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Reading Rämistrasse #145: Pietro Vitali on Tarek Lakhrissi at Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst - Akademie - Kunsthalle Zürich

Reading Rämistrasse #145: Pietro Vitali on Tarek Lakhrissi at Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst

In Bliss, a new lexicon of autofictional characters and pop-culture elements is brought to life. This intimate portrayal of queer experience intertwines with fantastic elements, delving into themes of self-discovery, desire and social exclusion using identification as an artistic device.

The three-act exhibition, Bliss, elaborates the artist's first-person perspective as a queer and BIPoC individual, ultimately encouraging reflection about race, gender and class. Lakhrissi's body of work deliberately avoids classical representations of queer bodies. Employing auto-fictional characters, Lakhrissi invites the audience to plunge into his own immersive narrative.

A swinging pendulum, Pending (to Karim), 2024, greets visitors in the first room. This hypnotic display alludes to pop culture moments like 'Charmed' (1998-2006), a television series featuring a trio of witch sisters. Its cultural resonance, as seen here, left a mark on contemporary queer culture and echoes in the broader pop culture landscape. Lakhrissi’s queer lexicon resonates with the generation that came of age in the early 2000s. The artist’s exploration of a sinister atmosphere, with elements like pendulums, witches and evil creatures, doesn't really evoke fear. Instead, familiar elements from popular culture challenge typical expectations of exhibition situations, creating a safer space for the audience.

In the second room, a red circular space invites the audience to watch the video Bright Heart, 2023. Witches and monsters tell a story of self-discovery and self-acceptance amidst a history shared by queer minorities. These creatures reveal secrets and truths about living authentically, guiding the protagonist toward their destiny. Through acts of witchcraft and courage, the protagonist ultimately surrenders to love and prevails over their oppressive antagonist; a mixture of fear and mystical elements intertwine with everyday life. One intriguing aspect of Bright Heart and other artworks in the exhibition is the use of mysterious creatures and monsters as central characters. These beings embody a mixture of kindness and immorality, serving as truthful representations of humanity in non-human forms. Thus Lakhrissi challenges conventional norms and perceptions. The artist adeptly weaves connections between queer and BIPoC stereotypes and fairy tales: witches take on the role of helping fairies and a half-man half-dinosaur character falls in love with the protagonist. In his portrayal, these traditionally oppressed categories emerge triumphant against the central character, who ultimately surrenders to their embrace of joy and love.

Ausstellungsansicht Tarek Lakhrissi, Bliss, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, 2024

Courtesy the artist und Galerie Allen, Paris. Foto: Studio Stucky © ProLitteris, Zürich

In the third room, sound fills the space and semi-transparent sculptures emerge from the floor. The curved horns, diabolical smile and enlarged green arm with long nails take on an uncertain quality in the dream-like landscape; the audience is dwarfed by them, immersed in the sound and colored light. The sculptures evoke a sense of ambiguity and anticipation. Thus ends Lakhrissi’s narrative journey, leaving the audience bewildered in this magical landscape, offering both discomfort and intrigue.

This surreal exhibition compels the audience to surrender to its enchantment. The visitors are ensnared in a captivating dreamscape. Each artwork contributes to this immersive experience, from the swinging pendulum to the haunting sound piece and the emoji-like sculptures. Lakhrissi invites the audience to dive into his artistic vision, becoming players in the realisation of his dream.

This space feels safe and magical. The experience of the exhibition is ultimately defined by the baggage and history the visitors bring with them, and Lakhrissi offers space and resonance to traditionally oppressed categories. Through his lens everything might be possible: witches reveal the secrets of an authentic life, and impossible love with unreal creatures flourishes. One can't help but recognise a stark contrast with the outside world, where marginalised individuals often lack the freedom to explore with such boundless imagination. Lakhrissi's work provides a platform for his desires to be witnessed, if not experienced, by the audience, and perhaps ultimately accepted and respected.

Tarek Lakhrissi, Bliss, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Limmatstrasse 270, 10 February–20 May 2024

Reading Rämistrasse

Geht der Raum für Kunstkritik verloren, müssen wir handeln. Deswegen schaffen wir diesen Ort für Kritik – Reading Rämistrasse – auf der Webseite der Kunsthalle Zürich und veröffentlichen Rezensionen zu aktuellen Ausstellungen in Zürich. Diese geben nicht die Meinung der Kunsthalle Zürich wieder, denn Kritik muss unabhängig sein.

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