What happens when a group of designers from The Netherlands arrive open-minded and empty-handed to Casablanca, and tries to put together an exhibition from scratch, using the city as an instant source of inspiration and production? Set up as a work period in answer to the brief for a Dutch Design exhibition, ICI produced new work in the space of two months in collaboration with a Moroccan team of designers, students, workers and artisans. The residency resulted in a exhibition structured as a city within a city.
It is here. Visitors encounter a world under construction, that refers to everyday elements of Casa, which have been translated into objects and installations –studies of another Casa: one built from qualities, which the designers recognised during their stay: resourcefulness, improvisation talent, informality, or helpfulness. These qualities are present in social systems such as the sharing of the Petit Taxis, in the ad hoc football fields installed on the beach and in neighbourhoods, and even in the widespread appropriation of public space through private gardens. A program of debates about local issues (the unacknowledged value of the petits métiers, the regeneration issues of the tramway project, and the precarious status of Casa’s architectural heritage) connected the exhibition to local partners.
The title ICI, meaning ‘here’, refers to here and now, almost as if one would press pause in everyday life. At the same time, the term ‘here’ points to where one comes from (there). On the night of the opening, Casa’s lively streets were brought inside the exhibition by inviting local food merchants who prepared snails, chick peas, pancakes, mint tea and cardamom coffee just like they do everyday. A one day band, baptized Mystic Session, played on the public square in front of the church, whose cement steps had been upholstered with scotch-taped pillows. Mystic Session brought together jazz rock drummer Benoît Martiny and Moroccan musicians fusing gnaoua, jazz and slam (Hamam, Saddik Ngoumi, Mostapha, Jamaal Nouaman, Mahmoud Bassou, Rezki Amine, Martin, Abdesamad Rizki). Tarek Boual produced the bootleg CD.
ICI Casa is commissioned by the Dutch Ambassy of Rabat in the context of “the celebration of 400 years of trade relations between The Netherlands and Morocco” in 2010. Dutch-based design team: Sophie Krier, Bas van Beek, Erik Wong, David van der Veldt, Sjoerd Jonkers, and Dawn Ray. Casablanca-based team: Khadija Kabbaj (designer / co-curator), Jamal Abdennasser (producer and photographer), Meryem Aboulouafa (assistant producer), as well as artisans and students. In total a crew of almost fifty persons were implied in the realisation of ICI. A series of workshops and lectures in collaboration with local design schools (l’École des Beaux Arts, l’École Supérieure de Design Art’Com Sup de Casablanca) and La Fabrique Culturelle des Abattoirs (a cultural hub of Casa situated in a former slaughterhouse complex), formed the educative component of ICI. Special thanks to Casa Mémoire, Abderrahim Kassou and Aadel Saadani, as well as all that made ICI possible, especially the artisans and the students involved in the workshops and the exhibition build-up. And the patient painters of the church!
Images by Jamal Abdennasser, Erik Wong, Dawn Hourigan, Sophie Krier, Hicham Zemmar, Meryem Aboulouafa