May I Introduce: Mous Lamrabat
Sept. 9, 2019
Labels: May I introduce
- “I came across Lamrabat’s work on Instagram and was immediately struck by how beautifully he merged Moroccan heritage and Western imagery. In particular, fashion visual culture – sometimes referencing it, sometimes teasing it,” she says. “His images, with their vibrant colours, playfulness and powerful, extremely personal aesthetics, are the most tangible proof that when cultures interact and cross-pollinate, something unique happens.” (Chiara Bardelli Nonino via BJP)His works began with photographs featuring figures wrapped in colourful fabrrics, he explains. “I was with my girlfriend, and we were road-tripping in Morocco. Everything was so beautiful. I wanted to do something so abstract that it doesn’t have anything to do with a face or a body.” Playing with fabric in this way nods, too, towards his own heritage as a Moroccan Muslim. “I think for me, as a… I don’t know what to call it, so let’s just keep saying ‘immigrant’ – it’s important to talk about my heritage. Whatever happens in these times, I just want to show that we’re creative, we have such a rich culture. It’s beautiful.” (Mous Lamrabat via BJP)
How did you develop the concept behind ‘Mousganistan’?
This is my first solo show and it is about my recent personal work. Nothing was commissioned, all the concepts behind it are ideas that I shot in the last year. I actually never had an exhibition in mind when I was starting the whole ‘Mousganistan’ movement. (via Vogue Italia)
What do you mean with ‘Mousganistan’ movement?
While I was creating these works, I didn’t really know where I was heading to but after a little while it became something that a lot of people appreciated. They were always talking about ‘my universe’, that seems to be mysterious, aesthetic, absurd, surreal at the same time... I did my time working as a photographer in the Western fashion world, I figured out how to do it but I was always missing something. That’s why I went back to the things I knew best, from the traditions in my culture to the way I was raised. Apparently, the mix of these two is unique. I wanted to give this universe a name and by accident, I heard the song ‘Freedun’ by M.I.A. where she sings ‘from the people's republic of Swaggerstan’, which I thought was genius. And that's how ‘Mousganistan’ was born. (via Vogue Italia
In the press kit for the show, you highlight how you never visited a museum with your family: how and when did your interest in art start?
My parents were first generation immigrants who had 9 children. My father worked in a factory while my mother was at home raising the kids. So as you can see, they were pretty isolated from the ’normal’ Western lifestyle. It’s not that we weren’t interested in museums but we just didn’t know the concept of art in general. I think I was already being creative at a really young age without realizing it at all. For example, if you visit a village in Africa, you see a lot of creativity. The everyday life of people is often very artistic, but they don't label it that way: for them it’s just the way they live. After high school, I wanted to study something artistic because it spoke to me, and I wanted to see if it would fit me. And immediately a whole new world opened up for me. (via Vogue Italia)
Your Moroccan heritage and the Moroccan iconography are a recurring theme in your images but they are re-contextualized, blending two different contemporary aesthetics from Western and Moroccan countercultures. How do these different imagery and cultures coexist in your art?
The pieces of Moroccan/Arabic heritage and icons that I use in my work are often very regular objects that almost everybody knows or has an emotional connection with. Since they are so random though, people see them as everyday things that could never be integrated in artistic works. When we combine more fashionable vibes with these objects, a "new appreciation" emerges. It is as if they are re-valued and re-discovered. I am a fashion photographer but when I integrate these cultural mundane objects in an image, all of a sudden they become artistic. (via Vogue Italia)
You studied interior design: to what extent do your studies influence the way you take pictures?
Basically, it influenced everything: it was the place where I learned how to go through the process of being creative. There are so many levels of being creative and because of the very strong competition in school, I learned to find creative ways to divert myself from the others and their way of thinking. I still have a really long way to go, but I’m having so much fun on my way there.(via Vogue Italia)
Why did you choose photography as your medium?
I like photography because it is a fast medium. I didn’t want to end up in an architectural company where the creative part is such a small percentage of your actual work. While photography can be something where you are forced to be creative every day. In the last year of my interior design studies, I received a job proposal from a well-known architect. I had to sign the contract on Monday but my intuition was confused all weekend and that’s why I decided on Sunday night not to show up the next day. I already had a camera that I played with and I felt like I wanted to explore that medium - so I started to assist a Belgian photographer.(via Vogue Italia)
How did you develop your photographic style?
It started when I was traveling in Morocco with stylist Lisa Lapauw and we didn’t have any outfits left to shoot. So we passed by some villages and bought the cheapest fabrics and traditional props we could find. This was the starting point. While doing this, I realized this was a world I wanted to explore. Shortly after that, I met a Moroccan designer called Artsi Ifrach, who is one of my favourite designers and lives in the same kind of universe as me. We share a lot of DNA in our work and the things we did together were even more unique then the things I did before! That’s also why we started up our collective ArtsiMous - to expand our shared universe.(via Vogue Italia)
What do you think about the issue of representation and the lack of diversity in art and fashion today?
It’s already better than a couple of years ago. I like the fact that there are brands out there that think about this issue and try to do something about it. But yes, there is still a lot of work to be done to put more diversity in the art and fashion world. There are so many beautiful ethnicities, shapes, colours out there and everyone needs to be able to look up to someone they can relate to. For example: I’m a Moroccan Muslim and if I see someone with a similar background like me, who gets respect for what he or she does, it makes me proud of where we come from and who we are. If I see a Muslim girl on the cover of a magazine, it feels like we also matter. And that goes for anyone who needs a different role model than the average role models we have been seeing for so long now. (via Vogue Italia)
Do you think your work is political?
I hope so. I try to make a difference in how people look at ethnicities or fashion and try to lift the judgement that is often inside people’s head. I really want to show the creativity that lives inside the culture where I come from. It runs through our veins. But sadly that is not what people associate us with. And that is exactly why I push myself every day to show them wrong.(via Vogue Italia)
What is the role of the artist in a time where populism and extremism are on the rise?
Personally I always felt like fashion and art were something from and for a selected kind of people. The chosen ones who get a lot of opportunities. I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt like this. With my work, I want to show that it is possible, no matter where you come from or who you are, to make a difference and be respected. When it comes to far right extremism I choose to defeat the prejudices that people have about me (or us in general) with love and my ability to show them wrong. I don’t think you can convince a true racist to change his mind about these issues, but still there is a big crowd of people that don’t expect this from someone like me. Sometimes when I tell people what I do, you can see the change of reaction when they realize it’s my work, because often they don’t expect that from me. It’s funny but at the same time it’s also really sad that I have to earn their respect first. (via Vogue Italia)
Do you think that fashion photography can have a social impact?
I think that at the moment fashion has one of the biggest impacts because of social media. Almost every celebrity has something to do with fashion and in that way it reaches a lot of people. If 2pac was still alive, he would probably be the face of Gucci or Vuitton, which was not the case some years ago. So what I’m trying to say is that fashion can have a social impact but you have to get a chance to be seen. (This is actually more about my vision on the social impact of fashion.) About fashion photography… it depends what the brand wants to stand for and how they bring it to the public. I think brands need to be more artistic, campaigns and editorials should be more surprising when it comes to concepts or the faces they use. I really have a lot of respect for brands that try to push those boundaries, for example the brand Daily Paper from The Netherlands, which I love.(via Vogue Italia)
What about your work: what kind of impact do you hope to have with it?
To make the world a more loving, respectful and beautiful place :) I want to put ‘us’ in a better spotlight. I’m Moroccan, I’m a Muslim, I’m African, people see me as Arabic, so that is like 4 minorities into one! Whatever I do as a person or an artist, I’m always representing those minorities without even having a choice. (via Vogue Italia)
What is provocative now?
For me, being provocative means trying to succeed in what I do. So the fact that I would be successful as a photographer is more provocative than the images themselves. My work is all made with a good vibe, a lot of humour and a good message. Of course, everybody interprets it in a different way so it happens sometimes that I step on someone's toes. This is mostly because I play with a subject that is so sensitive - but my goal is never to provoke!(via Vogue Italia)
Do you have any master you look up to?
Since I’m self-taught, I didn’t really have a lot of masters to educate me. But I do look up to certain artists that do great things, for instance Nabil Elderkin and JR were the first reason why I bought my first camera. And obviously Helmut Newton because he didn’t give a f*** and he taught me that it’s not about the camera you own but about what you create in front of your lens. (via Vogue Italia)