Mehdi-Georges Lahlou: 72 Vierges

October 1, 2013 - March 31, 2014

Paradis incertain, Mehdi-Georges Lahlou

Unveiling of 72 in the Wind: Saturday, November 9, 2013 - 2-4 pm

Brussels-based French/Moroccan artist Mehdi-Georges Lahlou spends part of the autumn at Lynden in a research-and-production residency creating his first outdoor work in the United States, a site-specific version of his sculpture 72 Vierges (2012). A provocateur as interested in raising questions as in making objects, Lahlou explores religious and sexual identity in his work, drawing on his varied upbringing and his training as a dancer.

The original 72 Vierges was comprised of 72 white plaster busts of the artist, each covered by a white Muslim veil, representing the 72 promised houris that a Muslim martyr can hope to meet in paradise. In its Lynden manifestation, the 72 white veils are hung like flags from 72 white poles. Outdoors, the installation's elements are in constant dialogue with the natural elements--wind, snow, the color of sky and leaves--creating a poetic movement in an otherwise minimal proposition. White, the color of mourning for Muslims and of purity for Christians, is also the color of the flags used to signal peace, truce or surrender under the Hague Convention of 1899.

Additional support for Mehdi-Georges Lahlou's residency comes from Galerie Dix9 - Hélène Lacharmoise, Paris, France.

About the Artist

Born in 1983 in Les Sables d'Olonne, France to a Muslim father (a jeweler) and a Spanish Catholic mother (a flamenco dancer), Mehdi-Georges Lahlou grew up in France and Morocco. He studied in Nantes, France, and in Breda, the Netherlands and currently lives and works in Brussels and Paris, spending an increasing amount of time in Chicago. Lahlou’s solo exhibitions and performances have taken him to France, Belgian, Germany, Ukraine, Canada and the United States (most recently at Chicago’s Defibrillator), and to the 2011 Venice Biennial. His work is in the collection of the Frac Midi Pyrénées in Toulouse, France as well as many private collections.

More about Mehdi-Georges Lahlou by Marie Moignard (translated by Philippe Dumaine)

Mehdi-Georges Lahlou is the enfant terrible of an art that does not exist. Or not yet, since he is in the process of inventing it. How to be an artist of the interstice today, when navigating between north and south, between cultures, between several media, between multiple intertwined notions? "Do not see the problem through the wrong end of the telescope" is what he seems to (omit to) tell us.

By way of a reinvented surrealism, Mehdi-Georges Lahlou has chosen to show us, as through a keyhole, what we refuse to see, know, or understand. With the dual identity that follows him like a second skin – given his compound name - Mehdi-Georges guides us in his interior world, sprinkled with his wild kid antics. He raises the burlesque to a high art status, playing with the symbols of the Muslim tradition, opposing them to the one, arrogant and showy, of its red stilettos. More than fetishes, these shoes are a kind of "animal totem" for the artist, both cathartic and vector of representation.

While questioning the field of possibilities forever irreconcilable, he invests his own body as a ground for reflection on the "sexual body" faced with identities, including religious, and likes to divert the signs of traditional culture to engage in a new "Muslim aesthetic."

His performances, fueled by his early training as a dancer, leave a bittersweet taste in the mouth, and the knowingly caused laughter can quickly turn sour. His stubbornness to achieve the wildest challenges, with a seriousness bordering on insolence, at the same time tries to downplay the thorniest issues raised by his work and to replace them, incognito, at the forefront: the clichés associated with Muslim women, nudity, sexual gender in spirituality, are as many subjects, both sensitive and essential, so rarely treated with such rigor. Because beyond the inevitable provocation rests, at the core, the strength of commitment.

"Someone told me that the wonder had passed," he writes, as a disillusioned child, in champagne-colored letters, or on gold paper. Well, not quite, since Mehdi-Georges is still looking for it.

More information:

Mehdi-Georges Lahlou’s video work can be seen on YouTube.

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