Through film, photography, sculpture, and installation, artist Yto Barrada investigates the relationship between images and objects in their cultural and historical presentations. Constantly mining and uncovering material from a diverse range of subjects and sites—personal narratives, myths, educational graphics, textile history, geology, and paleontology—Barrada’s work unearths and explores the hidden and overlooked traces of the periphery.
Barrada’s exhibition title, Klaatu Barrada Nikto, is inspired by a key line in the 1951 science-fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still. Functioning as a shibboleth, magical incantation, and a code for action, the untranslatable phrase was adapted by Barrada as an entry point for her AAM exhibition—a constellation of works that directly addresses the shifting notions of authenticity and tradition. Employing key aspects of museum exhibition practices, from the readymade to the vitrine, Barrada questions the construction of narrative and how histories are communicated, taught, and embodied within the context of their display.
Geological Time Scale (mid-twentieth century), a pile of brightly colored Berber carpets on the floor, is juxtaposed with a series of color photograms, silkscreen prints of stacked dinosaurs, and punctuated by Museum Vitrine, a collection of fakes and shapes (2015), a magnificent, freestanding mahogany cabinet filled with objects. Functioning like building blocks, the collection of works blurs and fuses geological mapping conventions with traditional textile and printing techniques and materials. Navigating the tenuous, nuanced space between fact and fiction, Barrada asks us to consider history as a shared field of stories, open to imagination and interpretation.