A new show at the Barbican explores the aftermath of an earthquake
The Barbican is the perfect location for this exhibition by Morrocan artist Yto Barrada. The utopian housing estate, built after the trauma of WWII, has much in common with it subject, Agadir, a modernist city that was rebuilt in a similar Brutalist style following an earthquake in 1960.
It’s a shame then, that we only get to see rudimentary sketches of it chalked up against the blackboard walls of The Curve gallery. Centre stage are three actors performing extracts from a novel-play, also called Agadir, by Moroccan writer Mohammed Khair-Eddine.
It could be a masterpiece, but it’s hard to tell from the fragment of it on show. Shimmy past this and you’ll encounter a series of framed collages, tragic cuttings from local news reports reduced to domestic banality by layers of traditional gouache wallpaper. Traditionally woven wicker furniture hangs over the exit, casting sinister shadows on the walls.
It conveys the trauma of the quake, but none of the hope it took to rebuild afterwards and, in omitting that, it leaves out the best part of the story.