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The Mediterranean Approach

[mac] musée d'art contemporain de Marseille

17 February- 20 May 2012

The Mediterranean Approach (2011–2012) tried to grasp through the medium of artistic creation the profound originality of the geographic space where the continents of Africa, Asia, and Europe come together.

    The Mediterranean Sea represents a unique geopolitical system. From the west, where the Straits of Gibraltar link it to the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean extends eastward to the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus to the Black Sea. To the southeast, the Suez Canal links it to the Red Sea. A political and economic crossroads between East and West and North and South, the Mediterranean includes several cultural communities, each of which is the cradle for different lifestyles and worldviews.

    But the Mediterranean is much more than a mere geographical notion. A living framework of references for a set of complex models, an intersection of peoples and cultures, it is the birthplace of great civilizations and an open door between East and West. Through the eyes of the participating artists, the exhibition brought to light the similarities and differences that make up the identity and fabric of the peoples of the Mediterranean.

    The artists, using a range of different media, including photography, video, and installation, explored the most pressing issues of our times: the desire for liberty and democracy, migration, environmental and health concerns, as well as freedom of expression, thought, and religion.

    Over the different stages of the exhibition—from Venice in June 2011 as a collateral event of the 54th Venice Biennale, to Marseille and São Paulo in 2012—certain works were reinterpreted, others stayed as they were, and new works appeared to continue to nourish the public passion and fascination with this much-coveted area.

    The Mediterranean Approach included the Swiss photographer Jacques Berthet’s Les Oliviers (The Olive Trees, 2006–2010), an impressive series of portraits of this particular tree species, which, more than any other, symbolizes this common territory, its frugality and splendor, its resilience and wisdom. Berthet’s photographic project took him around the entire periphery of the Mediterranean, from Portugal to Greece, Kabylia to Tunisia and the Middle East, and Israel and Jordan. This tree represents an unchanging world overcome by upheavals, dancing in the sun.


Thierry Ollat

Thierry Ollat is the director of [mac] (musée d’art contemporain de Marseille) and co-curator of The Mediterranean Approach.

Jacques Berthet, Switzerland

Oliveiras, 2008-2011

114 x 114 cm, inkjet, pigment ink

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