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March 6, 2012

The Marrakech Biennale is in its fourth go here in Morocco's cultural capitol, and though much of the citywide exhibition deals with photography, sculpture and the like, the main show Higher Atlas—installed in the never-completed Theatre Royale—is decidedly architectural. From a fully-erected Maine backwoods shack by Ethan Hayes-Chute to a massive satellite dish by German architect Jurgen Mayer H., these works of art must contend with the presence of a raw, unfinished building. Started decades ago as an opera house by the previous king, one gets the sense that the actual theater, done only in raw concrete, will never be finished. I had a splendid time wandering around the structure discovering installation after installation. With no information given about what each project is, who made it, or what it's made from, one had the sense of pure discovery walking around the building, like finding ancient frescoes in a ruin. The exhibit runs through June 3rd.

The exterior of the Theater Royale, which certainly looks finished from the outside.
The exterior of the Theater Royale, which certainly looks finished from the outside.
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Here's a glimpse of what the raw interior of the theater looks like. I mentioned the exhibit and the unfinished theater to its architect Charles Boccara when I met him later that day. He changed the subject.
Here's a glimpse of what the raw interior of the theater looks like. I mentioned the exhibit and the unfinished theater to its architect Charles Boccara when I met him later that day. He changed the subject.
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As a kind of comment on the unused theater, these neon abstractions of seats were at once inviting and flagrantly bright.
As a kind of comment on the unused theater, these neon abstractions of seats were at once inviting and flagrantly bright.
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Inside the main theater space was this massive bridge suspended by a red curtain and resting on a wall that divides the audience from the stage. But as the structure is unfinished, no stage exists. I talked with curator Nadim Samman and as he put it "What
Inside the main theater space was this massive bridge suspended by a red curtain and resting on a wall that divides the audience from the stage. But as the structure is unfinished, no stage exists. I talked with curator Nadim Samman and as he put it "What artist could resist a theater without a stage?"
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Just off the entryway was this courtyard stacked with traditional Moroccan glasses. On the stunning tiles we get an abstraction of a tea service—the elevation of a common ritual.
Just off the entryway was this courtyard stacked with traditional Moroccan glasses. On the stunning tiles we get an abstraction of a tea service—the elevation of a common ritual.
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On my wander I came across artist Megumi Matsubara (the only way I learned her name was because she was standing in front of me) fortifying her installation. It's situated on the top floor of the theater and the glass dangling from the doorway catches the
On my wander I came across artist Megumi Matsubara (the only way I learned her name was because she was standing in front of me) fortifying her installation. It's situated on the top floor of the theater and the glass dangling from the doorway catches the sunlight in the late afternoon dappling the interior with colored light.
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One of the more impressive outdoor exhibits was this upside-down helicopter.
One of the more impressive outdoor exhibits was this upside-down helicopter.
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On the other side of the theater from the helicopter is this pottery installation. Some of the bowls are full of water, some smashed, but all contained in a dry pool.
On the other side of the theater from the helicopter is this pottery installation. Some of the bowls are full of water, some smashed, but all contained in a dry pool.
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This is Jurgen Mayer H's satellite dish, which was made by Moroccan craftsmen in a similar way to that by which they make trays and tabletops. It's the first thing you see when you walk in and it's a lovely combination of the common satellite dishes on to
This is Jurgen Mayer H's satellite dish, which was made by Moroccan craftsmen in a similar way to that by which they make trays and tabletops. It's the first thing you see when you walk in and it's a lovely combination of the common satellite dishes on top of Marrakeshi buildings and the everyday goods of food service.
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Rather incongruous inside a tile-bedecked courtyard, but this shack meant to evoke rustic Maine held its own. Samman told me that he was looking for "artists and artworks that won't be overwhelmed by the architecture in which they'll be displayed."
Rather incongruous inside a tile-bedecked courtyard, but this shack meant to evoke rustic Maine held its own. Samman told me that he was looking for "artists and artworks that won't be overwhelmed by the architecture in which they'll be displayed."
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Here's the inside of the Ethan Hayes-Chute's New England shack, dirty dishes and all.
Here's the inside of the Ethan Hayes-Chute's New England shack, dirty dishes and all.
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One pleasure of wandering around the space was how the curators used the rooftop as well. This timber construction walks the line between architecture and sculpture.
One pleasure of wandering around the space was how the curators used the rooftop as well. This timber construction walks the line between architecture and sculpture.
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The exterior of the Theater Royale, which certainly looks finished from the outside.
The exterior of the Theater Royale, which certainly looks finished from the outside.

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