The Words Create Images
Image: Amira Hanafi, Vocabulary Box, 2014
Discussing his passion for literature, during an interview with American scholar John Edwin Mason, Associate Professor in African history and the history of photography at the University of Virginia, South African photographer George Hallett (1942-2020) commented that “the word creates an image in your mind”. Trivial as it may seem at first, this remark translates the process whereby Hallett visualised the stories in the manuscripts to which he had access in the 1970s and 1980s, in order to create the images encapsulating their essence. These visual compositions were to become the book covers of publisher Heinemann’s African Writers Series, one of the most influential literary collections in post-Independence Africa. They also speak to the cross-medium spaces opened up by the written word.
The link between African literatures and creative processes will unfold in Casablanca and make way for the imaginary and narratives that nourish contemporary artistic creation. The biennale will open onto the fields of text, word, sign and languages, both vernacular and through their relationship with the colonial linguistic legacy in Africa and beyond. It will also involve questioning the ways in which language influences thought systems and, by extension, the discourses and interpretations of a work of art, both in its matter and metaphorical sense.
A reflection on translation and the untranslatable will also be developed. In this respect, the curatorial concept also takes its cue from an observation by Jacques Derrida in his seminar Trace and archive, image and art (2002), on the idea of words acting as images beyond their discursive properties. While addressing the question of translation, on the occasion of the presentation of D’ailleurs Derrida (1999) by Egyptian filmmaker Safaa Fathy, the Algerian-born French philosopher argued the following: “… when one does not understand everything in a language, which happens all the time, even when one is very intelligent and very cultured, one can never understand everything, it means that the word functions as an image. It might retain its discursive reserve, its thinking reserve, its theoretical or philosophical reserve, whatever you want, but it is first and foremost here as an image, and that is what makes the work.” (p. 40).
The notion of communication will also be approached through its means, methods, and media, whether oral, written or coded; through the transmission of customary, historical or contemporary stories; and through dialogue, with consideration for the diversity of discursive spaces, and how location informs, expands, or limits the room for expression.
Responding to these orientations, the 5th Biennale Internationale de Casablanca will consist of existing and newly commissioned works by established and emerging international artists, selected from both the biennale’s open call and resulting from curatorial research.