Yto Barrada: Agadir review

Art, Installation
3 out of 5 stars
Yto Barrada: Agadir review
Yto Barrada: Agadir Installation View with performer Nick Armfield, Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

An earthquake has rocked the city of Agadir. Its buildings have crumbled, its people are wandering the streets in shock. How do you rebuild after disaster and tragedy has struck? That’s the question at the heart of a 1967 novel by Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine – ‘Agadir’, based on the 1960 earthquake that hit the Moroccan city – which in turn is the inspiration for Yto Barrada’s new Curve commission.

Voices fill the air (recorded, but performed live on select Saturdays throughout the show's run), reading lines from Khaïr-Eddine’s novel, detailing a people in shock and panic. Lining the black walls are white drawings of the modernist buildings that replaced the destroyed structures of Agadir. There are wicker chairs and sculptures dotted throughout the space, half therapy divan, half sun lounger.

Those panicked voices swirling through the Curve are tense, full of fear and blame, but the drawings promise a brighter future. It’s a story of transition, of rebuilding, of pulling utopia out of disaster. The buildings seem to say: ‘put faith in beauty, in architecture, and we can move forward’.

They’re powerful ideas, but that’s what they remain – ideas – because they don’t coalesce into an effective or affective work of art. The installation is dwarfed by the Curve, and it fails to fill or deal with the space. For art about architecture, it doesn’t seem to know what to do with the Curve itself. And because it doesn’t suck you in, you just reduce it to its elements: drawings of buildings, some wicker chairs, a short film and fragments of a novel.

It’s all too slight and weak, it doesn’t go as far as its ideas promise. You want to walk away from this feeling shaken, but there’s barely a tremor.

By: Eddy Frankel

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