The everyday is one of Younes Rahmoun’s major sources of inspiration. Whether it is in the appropriation of objects thought to be banal, the use of poor materials, including rubbish, or reactions to current affairs, the artist lets himself be guided by what surrounds and inspires him. What results are artworks that are simple, sincere, often aesthetic, and that propose new interpretations of familiar subjects or objects. If this attraction by the everyday has always inhabited Younes Rahmoun’s work, it was in 1999 with the work Ifriz that this subject really appeared, as part of the exhibition, “L’Objet Désorienté au Maroc (The Disoriented Object in Morocco).” Comprised of black cones that were inspired by a variety of Moroccan objects, like the tagine dish, teapot, breadbasket, or slippers (babouches), Ifriz outlines a geometric frieze that spreads across the exhibition space. Younes Rahmoun explains:
Painting and sculpture do not exist in the Arab-Muslim tradition. Handicrafts and architecture are the essential forms of artistic expression. These are what I am trying to come close to.
It is my environment that interests me: the mason’s tools that built our house, the Rif mountains, its soil, its light, its colors, and the gestures of its peasants. It is of course Muslim art in the repetition of simple and geometric forms and, above all, the reflection about contemporary Western art that this art leads me to pursue.
For a long time, I only worked graphically, using drawing to search for an ultimate abstraction of the subjects that interested me. Then, as a student of form and the use of the traditional objects in my Moroccan culture (bundles, djellaba hoods, belts…), I began to work with their volume using burlap. Each object became a particular motif, a reinvented form that led to a series.
It is a work identical to the one I made for the exhibition, “L’Objet Désorienté au Maroc (The Disoriented Object in Morocco).” I created a geometric frieze with conical ceramics which spread through the entire exhibition. The form was studied from tagines, babouches (slippers), breadbaskets… it repeats until it becomes the abstraction that I am searching for.
The porcelain work, made with the matter used for numerous kitchen utensils as well as the bowl used to serve “harira” (soup), symbolizes the artist’s attraction to the world of cooking and food. For example, the artwork Misfat (colander in Arabic) is presented in the form of a terra cotta container with matte, white enamel, riddled with holes, and holding ninety-nine small balls made of bright white porcelain. The entirety is set on the ground, on a white square cushion. Younes Rahmoun explains:
In this work, as in many others, I tried to use very familiar forms, known by everyone and used on a daily basis, while also relating them to considerations that are far from their original use. Tea strainers, cushions, and bowls are elements that we experience everyday but which are, at the same time, very symbolic.
Cushions, for example, are what we put on the ground in order to sit down simply, but they also evoke sleep, dreams, resting the body and the spirit. The basket with bowls refers, in the collective imagination, to the nest that shelters eggs…
Beginning with everyday forms is a way to give multiple keys to interpreting my work. However, it is something that I do very naturally, according to the artworks and circumstances.
The works, Baydaq/Loqma, perfectly illustrate the way in which Younes Rahmoun reinvents the everyday. Baydaq consists of a white wooden table whose top, made of sixty-four small, square black and white compartments, recalls the board used for checkers, frequently played in Morocco. Inside each of the compartments are sixty-four compressed plastic bags, of which thirty-two are white and thirty-two are black, that Younes Rahmoun calls “Kemmoussa.” The work was inspired by Moroccan cafes, places of exclusively male sociability, where people gather regularly to pass the time while chatting, playing checkers, dominoes, or cards. There, people drink tea or coffee, meet with clients… all of this takes place on a table, this small space inside a large space.
Loqma, which signifies “ball” is made from a white sieve that contains ninety-nine aluminum foil balls compressed to the size of a palm or the size of a ball of couscous. The work evokes food, the balls that are formed with semolina, meat, or certain pastries.
The materials used in Baydaq/Loqma, notably plastic and aluminum foil, come from the everyday life of Moroccans. Materials only used once, they are used daily and then thrown away haphazardly, often into nature. With these two installations, Younes Rahmoun “recycled” plastic and aluminum foil. He gave them another form of existence, while emphasizing their aesthetic characteristics. Hence the plastic takes on the form of a small bundle and the aluminum foil becomes a ball that evokes couscous. Through this displacement, these two forms affirm their “independence” and openness to other world cultures. Younes Rahmoun explains:
The balls in Baydaq are enclosed in compartments. They evoke men in Moroccan society: they meet in cafes for business, leisure, or to watch television, but the only interest is short term, they don’t really speak, they don’t share any intimacy.
On the contrary, for women, when they meet to cook, it seems to me that there is a real exchange, the speak about their private lives, confide in one another, touch. This is why the balls inside of the sieve are free, they are in contact with one another.
It is also from media that Younes sometimes draws his inspiration. The work, Kafan, for example, is made of seven neon tubes, each enveloped by a piece of shroud. In its entirety, it measures approximately the size of a child’s tomb, placed on the ground, in the direction of Mecca. For the artist, the white and diaphanous light of the fluorescent lights under the translucent shroud sections symbolize the bodies of children who died during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, Younes Rahmoun created Kafan to pay homage to Mohammed Dorra, an innocent youth killed by bullets during gunfire in Jenin, in Palestine, in 2000. These tragic and heavily mediated images profoundly mark the spirits and still resonate today as a testimony to the violence of men to their fellow human beings. Asked about the engaged element of this work, the artist responds:
I am always seeking to be useful, to use what I know how to do in order to say what people cannot say. I think that I play the role of a witness, in order to mark a certain time. When I speak about Mohammed Dorra, I do it so that we remember what happened, so that the truth is not perverted, which the media sometimes does.