Yto Barrada

b. 1971

Yto Barrada is a photographer and video artist whose socially and politically engaged practice examines physical, national, and conceptual boundaries, particularly those between Morocco and Spain. Since the late 1990s, her home city of Tangier has been the focus for her photo and video installations, sculptures, and interventions.

The 2009 piece, Northern Provinces, Tangier continues Barrada’s exploration of the Strait of Gibraltar, the narrow strip of sea separating Africa from Europe and the Mediterranean from the Atlantic and to which Tangier is located at the western entrance. As the Strait serves to both connect and separate Morocco and Spain, this geopolitical position has been the focus of a series of Barrada’s work. In 1991, the European Union’s Schengen Agreement created a unified European zone to protect the circulation of goods and people inside it, thereby partitioning bodies into the legal categories of “inside” and “outside.” In this 2009 piece, the harsh realities of the border city of Tangier are abstracted into a map—the ultimate representation of distanced control and surveillance—and thus suggestive of an additional boundary between legal discourse and its consequential lived reality.

Born in Paris, Barrada grew up in Tangier, Morocco. She achieved a degree in History and Political Science at Paris-Sorbonne University before studying photography at the International Center of Photography in New York. Her work has been exhibited to great acclaim and she has received numerous awards, including the first Ellen Auerbach Award in Berlin in 2006 and Deutsche Bank Artist of the Year in 2011. She is the co-founder of Cinémathèque de Tangier. She lives between Tangier and Paris.