Tucked away at the top of Calton Hill is the old observatory tower, now housing an art space called Collective. The current exhibition – The Collective Museum – documents L’Atelier de l’Observatoire’s mission to encourage contemporary arts in Morocco, to initiate a Moroccan collective memory, and to explore alternative narratives of Morocco’s past.
The space is deceptively small; a palimpsest of sound and activity that takes time to untangle. Collective normally explores singular artworks, but this documentary exhibition is a timeline that shows the development of the group through individual projects. The display is alive; annotations in whiteboard pen sporadically cover the neatly printed imagery and text, making this feel like an ongoing project rather than a clinical space. The exhibition is a collection of experience; eclectic materials form the basis of a single ‘memory’.
In the first project, Mohamed Fariji collects traces of the disused Casablanca Aquarium; stamps, diagrams, and photographs present an alternative memory of the aquarium. Fariji creates new artworks from this collection and thereby transforms perception of the space.
Later projects involve the public to create their own history through interviews, diaries, and workshops. This art is created with, by, and for people rather than worshipping a single artist in a white cube space. The projects are widely varied – ranging from interviews, urban diaries, and community photography projects – but are united in that they are given the ability to remain part of culture by telling these stories. Contemporary art can be an exclusive discipline, but this exhibition brings real people back into the story.
But who gets to tell their story? And what is the value of a story if memories are skewed? The Collective Museum analyses these questions by challenging the received authorities of memory, including government, official, and old narratives.
While the exhibition explores in depth the complexities of the past and its relation to the present, it does so in a way that creates a discussion about the elastic potential of Morocco’s future in the contemporary arts.
The Collective Museum is at Collective Gallery until 16th February.
Image: Sean Pathasema via Wikimedia Commons