HICHAM BERRADA

by Jonathan Openshaw | July 18, 2013
http://postmatter.com/#/currents/hicham-berrada/


HICHAM BERRADA
by Jonathan Openshaw | July 18, 2013

SEEN THROUGH SHORT FILMS OR STILLS, HICHAM BERRADA'S PERFORMANCE SERIES PRESAGE USES ACID AND CHEMICALS TO CREATE A SEETHING, EVOLVING ECOSYSTEM.The performances in this series are in fact carefully composed chemical reactions, taking place within glass jars of acid mixed with water.  Roughly translating into English as 'premonition' – but with connotations of an endless loop of past and present, of images and matter – Berrada's Presage is a powerful engagement with themes of creation and decay. "The series is a way of exploring the idea that everything we do already exists, that we actually create nothing," says Berrada from his studio outside Paris. "Atoms are finite, and although we can help to combine them in certain ways, ultimately they will be dismantled and recycled".The microscopic worlds created by Berrada become a kind of chemical theatre for a more autogenic action to unfold. The artist's hand guides the process, but cannot fully control it. "I try to be an energy manager. I activate a natural process that already exists, and I try to enter into this the natural process, but ultimately the actors in the piece are molecular". Extensive research drew Berrada to use over 40 different chemicals in Presage, each reacting in a unique way to the acidic environment, composed with as much thought and care as you would find with a more traditional painter or sculptor.Science looms large in Berrada's work, but he refuses to be pigeonholed as science-art. "I don't actually see the link to science in my work, so much as the link to nature," he explains. "I think that western culture has taken a position of distance from nature, we think that we are a step remove from it. We try to create spaces where we can regulate the wind, the heat, the light – to prove we are apart from nature"."In the last century science has taken on this bizarre place in our culture – a position of extreme power. If scientists say 'stop eating this thing' then people will stop, and if five years later they say: 'actually, you can eat this thing again' then everyone will eat. It's an extreme form of power, so much more persuasive because it claims a distance and rationality. It has really taken on the position held by the church before, it has a blinding effect that commands total belief".

This separation and elevation of science into a dogmatic power base to rival the religions of old is an underlying current to Berrada's practice, and one that he implicitly challenges. "I think it's bizarre, because most great scientists do not think this way at all. They are sure of nothing, and the more they learn, the more they know that they don't know much"."Science was the culture I grew up in," Berrada explains of his childhood in Morocco, "both my parents were scientists and there were more books about scientific discoveries in our house than there were on literature".

It wasn't until he moved to Paris to study at the École des Beaux-Arts that he began to explore art theory in any serious sense. "I was interested in looking at science not as a theme in my art, but really as form of culture in itself. For me it's not so much a tool – I don't like to use the tools of the laboratory, or of scientific imagery. It's much more a form of culture in its own right. For example, I like movies, but I like knowing things about science. These are the same thing in my mind".

Just as the chemicals warp and bloom in Berrada's almost claustrophobic spaces, beautiful with no real hope of escape, so too do the artificial categories of mannered Western culture – blurring into a sludge where science, art and magic
blend are one.