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What role can the archive play in developing and sustaining a critical and culturally located art history?

Hassan Darsi
6 November 2013

Inventory of a reality: The case of The Model Project

Upon asking myself this question, naturally I felt the desire to examine the reverse process: what in art history and, more specifically, in the making of art, can contribute to the development of an archiving process? Could the two not be intimately interlinked through some creative process? Can some works, because of their form, their conceptualization, and their conception, go beyond the field of art to venture into the maze of inventorying, relying on documentary forms or representing situations and contextual realities?


The case of The Model Project.

At the very beginning of the project around Hermitage Park, a question immediately arose: what art form allows one to understand the reality of a given territory in all its complexity? The idea of a model as a statement of this reality became an obvious one, as much for the notion of scale that it can bring to the perspective, as for the work of inventorying and archiving of reality which is required to make it.

Conducted over a period of two years, the Model draws up very accurate inventories of what the park was made up of physically at the time, while at the same time bearing witness to the social, cultural, political and economic mechanisms of a period; the territory of the park itself being, to scale, a 'model' of the reality of a city or a country...


Thus, the artistic project also became a tool that allowed for the recording of this reality, and the parallel and simultaneous production of debate. It offered, at a glance, a form, while claiming the status of 'art object' which it holds inherently: the lost poetry of a place, the tragedy of abandonment, economic prerogatives, real estate claims, corruption, poverty, social disorganization. This was the formal, artistic, and strategic challenge of the Model.

Today, as the restoration of the park makes a clean sweep of the process developed by artists, the Model, inventories, tools, documents and archives (texts, films), books, and academic papers all participate in the archiving of the history of this place well beyond, more precisely, and in a more 'real' way than the city administration could have done.

Hassan Darsi

's artistic practice is highly influenced by his life, the everyday, and his environment, by way of processes of work, which use multiple mediums and often take the form of participative projects. In 1995 he founded the project La source du lion (The source of the lion) in Casablanca. Starting in 1999, Hassan Darsi developed a work centred around gilding, his material of choice being gold paper with which he covers objects - dolls, garden chairs, televisions, tanks, teeth - but also public spaces, notably the façade of an art gallery in Casablanca in 2007, the concrete blocks of the pier at Guia de Isora Port in Tenerife in 2008, and those of the pier at the port in Marseille in 2012. In 2001 he initiated the series Portraits de familles (Family Portraits), which from 2001 to 2007 offered the opportunity to the inhabitants of seven cities across the world to pose for him in his travelling workshop. The Hermitage Park project developed in the form of artistic footbridges from 2002 to 2008, marking the beginning of a series of activities and works linked to questions concerning the city, architecture and public space, including: Le lion se meurt (The lion is dying) (2004–2005), Le passage de la modernité (The passage from modernity) (2008), Le square d'en bas (The square from below) (2009), Accrochage zéro (Point zero) (2008), Le toit du monde (The roof of the world) (2010), and Chantiers en or (Building gold). Parallel to these projects, he has participated in numerous international exhibitions in art centres, museums and biennales. His work is on view in public and private collections in Morocco and abroad. The piece Le Project de la Maquette (The Model Project) (2002–2003) has recently become part of the collection at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

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