Muhcine Ennou is a visual artist from Morocco, currently based in Rotterdam. He is a photographer that has a keen eye for details and an ability to transform the familiar into an unfamiliar encounter. He photographs faces, moments of liminality and spatialities. I spoke with him out of curiosity about his most recent CGI Artwork which stands for Computer-Generated Imagery. The latter artwork engages the sun, hope and alternative worlds. Our conversation was a spontaneous one, engaging me as an interviewer in a reflection about that which I create myself, breaking and dismantling the hierarchies of silence between interviewer and interviewee. In that sense, our conversation moved beyond Muhcine’s creative process, and was in dialogue with the connections a body can have with temporalities and spaces, and the role of artistic endeavours in the making of the human.
Creating through CGI - Computer-Generated Imagery
For Muhcine, CGI has become a universe that provides the ability to control what is created, to juggle literally everything: from moving the sun to creating mountains. A playful tossing and catching of textures and tonalities. As elements move around, he tells me about how he now dives even deeper into appreciating the inhabited world, how things come together and how they can quickly fade away. Seeing and conceptualising the world’s beauty transitions to become a felt experience of cognition, of eyes kept wide-open in waithood for the pleasure of birth—the birth of a re-imagined known territory, yet one that is radically transformed.
An artwork begins with no specific end result in mind. Muhcine starts from nothing but an empty digital canvas. He tries out various angles and positions, anticipating the element of surprise to conceive an unexpected visual spatiality. And yet, it is not so much about controlling to make something precise, but rather about letting things come about in whichever way they choose to. It is a practice that reminds of an unexplained correspondence between a creation yet-to-come and a bodily presence that occupies that which is the present.
The point of departure for this creative process happened “at the exact moment when I moved to the Netherlands, I had been wanting to work on a project in the desert” as Muhcine said. Because the desert did not exist in his photographic archive, he wondered about recreating it through his own means and the skills he’d sharpened for years— often interrupted by other artistic desires.
Moments in places, but in which spaces?
Deserts are uncanny topographies. There is sand. There are dunes. There is very little human interaction. And yet these particular moments that are brought to life in the desert are not happening in the “void”, they are situated. The images bridge between two worlds and two realities: two visible sets of elements that have not been imagined to collide, or to exist in the same spatio temporalities. The eye is suddenly re-educated to not fear the emptiness of the desert. It is no longer associated with being lost. It is not tied to a local experience yet resonating with local identities beyond the national.
Observers will notice and sense isolation and tranquility which Muhcine considers to be a reflection of himself, but also of how his body had come to be in places where he should not have been, or that others didn’t imagine him to have access to. When reflecting upon his own works, Muhcine thought back to his childhood, to the oscillating threads that connect his current state of imagination with the fantasies of a child who was curious about technology, too intrigued about how things come together. At six years old, the little Muhcine was blown away with his first contact with a computer. Not having one at home, he’d ask his mother to take him to her workplace to use one. He found his way around it, and knew how to use it alone. He spoke of this moment as an initiation: a rite of passage to his voyage as an autodidact for the many years to come. Formal schooling was not a particularly memorable experience for him:“ I wasn’t particularly good at school, but I was brilliant in Maths which was odd for my teachers. I was also a slow reader. I think that I used to have some form of dyslexia but I didn’t know about it back then”.
He tells me about his appreciation for silence, and the space it creates for his inner thoughts to emerge as active motions that drive his inspirations. Merged with sight, silence is for him a mediator that traces unborn interactions of language within the topographies of the desert that are later visualised. These are moments in places, in uncanny topographies of deserts and silence, driven in their creation by surprise, always the unexpected surprise.
Floating while creating
A curious observer would ask about themes, colors, and patterns, how they expand and contract in proximity to an artistic endeavour, and yet such questions did not hold. Muhcine tells me that making art must not begin with a theme in mind. He is first engaged in creating the artistic piece, and only later moves on to creating connections and themed series. The end of a cycle of creation is often marked and disrupted by a thought or a whispering emotion. The threads emerge soon after.
“For some reason, I don’t particularly like the idea of ‘creating a project and working on it.’ I find that very limiting. Concepts are limiting. When I think of a concept, I stop myself from improvising, and I like to improvise. Concepts make me feel contained in a box. I feel that I can’t go beyond its borders. I like to create and frame much later. Go wild, then frame.”
Contrary to Muhcine, to go wild and frame is perhaps not an experience some of us can have with writing. Those of us who write for academic purposes are more often than not fighting their creativity, asking it to stay outside of the boxes in which they attempt to pour thoughts onto paper. Writing essays means that we are often asked to juggle two or three elements, and create something new out of them. Sometimes three elements are never enough, and that is perhaps where our struggle comes from. A process imagined as creative soon turns to one filled with emotions: we have been censored, we have been asked to separate our bodies from our work, to chop it into pieces, and especially not to allow the whole self to create.
Muhcine reminds of the potentialities of the creative process. He tells me it is a mindset, that his creative flow may not work for everyone, the same way other people’s creative flow may not have worked for him. But it is to the idea of “framing” that he goes back to, to critique the ways in which our brains have been conditioned through dysfunctional educational systems to think of productivity in tandem with time and clocks: that it begins from a certain hour and ends at a specific time, that we have a set amount of hours to rest our bodies and minds. That we must hurry, pick up our pace, and stretch the elasticity of time so that there is enough of it. Once our education within institutions is over, we become trapped in the same flow at work: the famous 9 to 5 productivity myth.
But how does one become comfortable with their own creative flow? How does one not lose themselves while trying to ground their feet in other peoples’ ways of creating?
Muhcine had a recipe to share. He had read many books about “creative processes”, watched documentaries, and listened to podcast only to realise that the techniques he had developed for himself were the same ones other people had been talking about, there was no novelty. Instead, there was intuition. Art lives in the body, and how we work around bringing it to life is also an archive situated within one’s body. This realisation had come to him after long pauses spent wondering about why one should need and seek the validation of an “other” to reclaim himself and his art. The way one presents himself to the world is the way the world perceives them. Muhcine tells me that he choses to present himself as an artist, and that his art is an embodiment of himself. That there is no distance between him, what he conceives, and the reflections of his artwork.
On the search for alternative worlds?
Browsing through Muhcine’s Gallery, one is invited to a mind journey from behind a screen. He tells me that he also travels through other people’s work: looking at a piece of art to wonder about the context in which it was made, the where and the when, and what was going on in the artist’s mind, what he was looking at, what he was feeling and so on.
We shared the conviction that art continues to exist as an alternative from our current realities— gateways to re-imagined worlds, re-imagined deserts, escapes that are more accommodating of bodies, ways of thinking and ways of being.
The desert stands as a place which Muhcine has never been to, a point he emphasised on multiple times. Yet it is place that cannot be devoid of functionalities beyond the ones it has been known for. It is rich. It is uncanny. It is limitless. What would it be like to have coffee in the desert? What about coming across a museum of dreams? Stepping into the sun? re-learning minimalism through imagined mutualities beyond nationalist lenses? The re-interpretation that Muhcine brings forward are also ones which bridge between what is, what is imagined, and what could be, making of the imagined and surreal a transcended visual experience.
The solitude of the imaginary
Futurity and art are both combined, in this instance, to reject linear time. The solitude of the imaginary is not one that dwells in sadness but in hope, and in utopic imaginings that give access to the embodiment of a different subjectivity. It is free, improvised, less crowded.
This constant search for an alternative in the desert invoques an abrupt teleportation that is timeless, and an immediate dialogue with silence and the sun, variables that allow us to re-imagine solitude. Being in the desert in the sun is not equivalent to being sun-less. We see possibilities, to step in and out of chosen imageries, to go while staying, to dream wide-awake, to wander while staying put.
It is resistant to economies of speed, and everyone is welcomed as we continue to be seized by the unknowable. Self-discovery is entrenched outside of the capitalist timescape, both through sight and meaning: of both the viewer, and that which the artist had poured.
As new frontiers of belonging, these dimensions are ritualistic: sipping coffee under the sun is a must. Would you care to join? Let’s escape together.
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Check out Muhcine’s portfolio and IG Gallery.