Project Author: Sara Ouhaddou
Born in France to a traditional Moroccan family, my dual culture informs my practice as a continuous dialogue. I began my career as a designer for fashion brands including Lancôme, but has developed towards a social practice, addressing the diverse challenges facing the artisan craftsmen community in Morocco. My practice questions the availability of design as a tool for economic, social and cultural development with a focus on the Arab world.
I hold a diploma from the école Olivier de Serres in Paris and have taken part in the French Institute Artist Residency in Morocco (Dar Al Ma Mûn, 2013/2014), Edge of Arabia Artist program in NYC (ISCP NYC 2015), CULTURUNNERS project in Detroit and San Diego (2015) among others. Awards from Arab Fund For Art and Culture 2014, Wanted Design NYC special prize 2015 and I also held an exhibitions of her work at the Moulin d’Art Contemporarian Toulon, France (2015); Gaite Lyrique Tanger, Paris (2014) and in the future Marrakech Biennale (2016).
Straight Out Among the Stars
‘Straight Among The Stars' takes as its subject the 5 and 8 pointed star; a symbol imbued with strong spiritual and cultural significance, and ubiquitous in both Moroccan and North American culture, most notably as the central motif of both country's iconic national flags.
Through a series of journeys between Marrakesh and Los Angeles, the project will bring together Moroccan and American craftsmen working in ceramics and glass, to develop an improved ‘star constellation'; one which through innovation in shape, material and context, challenges established symbolism, and generates new meaning related to contemporary concerns.
Motivated by a curiosity to adapt traditional visual language to future possibilities, as well as a desire to support traditional craft techniques at risk of being forgotten in contemporary society, Syntax will function as a connector of people and ideas across the most complex and contested ideological border of our time. The resulting installation, accompanied by a short documentary film, will act as a testimonial of innovation in traditional crafts; as well as an expression of my accumulated research and entire artistic journey to date.
Syntax is a long term project which aims to archive and innovate within the major geometrical forms: the circle, the square, the triangle and the star. These geometries form a longstanding cultural language used in craft, architecture, clothing and art across the Arab and Islamic world. Referring to the “DNA of Islamic pattern”, this project will define its own “alphabet and syntax,” by extracting abstract patterns, and devising three dimensional perspectives from the traditional two-dimensional aspect of Islamic design.
Straight Out Among the Stars aims to explore the possibilities of the 5 and 8 pointed star, as symbols of societal innovation and ‘improvement’. What's the next step of this star? A star which will represent the contemporary world? Contemporary purposes of a entire new generation of people?
The 5 pointed star has been used since Prehistoric times; Sumérian, Egyptian and Greek civilizations used it in representational art, often representing the divine or the sacred in the human. The 8 pointed star related to life’s basic elements and their infinite possibilities of combination; it's a very common symbol in religions all over the world from Native North Americans to Muslim cultures. These stars are universal and timeless symbols, used by countless cultures to represent philosophy, religion and politics.
When I travelled in the US for the first time last year, I was struck by the contemporary star’s use by diverse groups, from celebrity, like Hollywood’s walk of fame and ‘star power’, to institutions of power and control like the Police and Military. Reflecting on my research into stars in religious patterns across the Islamic world, I realized these stars had become a contested symbol in everyday life. There original mystical significance, replaced with symbols of “a national dream” or "Government power". For this reason, I began to imagine rewriting these meanings, to express a new moment for all societies to reflect on the star as a symbol and starting point for change.