ECHAKHCH, Latifa; "A chaque stencil une revolution (For each stencil ...
In Latifa Echakhch’s installations, symbols of the social and political are transformed by gestures that problematise their physical and figurative significance. Born in Morocco and raised in France, the artist draws formal elements for her work from her cultural experiences. Echakhch’s practice cites objects and motifs from her Moroccan heritage as well as from European and North American post-war art, in particular minimalist art and colour field painting of the 1960s. Echakhch’s installations also seek to provide a materiality to the vocabulary of politics, and explore how architecture and treatment of space can refer to forms of political expression. Emptying out her chosen materials of practical use and function, Echakhch creates in her own words ‘a state of strangeness and poetic transfiguration’ (1), wherein viewers observe their potential rather than actual use.
‘À chaque stencil une révolution’ 2007 is an instructional piece for a single gallery wall. (2) The title takes its name from an aphorism of Yasser Arafat (1996-2004), the first President of the Palestinian National Authority whose life’s work consisted of negotiating Palestinian self-determination. The title also refers to the labour strikes, human rights demonstrations and war protests of the 1960s, a period before the widespread use of photocopies, where carbon paper and stencil machines were used to reproduce political flyers. ‘À chaque stencil une révolution’ connects with these legacies of radical politics in the 1960s — in particular the student riots of May ’68 in France and anti-Vietnam War protests globally. By referring directly to the post war art of the Western world, Echakhch also underlines the disjuncture between the political claims of abstraction and radical politics in the 1950s and 1960s.
In ‘À chaque stencil une révolution’, the carbon paper is deliberately blank and devoid of inscriptions. Laid across the entire surface of the gallery wall, the work is completed by the pouring of Methylated spirits down its dark blue surface. This treatment creates unique variations in the shade and texture of the paper surface and causes traces of pigment that collect in pools of the solvent to dry across the gallery floor. With this performative gesture the paper is emptied of its rhetorical power, leaving each “stencil” to stand as an eerie monument to revolutions past. It also suggests the necessity to reinvent the apparatuses of protest: ‘Echakhch’s acknowledgement of past forms of political activities is respectful and passionate, but is inevitably shaken by the implicit consideration that when its tribute time, it’s also time to move on.’ (3)
1. Echakhch, Latifa. Cited in ‘Latifa Echakhch’, Tate Modern, London, 2009, http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/exhibitions/latifaechakhch/interview.shtm, viewed 07/05/2010.
2. ‘À chaque stencil une révolution’ 2007 also exists in two other versions – a complete installation environment of the same name and as an elaboration on this original installation that includes additionally nine pedestals holding sheets of carbon paper on which the artist has poured alcohol (‘À chaque stencil une révolution, une après l’autre’ 2007, translating to ‘For each stencil, a revolution, one after another’).
3. Robecchi, Michele. ‘Latifa Echakhch’, Flash Art, January 2009, p.94