An Album: Cinematheque Tangier, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

Tangier-based artist and filmmaker, Yto Barrada (b.1971) probes into the material history and visual culture of her hometown in this multi-layered exhibition of films, artworks, posters and ephemera, on display at the Walker Art Center from 21 November until 18 May. Combining documentary strategies with a metaphoric approach to imagery in her photographic, film, and sculptural work, Barrada’s art is committed to exploring Tangier’s rich cultural history, which has been long been rooted in the collective imagination, eternally romanticised and immortalised in film and literature.

Making reference to Barrada’s artist-run independent cinema, located in the heart of Tangier, which works as both a space for daily screenings and an archive for the city’s film history, An Album: Cinematheque Tangier divides the Walker’s Burnet Gallery into three sections of artworks, archives and a screening room.

Tangier is instantly grounded geographically, culturally and politically through the exhibition opening with a French map illustrating the location of film theatres built when Tangier was an independent zone. The archive, meanwhile, houses vintage film posters, ephemera and scopitone films, created by Arab immigrants in France, who travelled from Morocco and other North African countries to work in the post WWII labour force. Singing their tales of migration and assimilation, these labourer’s stories on 16mm scopitone films present a unique and largely-forgotten art form central to understanding Tangier’s history and development.

Making up the exhibition’s screening programme is a selection of films taken from the Cinematheque’s collection alongside the Walker’s Ruben/Benton film video archive. As well as two pieces from Barrada- Beau Geste (2009) and The Magician (2003)- the collection also features the elegiac 6 1/2 (1968) by Ahmed Bouanani, picturing the streets of Tangier from 6am till midday, and Beirut Outtakes (2007), showing a collage of film scraps from a closed-down Beirut cinema, captured by American film artist Peggy Awesh. March 2014, in particular, will also see a special selection of films made in Tangier or focusing on life in the African diaspora, invade the Walker cinema, with titles including El Chergui (1975) by Moumen Smihi, On the Edge (2012) by Leila Kilani, and Touki Bouki (1973) by Djibril Diop Mambéty.

Opening on 21 November with a party full of North African moves and music featuring New York’s DJ Rupture, this diverse album offers an expansive glimpse into the richness and complexities of Tangier as well as opening up a detailed investigation into the layered history of Morocco and the social and political realities that shape the region today.

An Album: Cinematheque Tangier, Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55403.

1. Exterior view of Cinémathèque de Tanger, Photo: Sarah Keller, © Cinémathèque de Tanger.