Park Nights 2018: Meriem Bennani, Avatar Idol
Meriem Bennani, with musician and composer Flavien Berger, devised Avatar Idol, a live virtual dance battle, integrating motion-capture technology, 3D animation and a digital avatar. This freestyle dance-off traced the artist’s interlaced focus on the vernacular and traditional representation of North-African culture and globalised popular culture.
Meriem Bennani (born in Rabat, Morocco, lives and works in New York City) has been developing a shape-shifting practice of films, installations and immersive environments, interlacing references to globalized popular culture (music, reality TV, fashion) with the vernacular and traditional representation of her native Morocco’s culture and visual aesthetics that she captures with her iPhone. Composed with a wry humour and a subtle agility to misappropriate the clichés of North-African culture, Bennani’s work questions our contemporary society and its fractured identities, gender issues and ubiquitous dominance of digital technologies. Music and dance are at the core of Bennani’s video work, such as in the animation iButt (2015) where an apple shakes to the sound of belly dance music; or her recent solo exhibition Siham & Hafida at The Kitchen in New York. Female presence is a very strong element throughout her visual realm, and particular the female characters of her family who are featured in most of her pieces. In Fardaous Funjab, a satire based on a reality TV show depicting a hijab designer, the main character is played by her mother, and, in Fly, she captures her grandma and aunt. The tools that Meriem Bennani uses in her work, such as humour and détournement, are in fact deeply engaged ways of dealing with identity politics, but with an infinite sense of distance and self-derision. Her recent solo shows include: Ghariba, Art Dubai, Dubai (2017); FLY, MoMA PS1, New York (2016); Gradual Kingdom, Signal Gallery, Brooklyn (2015); and Fardaous Funjab, Stream Gallery, New York (2015). Her work has also been shown internationally in group exhibitions including Commercial Break, Public Art Fund, New York (2017); Flying House, Shanghai Biennale (2016); Reality Bytes, Frank F. Yang Art & Education Foundation, Shenzhen (2016); We Dance, We Smoke, We Kiss, Flax Fahrenheit, LA (2016); Unorthodox, The Jewish Museum, New York (2016); ARA-B-LESS ?, Saatchi Gallery, London (2015); Surface Support, SIGNAL, Brooklyn (2015); NEWD Art Show, The 1896, New York (2015); Kick in the Door, MANA Contemporary, New Jersey (2015); UOVO x NEWD, Freehand, Miami (2014); Paste, Brooklyn (2014); and Humain trop humain, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2014).
Park Nights is the Serpentine’s experimental, interdisciplinary live platform, programmed for the Galleries’ annual architectural commission, the Serpentine Pavilion.