With magic, the craftsmanship lies in manipulating that which is made visible to the naked eye of the viewer. “The hands of the magician are faster than the eyes of the spectator”, explains Abdelouahid el-Hamri in Yto Barrada’s The Magician. Filmed in the magician’s courtyard, consisting of a makeshift stage framed by shabby black curtains, Abdelouahid el-Hamri performs the simplest of tricks with a seriousness which contrasts, almost comically, with his unkempt disposition. The Smuggler reads like an instructional video; it documents T. M., an elderly woman, who has been trafficking fabric from the Spanish border town of Ceuta to Tangier for 30 years. Against the backdrop of black curtains, T. M. demonstrates how she wraps her body with heaps of fabric, and concludes with slipping on her long djellaba, to cover the ‘tax-free’ smuggled goods entirely. The notion of what is made visible and what is rendered invisible is as central to T. M.’s livelihood as to Abdelouahid el-Hamri’s. Moroccan photographer and videographer Yto Barrada’s compulsion to document is also one to represent that which is unseen, rendering visible individuals and their actions which are usually excluded from a viewer’s eye.
Part of Meeting Points 5 Contemporary Art Festival - 2007