned astronauts. It is disjunctive unity, at its most distilled and most sublime.

Kate Sutton