In his works and research, Abdessamad El Montassir highlights the necessity of reconsidering knowledge and oral memories, in order to question the traditional construction of History.
During the summer’s lab, Abdessamad El Montassir makes use of the physical space of Le Cube in order to work on his projects. There, he initiates and developes in particular Al Amakine, une cartographie des vies invisibles (1). The latter is a project of art and multidisciplinary research that takes shape through the spotlighting of places that witness political and social events, and which are not included on official maps.
Thus, Al Amakine researches micro-stories from the Sahara of Southern Morocco which were made invisible by the official History. Orally related by the local populations, these narratives are about important political and social events that took place on those geographical spaces. These narratives are transmitted in a poetic language and constitute a rich immaterial patrimony and reveal an endogenous and alternative history of this territory
Nonetheless, neither a written trace of these narratives nor a cartography of these spaces exists; they remain unknown. Therefore, this geographical space appears like an empty space to others. It represents the temps despotique (despotic time) like Althusser described it. That is to say: “A space without places, a time without duration” (2).
Willing to culturally re-elaborate this silence and emptiness, the artist painstakingly seeks out these imperceptible spaces – their material trace has partly been erased but they have remained alive in the narratives – in order to offer new channels of transmission to these stories. Thanks to a set of photographs of places, sound devices, plants reproductions, and collected objects, Abdessamad El Montassir reveals the spaces that are carriers of these latent narratives and events, as he aims, on a greater scale, at creating a new cartography of this territory.
By this gesture, the artist draws what Françoise Vergès calls a “cartography of the invisible lives” (3): a highlighting of spaces that escape the official History and those getting constituted to resist it. In fact, beyond the roads and recognized localities there is an alternative cartography that is traced by local social lives. This alternative cartography shakes logic and follows the roads and paths taken by “anonymous” men and women. This cartography of the unpredictable disrupts clichés and questions presuppositions. By being attentive to whisperings, it provides for micro-stories a space for acknowledgement and a field of action.
Well aware of the fragility of these narratives, Abdessamad El Montassir aims to decenter, with Al Amakine, the globalizing narrative of hegemonic discourses by expressing himself from and through an additional space; one that is singular and located « outside » traditional maps.
This place left for the narration of the community to occupy suggests that the official cartographies are not the only territories of the living, and that things happen on the borders of acknowledged logics.
1. Al Amakine means the places in Arabic. Its title is taken from an eponymous text by Françoise Vergès.
2. L. Althusser, Montesquieu, la politique et l’histoire, PUF, Paris, 2003. Cited by Homi K. Bhabha, Les lieux de la culture : Une théorie postcoloniale, Payot, Paris, 2007, p. 371.
3. Françoise Vergès, Cartographie des “vies invisibles”, in État des Lieux : Symposium sur la création d’institutions d’art en Afrique, Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern, 2013, p. 37-45.