Moroccan artist tries to repair ‘imperfect’ world in ‘Black Light’ solo exhibition

Exploring an artist’s role in society is at the core of El Baz’s recent work, which he said took years to create.

CASABLANCA - Moroccan contemporary artist Mohamed El Baz explores the effect of black light in his solo exhibition “Lumiere Noire” (“Black Light”), running through April 13 at L’atelier 21 art gallery in Casablanca.

El Baz, who splits his time between Casablanca and the French city of Lille, is showcasing a new series in the exhibition as part of his project “Bricoler l’incurable” (“Tinkering the Incurable”), which he has been working on since 1993.

Seemingly innocuous black light reveals a form of artistic expression that is otherwise invisible.

“The black light means that we are perhaps in a situation where we need a special light to reveal some things such as love, poetry and death,” El Baz said. “The only dark thing in my exhibition is the carpet portrait of my mother. She is the only one whose eyes are closed.”

“The idea of the dark light is to highlight the disarray of a person who is trying to walk through obscurity and find a place towards light,” he added.

The artist’s work opens viewers to a range of emotions and possible artistic interpretations, which El Baz said he embraces.

“I like when I make skirmishes,” he said. “We manage to see strata. I think we have an example here. There is a beginning, there is a sequel. There is not necessarily a logic of a beginning and an end. There are several elements that juxtapose and that ultimately give an ambiance.”

Exploring an artist’s role in society is at the core of El Baz’s recent work, which he said took years to create.

The inspiration for his series is Franz Kafka’s novel “The Trial” and its film adaptation by Orson Welles, both of which explore how social norms shape and control our lives.

“‘The Trial’ is a novel that I have read many times. It is so complex that we could spend our entire life reading it,” said El Baz.

Like Kafka, the Moroccan artist reacts through his work to the complexity and hostility he views in society.

Among his works are a dozen portraits called “Black Rain,” which depict men and women crying in a swimming pool.

“The portraits are a photo shoot session that I organised with my friends in a swimming pool. I invited them to cry with me for the right reason. I simply offered a space where they can cry,” said El Baz.

“Everyone was in their own world. These are people who are addressing us but in the same time are distant.”

El Baz also shares observations, freezes on frames and on his practice, exploring how the latter resonates with life and the world around us. Through references to society, family and culture, El Baz creates a patchwork in which he reflects on his conflicting relationship with society.

Saad Guerraoui is a regular contributor to The Arab Weekly on Maghreb issues.

This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.