Salim Bayri


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Tubelight nr 106, March-May 2018

Geopolitics in the eyes of a new generation

Menno Dudok van Heel

The young Salim Bayri has no optimistic worldview. Anyhow his alter ego Sad Ali (shortening for Sad Alien) sees the pessimistic side. With hanging down limbs and crescent back the Mickey Mouse-like avatar watches what is happening around him. The passiveness of this character is in stark contrast to the vigorous artist. He grew up in Casablanca and left for Barcelona in 2010 to obtain a BA at the Escola Massana. In 2015 he started a MA degree at the Frank Mohr Institute / Media, Design and Technology in Groningen and finished his studies last year. The connection between descent and the artistís development plays a pivotal role in his oeuvre, at least that becomes clear in Sad Ali Mapping the Place.
In eight years Bayri refined his art practice outside the borders of his homeland. During this period a refugee crisis occurred between the two continents. Bayri cannot do anything else than reflect on this. On one hand the growth of his art development was rapid when he came to Europe, on the other hand the public showed more and more hostile opinions on people coming from outside of the borders of the European Union. One may see this reflected in ďRed KnockĒ wearable (2018): a series of wearable objects that are clicked on each other in various ways. In this series Sad Ali is divided from another figure by a door. Depending on the type of combination of the objects one chooses Sad Ali stands in front of the door with either a bag of money or a large suitcase. Here the problematic view on (economic) refugee issues that is presented are not so simple as wearables that are connected to each other for pinning down the situation between wealth and poverty.
His methodology is innovative and renewing. On his website I found a work that gave an insight in the applied tools. Smart_Shop.obj (2017) is a digital file in which the artist keeps his 3D models that often play a part in his works. As if it concerns a huge dollhouse all kinds of avatars and artefacts are put on display ready for being inserted. Smart_Shop.obj is not part of the exhibition but it shows Bayriís modus operandi and explains Open Door storage (2018): a digital print with a height of several meters that represents the artistís studio with a multitude of objects from his smartshop.
It is interesting to hear the gallerist Kees van Gelder about his collaboration with the artist. The gallery is active since 1985 when the artist was not even born. Van Gelder describes a conversation with Bayri in which the artist asks some questions about what it is to run a gallery, but his answer is interrupted by the artist with his telephone that as a third person stays present in their conversation. The story about technology used by different generations is recognizable. Nevertheless it makes the choice for Bayri even more interesting if one realizes how many artists have been shown in Galerie van Gelder and yet the owner finds ways to approach the avant-garde. One of Bayriís most recent works Galaxy S6 (2017) exposes this chasm literally. It is a series of paintings that he made on a standard size of 6 x 11 centimeters; the size of his Samsung.
On Art Rotterdam Bayri was also present with his nomination for the NN Group Award (he did not win). Here I look down on a pair of shoes among parts of the installation. These appear to be the feet of the artist who comments on his work at the other side of the panel. How would it be for someone in his twenties and from Casablanca to be on this art fair nominated for the NN award?
Apparently Bayri touches a delicate snare. The jury of the NN Group Art Award is after all interested in the freedom that Bayri generates with the anxious culture that arises from misunderstandings between the Western and the Arabian world. Also it is a political correct choice: platform for a young artist who climbs up in the contemporary arts by means of the renowned Frank Mohr Institute.
Anticipates Bayri to fierce positions in the world? Or do we see the artist navigating sparkling of energy between technology and reality without making it truly clear what he wishes to achieve with this? The latter feeling comes over me, at times. Bayri abandons the real world and becomes slowly fiction in his art. For him the virtual world is equally concrete as the analogue, according to Kees van Gelder. The spectator may select one side or the other. For me the appeal of the analogue world is still the strongest and lucky enough the work has repercussions for the existence of physical objects, exhibited in the gallery space.