We’ve long been admirers of Yto Barrada, a multidisciplinary artist whose wide-reaching oeuvre is seemingly limitless—encompassing photography, film, sculpture, painting, printmaking, and publishing.
Holistically, Barrada’s work raises questions and challenges while simultaneously embracing what’s subtle and beautiful; it asks us to pay attention, to be in direct conversation with our community, and to be an example of boldly, courageously caring for people and planet.
Raised in Tangier, Barrada initially came to art through studying history and political science, specifically in “the negotiation of political and personal experiences.” Today splitting her time between Morocco and New York, her expansive practice has included training under master natural dye experts in Paris and Japan; co-founding North Africa’s first combined arthouse cinema and film archive; and raising vital questions about rebellion, globalization, time, artisanry, and our attempts to “control” nature through her art.
One specific project that has been a touchstone for us (and a recent area of Yto’s focus) is her “Mothership,” a self-regenerating, community-led research center and garden in Tangier. Centered on a plot of land and homestead built in the 1920s, Barrada lives out part of the year at the Mothership, tending to its flower and vegetable gardens that produce the traditional dyes that she uses in her pieces, from indigo blues to madder root reds and wildflower-hued pops of yellow and verdant green. “By digging in, you discover what is under your nose: leaves, roots, barks, lichens, and mushrooms,” she explained. “Everything was under my feet: all I needed was to learn how to ‘read it.’” At a broader level, the Mothership exists to host other artists, thinkers, and individuals—allowing people to have a place to “come, rest, have time to teach and think…The whole idea is to put the artists back at the center and to trust their forward-thinking imaginations. There’s a beautiful poem by Francis Ponge, where he says that the only thing you have to do, as an artist, is to open the door and fix the world. That’s exactly what we’re doing.”
To come back to the garden is really to come back to ourselves—to look inward and reflect on what can be said through what we create. To tend to ourselves so that we might connect to a greater whole…that’s the mindset we’re carrying with us for the season ahead…and for many to come.
Read more about Barrada’s recent retrospective, “Bad Color Combos,” at Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam here