Like a tandem exhibition to Teresa Margolles's show at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, Alaoui takes on a controversial subject and makes it the focus, and the message, of her presentation. Born in Paris in 1982, Alaoui dedicated her work to issues of identity and visual representation, and all under the aegis of her Arabic background. One among a number of women photographers of Arab descent, she expressed her concerns and inner vision through portraits and documentary photo and video essays. Exploring the cultural diversity and migration around the Mediterranean resulted in a series she titled Les Marocains (2015), and produced in rural Morocco with photographic equipment she transported and installed herself, often in a rented space in a souk.
No Pasara offers a wider range, as it goes back to 2008 and incorporates never before seen artist's proofs. This is also the first time this body of photographs is shown in its entirety, as for the longest time Alaoui did not wish to sell any of the works for ethical reasons and an unwillingness to exploit her subjects. She immersed herself profoundly in this project, conducting a research worth of an ethnographer. She captured the desperation of the young men who risk their lives, literally throwing their lot to the sea, which is an ever-present backdrop to the images.
In the words of Diane Charbonneau, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Decorative Arts and Photography: “Whether they are in black and white or colour, the photographs of Leila Alaoui are deeply moving. This artist was able to capture the mood of the young Moroccans whom she photographed and imparts it to us with consummate aesthetic empathy. She causes us to think about their social conditions in the most immediate way.”
Leila Alaoui: No Pasara
The illegal migration of young Moroccans as seen through the photographer’s lens
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Graphic Arts Centre Jean‐Noël Desmarais Pavilion – Level S2
1380 Sherbrooke St W
January 17 – April 30, 2017
Leila Alaoui (1982-2016), Untitled, from the series “No Pasara” (Entry Denied), 2008, ink-jet print. Courtesy of the Fondation Leila Alaoui, Marrakesh, Morocco; Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, Italy / Beijing, China / Les Moulins, France / and Havana, Cuba; and VOICE Gallery, Marrakesh, Morocco.