The project, considered by the artist a work in progress, resulted from a research into the dynamics of succession, governance, and inheritance of power. The amount of legitimacy conferred to a certain name within a family tree often depended on the amount of authority the name holder had during his life. It is very common for families to drop the names of some of their sons (and most of their daughters) when they fail to serve the family’s history.
Harraki was born in Morocco in 1981. He graduated from the Institut National des Beaux-Arts, Tétouan, and earned an MFA at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Dijon. Upon returning to Morocco, Harraki developed an interest in post-independence history. He began studying those local and regional texts produced in the wake of a newly found sense of Arab Nationalism, extensive literature that have shaped the collective consciousness. It is possible that problem no. 5 emerges from a geo-socio-political yearning for an ideology in sharp contrast with the concept of dynastic rule.
In the Arab culture there is a famous family tree. It starts with Adam and branches out uncovering the relationships between all the prophets, before closing with the last of prophets Mohammad (PBUH). This is the family tree par excellence, and an example of the extent of branching out, depending usually on the prominence of a certain bloodline. Every ruling family takes obsessive pride in recording its lineage. These seemingly endless scrolls of ruling dynasties, when examined against the backdrop of mostly even governments, serve as quick illustrations of totalitarian stagnancy.
The last five names in the Hijazi “Quraish” genealogy are those of the kings of Jordan. King Fuad I of Egypt, whose family tree is illustrated using the real portraits of his sons, daughters and wives, is also the grandchild of Mohammad Ali Basha, the Albanian warrior who ruled Ottoman Egypt following the French Campaign in 1801. Along with his dynasty, he has ruled over ten generations of wālis, khedives, sultans and kings. The family was finally dethroned by the 1952 Egyptian army-led coup d'état.
The social injustices resulting from this systematic inheritance of power have eventually led to the 2011 revolutions around the Arab world. At that point, Harraki had just finished his series of illustrations and videos to be titled problem no. 5.
The video on show features the artist scribbling a problem. He is interrogating the value of (X) on a blackboard. The equation starts with (A) which is broken down to (A1), (A2) and (A3), and then from there to (B), and so on. An infinite series of letters and variables complicates the problem, which is initially a personal financial problem pertaining to the artist’s unmanageable living costs during his stay in France.
Harraki’s “problem” could be analogous to the Moroccan socio-politician Al-Mahdi Bin Baraka’s work. Back in the 60s, Baraka argued that the revenue from the sales of Phosphate in Morocco could provide each citizen with 10 Dirhams daily. Mahdi Al-Manjara, the scholar of futuristic Moroccan studies, describes the Moroccan monarchy as being an unsolvable equation. The justification of authority and governance in the name of economics, politics or religion are at the core of today’s events. When roles are constantly shifting between pauper and royal, self-assigned and elected, signifier and signified; the problem does indeed become an unsolvable equation.
Ala Younis 2011
Independent curator based in Amman, Jordan.
Mohssin Harraki’s problem no. 5 was part of Outre mesures et programmes radio, exhibition curated by Ala Younis for La Galerie, Contemporary Art Center of Noisy Le Sec, 27.5 - 23.7.2011.