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Border town

Photographer Yto Barrada's one-woman show documents uneasy Tangier


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Yto Barrada started out as a political scientist, studying the roadblocks between Israel and the West Bank. But she found herself "taking more photographs than notes," she recalls in a 2006 interview. "There were lots of things with humour, poetry—what do you do with that in a dissertation? You're supposed to get rid of it!" So she switched to art and went home to Morocco, which has border tensions of its own centered around the migrants who often drown trying to cross the Strait of Gibraltar into Spain. Barrada's recent films and photography chronicle the uneasy politics of everyday life in and around the Moroccan coastal city of Tangier, where she lives part-time.

Her one-woman show "Riffs" highlights that work. It also includes selections from her series Iris Tingitana, or "Moroccan iris." As the title suggests, it's about plants—occasionally shot in ironic juxtaposition with, say, a crumbling building, but just as often not. There's a lot of simple, idyllic flower photography here, and Morocco looks an attractive place to do it. The show features work from A Life Full of Holes: The Strait Project as well. The title may suggest drama, but the pictures depict kids on a soccer field, people on the street, workers in a factory. Elegant representations of the quotidian, where there's room for humor and poetry.

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