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September 30, 2022

Field Notes: Jamila Moroder on LE 18, Documenta 15

Art & Education

LE 18 tribe: team members, guests, and friends posing with the restitution set up of “Wasteland” workshop at the outdoor space of LE 18. Courtesy of LE 18.

“Thinking Through Infrastructure: Water, Hydraulics, and French Colonialism in Morocco” by Sara Frikech in the frame of the Qanat Collective proposal. Courtesy of LE 18.

Chergui, yearly thematic publication by LE 18. The last release, “Food Issues,” was produced in the frame of Documenta 15. Courtesy of LE 18.

LE 18 indoor space where people are invited to sit, relax, lay down, take time to read a book from Moroccan independent publishers, or watch a movie from a selection of a decolonial cinema from North Africa. Courtesy of LE 18.

LE 18, “A Door to the Sky or a Plea for Rain,” WH22, Kassel, June 18–September 25, 2022. Photo: Jamila Moroder.

Field Notes: LE 18, Documenta 15
by Jamila Moroder

“What is the practice of continuing to be on this de-colonial mindset or not giving into the artworld pressure while translating our environment and practices within a stage like documenta?,” asks Andrés Villalobos in a poster of “harvests” at the entrance to Documenta 15’s Werner-Hilpert Strasse 22 (WH22) venue. Villalobos’s way of posing this question reflects lumbung members’ concerns about the loss of meaning in “translation” and a clear distrust of Documenta as a state- and corporate-sponsored German institution. Does the translation of non-institutionalized practices from the so-called Global South into an institutional space of the Global North amount to an act of betrayal? What can even be translated from specific contexts in the Global South into an exhibition with a forty-two-million-euro budget that is “almost a state affair” in Germany, to quote ruangrupa members Reza Afisina and Farid Rakun?

How can the animators of a cultural project space like LE 18, which responded to the need to create a structure for young artists, researchers, and students to come together and dialogue in Marrakech, relocate its collective learning platform to Kassel? The rooms of the riad at 18, Derb el Ferrane, a side street in the Marrakech medina that LE 18 calls home, are organized around a courtyard that is open to the sky, an architectonic metaphor for the openness that LE 18 aspires to. There, different collectives engage their work with themes ranging from communal gardening and the politics and poetics of water to Moroccan cinema and the valorization of oral traditions. Addressing LE 18’s horizontal and collaborative approach to research, creation, and encounter, Laila Hida, its founding director, considers an operative principle the question of how to articulate a place so that things can emerge.

Due to the exhausting negotiations with Documenta’s rigid bureaucratic apparatus, the precarious conditions of cultural work, and the difficulty of collectively agreeing on proposals, LE 18, which is not a collective itself, ultimately chose not to provide finished artworks for the opening of the exhibition in Kassel. In line with the nongkrong spirit of this year’s edition, which privileges “hanging out” over the individual consumption of curated presentations, LE 18 converted a somber basement-like space at WH22 into a “relief center” consisting of a living room with furniture gathered from around Kassel, numerous books and art journals displayed on desks, and a selection of Moroccan films from the 1970s to 1990s that are shown in a small viewing room. LE 18’s institutional exhaustion is palpable in its making public “leftovers”—material traces from past cultural productions connected to the space and documentation related to preparations for the quinquennial—that are intended to lay bare the process that led to this moment of rupture and LE 18’s desire to “undo” Documenta. The presentation is less a refusal or a non-exhibition than an expression of the need to question the prevailing definitions of exhibition spaces and practices, which are no longer sustainable. The range of various public programs initiated by LE 18—performances, conversations, cooking sessions—puts the emphasis on interpersonal exchanges outside the conventional social and physical spaces of exhibiting.

Read more of Jamila Moroder’s Field Notes review on Art & Education.

Field Notes is a new series of reviews from the next generation of art writers. Featuring texts on the 59th Venice Biennale and Documenta 15 contributed by students and recent graduates, Field Notes makes original connections between the work and the world and takes a closer look at what other observers might have missed.

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