The Kunstmuseen Krefeld have awarded to the 14th Mies van der Rohe Stipend a young artist, Latifa Echakhch, whose poetic, often ‘gentle’ objects and large-scale installations made up of everyday and found objects always invoke social, national and cultural conditions and clichés. Latifa Echakhch (b. 1974 in El Khansa, Morocco, lives and works in Martigny, Switzerland) has developed an exhibition concept for the Museum Haus Esters in which she draws together actual objects that already exist with works that are being specially created for Krefeld. For example, the work called Tour de Babel, which Latifa Echakhch started as work in progress in 2010, is now being continued in Haus Esters. The original material is Jenga, game of skill in which the many little bricks are intended to grow up in the form of a tower. To do this, individual components are taken out of the compact structure and placed on the top of the tower. The higher the structure becomes, the more fragile it is.
Playful lightness and an iconographic biblic topos – the building of the Tower of Babel brought about linguistic confusion and the dispersal of the peoples (Genesis 11, 1-9) – collide in this work. For Echakhch, this simple game with its references to lucid architectural bodies, continuous mutability and decay is a metaphor for the Israeli capital Tel Aviv.
Inspired by Mies van der Rohe’s brick buildings, Latifa Echakhch uses for Tkaf bricks. Moving from whole, intact bricks to rubble, then on to a powdery consistency and powder rubbed off by hand, the piece develops from the floor up to the wall, marking the room out as a magical place. The hand-marks start at a height corresponding with the artist’s physical size. In a transferred sense they are symbolize an act of conjuring something up.
Chapeau d’encre is a multipartite work of six coloured caps. These men’s hats seem to be filled with dark-coloured ink. the black ink is a direct reference to another form of artistic expression: language in the form of literature and poetry. A hat can come to symbolize creative thinking or also a particular person, as in the case of Joseph Beuys (1921-1986), for example, who made a major contribution to shaping the history of 20th century art with his individual material symbolism and his charismatic personal aura. Chapeau d’encre also shows surrealist echoes in Latifa Echakhch’s art: here things that actually do not belong together confront each other directly: a hat is no place for liquid.
The three object collages that make up the Fantômes, a series Echakhch started in 2010, are similarly disturbing. A music stand and an evening dress concealing a mouth organ; a table with a napkin covering a book and a mirror with a tablecloth hanging over it, furnish the lady’s and the gentleman’s rooms in Haus Esters. Echakhch’s Fantômes indicate the absence of people who had perhaps still been in the room a moment ago or have gone away for ever.