Artist Profile – Meriem Bennani

Published on 2018-02-14

Artwork featured at the salon: 'Fardaous Funjab: Episode 1: Fardaous' (2015-2017) Single-channel Video with Audio (Edition 3, Duration: 09:31)

Meriem Bennani (b. 1988) is a Moroccan-born artist who uses video, sculpture, and multimedia installations to express a humorous perspective on globalized popular culture and visual aesthetics. Her first major museum solo exhibition FLY (2016), presented at MoMA PS1, blurred the lines between comedy and documentary: a cartoonish fly guided viewers through dizzyingly intimate scenes of Moroccan life.

Understanding how individuals move between warm private spaces and more rigid public spaces through performance and play is central to Bennani’s video works and cartooning.   Bennani employed a similar framework to FLY’s in Fardaous Funjab (2015), a fictitious reality TV show which follows the eponymous designer of avant-garde hijabs and accessories. And then in 2017, Bennani was commissioned by the Public Art Fund to create an advertisement for the work’s playful absurdist hijabs, then featured in the monumental Oculus Display of the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn. Her video work Ghariba/Stranger (2017) examines the ways in which public spaces dictate social relations, taking inspiration from the dynamics experienced within beauty parlors and amusement parks.

Her works’ irreverent entertainment factor belies a more serious engagement with social and political themes that are close to the artist’s own identity. Siham and Hafida (2017) again employs rhythms of reality television, but instead to document a pop culture crisis particular to Morocco – the declining musical tradition of Aita. Aita uses an Arabic dialect passed down orally through generations, and primarily preserved in the performances of chikha singers Bennani describes as “both pop stars and cultural guardians.” Through the artist’s own fantastical digital interventions, the multimedia installation explores the generational gap between a pair of younger and older chikha performers to make poignant, but subtle commentary.

Bennani received her BFA from Cooper Union and her MFA from the École Nationale Supérieure des Art Décoratifs in Paris. Currently, she is represented by SIGNAL in New York. In addition to her solo shows at MoMA PS1 and SIGNAL, Bennani has had solo presentations at The Kitchen, New York and Art Dubai 2017. Her works have also been exhibited at Saatchi Gallery in London, The Jewish Museum in New York, the Shanghai Biennale, and most recently Samsøñ Gallery in Boston. She has also given talks at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston University, and the New School.

Artwork on loan courtesy of Signal Gallery.

Artist profile by Arshy Azizi for The Current.