CURA.

THAN HUSSEIN CLARK
A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC (AND REVERSALS)
Curated by Marie de Brugerolle

 

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Press release

As an artist, designer, scenographer, writer, poet, and actor, Than Hussein Clark creates work that brings theatricality into various contexts. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh, Goldsmiths College in London and the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg, Than Hussein Clark has to his credit around twenty theatrical plays and just as many exhibitions. He endeavors to explore that which eludes the dominant culture, whether through architecture, the decorative arts, or theatre. He decompartmentalizes genres, canons, and know­how while enlisting a variety of techniques: rug weaving, wood sculpting, resin, metal. A screen becomes a landscape, a window a painting, a coat a sculpture.

Equally active both in the theatrical field and on exhibition sites, Than Hussein Clark shifts boundaries and transforms the uses of objects and places. For him, every new project is a chance to develop research on art figures who have remained on the margins of grand history. For the exhibition at the CRAC, he takes inspiration from Tangier and from the cosmopolitan art scene that injected life into that city throughout the 20th century (William S. Burroughs, Jean Genet, Paul Bowles, Yves Saint Laurent, or the fabulously wealthy heiress Barbara Hutton...). The artist has produced a series of sculptures, images, sound works, as well as a logbook of a journey from Tangier to Sète in 2019 in the company of American poet James Loop, whose poems lend inspiration to the exhibition.

A city of arrival and departure, Tangier faces the Mediterranean just like Sète, allowing the artist a kind of permutation of the perspectives on both banks of the Mediterranean. In the exhibition, various decorative elements evoke notions of the stage, the threshold, and the boundary. Perfumes, windows, clocks, furniture, and fabrics reflect the city of Tangier through several figures of wilful exile, both European and American, who went to that port city throughout the 20th century, some of them in search of the possibility of exhausting their eccentricity, others wanting to experience the fantasies of elsewhere, or simply have a love affair.

In the first room, visitors are welcomed by a chequered stage, a reference to the Villa Mabrouka in Tangier, which Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé bought and decorated based on the theme “an eccentric 1950s Englishman”. On this stage, Than Hussein Clark has placed a mannequin evocative of the rich heiress Barbara Hutton, who moved to Tangier in the 1940s after a life of problems with family, the media, and love, worthy of a Hollywood film. This woman and her extraordinary destiny are represented by a dressed­-up skeleton, embodying a modern vanity no less than an extravagant lifestyle pushed to the extreme.

The exhibition also summons the figure of Jean Genet, who regularly sojourned in Morocco, and built a house there for his lover and his family in Larache, south of Tangier, where he is buried. The series of staged photographs that Than Hussein Clark created in front of the writer’s grave, and the re-creation of Divine, a perfume designed in 1948 and named in reference to a drag­queen character in Genet’s first novel Our Lady of the Flowers, echo not only the writer’s transgressive power, and the sexual, political and intellectual freedom that characterized him, but also his paradoxical reverse side, full of secrecy and confinement.

For the exhibition at the CRAC, Than Hussein Clark is producing some thirty new works, like so many perspectives on the city of Tangiers, including a monumental installation entitled "A Year in the International Zone", consisting of 365 clocks collected in Tangier: each clock symbolizes a day in the year 1956, a time of change marking Morocco’s independence and the end of Tangier as an “International Zone”, that is to say, a zone administered by the United States and several European countries. Than Hussein Clark’s creative profusion launches the visitor into a labyrinth of references and intermingled stories where exaggeration and a kind of extreme elegance are made into a weapon, where being a drag queen is a political position that makes it possible to escape gender and class norms.

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Installation view, A Little Night Music (And Reversals), Than Hussein Clark @ CRAC Occitanie à Sète, 2020. Photo: Aurélien Mole 
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Installation view, A Little Night Music (And Reversals), Than Hussein Clark @ CRAC Occitanie à Sète, 2020. Photo: Aurélien Mole 
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Installation view, A Little Night Music (And Reversals), Than Hussein Clark @ CRAC Occitanie à Sète, 2020. Photo: Aurélien Mole 
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Installation view, A Little Night Music (And Reversals), Than Hussein Clark @ CRAC Occitanie à Sète, 2020. Photo: Aurélien Mole 
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Installation view, A Little Night Music (And Reversals), Than Hussein Clark @ CRAC Occitanie à Sète, 2020. Photo: Aurélien Mole 
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Installation view, A Little Night Music (And Reversals), Than Hussein Clark @ CRAC Occitanie à Sète, 2020. Photo: Aurélien Mole 
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Installation view, A Little Night Music (And Reversals), Than Hussein Clark @ CRAC Occitanie à Sète, The Tragedy of The Confidantes (Hearing) 2020. Photo: Aurélien Mole 
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Installation view, A Little Night Music (And Reversals), Than Hussein Clark @ CRAC Occitanie à Sète, 2020. Photo: Aurélien Mole 
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Installation view, A Little Night Music (And Reversals), Than Hussein Clark @ CRAC Occitanie à Sète, 2020. Photo: Aurélien Mole 

Featured image: Installation view, A Little Night Music (And Reversals), Than Hussein Clark @ CRAC Occitanie à Sète, 2020. Photo: Aurélien Mole

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