Brooklyn-based Meriem Bennani makes video installations and sculptures which deal with the hybrid nature of contemporary culture, shaped by the online circulation of different global cultures. Rooted in Moroccan life and post-colonialism, her work blends humor and criticism to reaffirm the power of family and home.
Bennani was born in Rabat, Morocco and was totally French educated there. She first studied art in Paris, but moved to New York in 2010 to study at Cooper Union where she earned her B.F.A. degree. She received her M.F.A. at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs in Paris.
She combines reality television, documentary film, telenovela, music videos, science fiction, animated cartoons, and sculptures in her video work. Her sculptures come from a digital world and are fabricated. They are always paired to her films. Her works show disjointed, contemporary mediation with moving images mapped to sculptural projections or ‘viewing stations’. A viewer’s head would go inside the station and would watch the video. She uses techniques of immersion, duplication, and remix to analyze systems of power in the world.
Bennani’s projects are documentary but also absurdist in a spirit of fun and humor. Since 2016, Bennani has been engaged in a speculative documentary, a series of videos about a fictitious island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean which is called the Caps. She made up a version of Immigration and Customs Enforcement that was able to transport people to a holding place on this island. A crocodile gives a guided tour of this place and is voiced by a rapper from Barcelona. It is fun filled and a lively, teeming place with overtones of social justice. In her 2016 installation at MoMA PS 1, viewers traveled through Morocco by video, guided by an animated 3D fruit fly with animation, and she portrayed herself as a cartoon donkey making some rare and pungent comments.
In 2017, Bennani was commissioned to make an installation for the Barclay Center’s Oculus screen in Brooklyn. This was part of the Pubic Art Fund’s “Commercial Break” series. She made a video of women wearing the hijab for Muslin and secular holidays in America. While humorous, she knew that women would see this installation in a public space, and she gave them a dignity and presence that they deserved.
For the 2019 Whitney Biennial, she used the museum’s fifth-floor terrace for cabana-like viewing stations in pastel colors, complete with palm trees, to show her film of six teenage girls from an elite French high school in Morocco. Her film was in the style of a reality TV show
In addition to the installation at MoMA PS 1, Bennani has had solo exhibitions at The Kitchen and Fondation Louis Vuitton. She will have her first solo exhibition on the West Coast at Francois Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angles in early 2021. Her work was shown in the above mentioned 2019 Whitney Biennial, the 2018 Biennale of Moving Images, and the 2016 Shanghai Biennale.