Mounir Fatmi - Morocco-France

Musée National du Mali

History Is Not Mine (2013), As a Black Man (2013 – 2014)

With characteristic urgency and humour, mounir fatmi’s work questions icons and symbols of power and the ways in which they shape the writing and remembering of history. Exemplary of such an approach, the video History Is Not Mine is a response to the censorship of fatmi’s public projection, Technologia, in Toulouse, France, as part of the exhibition, History is Mine. In History Is Not Mine, two hands “type” with two hammers. Subverting the simple and quotidian act of typing, it calls into question the heavy-handedness of historical accounts and the violence that subtends them, here made literal by the weight of the hammers as they strike the keys and by the censorship that catalyzed the work’s creation.

Made the same year and part of fatmi’s broader project entitled Journey into Shame, the photographic series As a Black Man takes as its sub- ject the American author John Howard Griffin (1920 – 1980) and his 1961 book, Black Like Me. In the book, Griffin details his experiences as a white man who decided to darken his skin, shave his head, and travel for six weeks in the segregated Ameri- can South in 1959. The ten photographs in fatmi’s As a Black Man are bookended by “white” Griffin on the left and “black” Griffin on the right, while the eight photographs in between become increas- ingly white or black depending on one’s viewing position. As foreground and background collapse into the same flat and monochromatic surface of the photograph, these hard-to-read images raise questions about when and where race is―and is not―malleable. In doing so through photography, As a Black Man broaches the ever-pressing matter of how visual representation, and photography in particular, have long been used to delimit, circulate, and contest constructions of race, political representation, and belonging.

Born in 1970 in Tangier, Morocco –
Lives in Paris and Tangier

Institut Français
Ministère de la Culture de l’Artisanat et du Tourisme du Mali