Saturday, December 11, 2010

ICI Casa, city of systems

ICI, Casa
Here and nowhere else

What happens when six designers from The Netherlands decide to come open minded and empty handed to Casablanca, in order to put together an exhibition from scratch, using the city as an instant source of inspiration and production? Between August 20 and October 20 2010, the project ICI was conceived and realised in Casablanca. Its title ICI, meaning here, refers to here and now, almost as if one would press pause in everyday life. At the same time, the term 'here' points to where one comes from (there). Here merges time, place and sociality: "Wish you were here."

ICI was set up as an artistic residency and produced new work made in collaboration with a Moroccan team. The residency was complemented by a program of lectures and workshops with local partners, which opened up the process to a wider audience and intensified the exchange. The different aspects came together in the exhibition-manifestation "ICI, Casa Resourceful City", a Dutch perspective on the city of Casablanca in the form of objects and installations. The article below tries to orchestrate the experiences and findings of the team during the eight week working period, in an effort to feed the discussion around the issues at stake in this complex city.

Our ICI adventure will be published alongside an essay I wrote on Casa's upcoming social and cultural challenges in the next issue of DAMn Magazine! Keep an eye out for it coming January...

Here is the only thing we have

I try to survive. I bluff my way through. I find ways around the rules. I work things out, one way or another. In hindsight, it seems that we took over the very dynamics of the city of Casa in the production of ICI…. They say beauty is a subjective notion, which prompts us to perpetuate it - ICI turned out to be an exercise in mimesis as a mode of cultural reproduction.

We wanted the exhibition to be experienced as a city in a city. Visitors would encounter a world under construction, that referred to everyday elements of the city – studies of another Casa: a Casa built from qualities, which we had encountered during our stay.

The exhibition was to be held in the former Église du Sacré-Coeur near the city centre. A loaded place pointing to French Catholic influences, unavoidable by its sheer size and whiteness, and yet wilfully unknown to most taxi drivers. For our process driven approach, this location seemed a dead end at first, mainly because of its elitist image –boys play football on the square in front of the entrance, but will never go inside.

Here you are

After having walked through a long alley, filled with sounds from street merchants, visitors arrive on a main square (situated at the back of the church). Modified street signs, see-through kiosks assembled from refuse metal and dispersed sofa's – stripped down versions of the Moroccon Salon – frame the temporary square.

On the night of the opening, local food merchants take over the exhibit and prepared their snails, chick peas, pancakes, mint tea and cardamom coffee just like they do it everyday on the market. A one day jazz gnaoua rock slam fusion band, baptised Mystic Session, plays on the public square in front of the former Eglise, whose cement steps had been upholstered with scotch-taped pillows. Passers-by, attracted by the music, are invited in.

In two weeks time, ICI is gradually adopted by its neighbouring students, who use it as a resting and meeting place. It's a big compliment to us.

Here to stay

ICI wants to stay in Casa. Therefore we've donated all scenographic elements to the Fabrique Culturelle des Abattoirs for future use in cultural events. Plans are underway for future collaborations, such as art directing a streetwise version of the high end Festimode event, and producing prototypes of urban playing environments with La Fabrique Culturelle des Abattoirs.


ICI was initiated by the Dutch Ambassy of Rabat in the context of the celebration in 2010 of 400 years of economic relations between The Netherlands and Morocco.

The Dutch design team was composed of established practices (Sophie Krier, Bas van Beek, Erik Wong) and upcoming talent (David van der Veldt, Sjoerd Jonkers, Dawn Ray), all affiliated through teaching and studying with the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam. In the course of the project the team was enriched with Khadija Kabbaj, designer, Jamal Abdennasser, producer and photographer, and Meryem Aboulouafa, assistant producer, as well as many artisans and students. Towards the end, almost fifty persons were implied in the realization of ICI. Local partners include La Fabrique Culturelle des Abattoirs, Casamémoire, KHK Extramuros, and L'École Artcom.

ICI logo & identity: Erik Wong
Scenography: Sophie Krier
Communication: Erik Wong, Dawn Ray
Co-curator: Khadija Kabbaj
Object and Installations: David van der Veldt, Sjoerd Jonkers, Dawn Ray
Assistant producer: Meryem Aboulouafa
Producer & Making Off : Jamal Abdennasser
Press Photography: Hicham Zemmar
Mystic Session Musicians: Hamam, Saddik Ngoumi, Mostapha, Jamaal Nouaman, Mahmoud Bassou, Rezki Amine, Martin, Abdesamad Rizki, Benoît Martiny. Manager: Tarek Boual Technique: Joe Hani

The projects shown above include:
- For the workshop "On Se Pose" David van der Veldt teamed up with Khadija Kabbaj of KHK Extramuros. The participants form diverse origin were to re-interpret the Rietveld Crate Chair in relation to the monumental space of the former slaughterhouse complex Les Abattoirs.
- During a three workshop Erik Wong and Dawn Ray worked with students of l'École Supérieure de Design Art'Com Sup de Casablanca on the spreading of the word ICI in the city, as an exercise in guerilla communication.
- Calligrapher Abde Samad Doumi at work on the exhibition titles, taken from shop signs all over the city and applied to the works produced on site.
- Kiosks, reconstructed from refuse metal collected in Derb Korea and Mohammedia, and recalling different typologies such as the butcher, the café, and the small riad. Blacksmith Lamjid Rourak, design Sophie Krier
- "Le Salon des Amis" (the friends' living room), a series of adjustable sofa families inspired by the traditional Moroccan Salon, which was an affair of taste, money and craftsmanship. The double sided textile used for the upholstery is normally covered. Upholsterer Bourga Décor, design: Sophie Krier & Khadija Kabbaj.
- "Au dernier cri, Qualité 1ère Reproduction": a blue horse designed to seduce an audience to be portrayed with it. Part of the "spray-cast fiction series", a technique developed by Ray. Design and realisation: Dawn Ray
- Hand knotted carpet from industrial rope named 'our', usually used to fill up the corner pieces of mattresses. Upholsterer Bourga Décor, design Sjoerd Jonkers
- A Moroccan version of the Crate Chair Junior by Rietveld, using local engraving techniques.
Engravor Mohssine Elyounssi, Carpenter Abdellah Lebchina, Concept David van der Veldt & Bas van Beek.

Special thanks to Abderrahim Kassou and Aadel Saadani, as well as all that made ICI possible, especially the artisans and the students involved in the workshops and the exhibition build up.

Facebook: ICI Casa Ville Inventive,,,,,

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