Moroccan based Israeli designer Artsi Ifrach and Moroccan-Belgian photographer Mous Lamrabat are the creative minds behind Artsimous; the collective with a knack for probing at stereotyped constructs surrounding beauty and fashion. With an air of the avant-garde hanging over their often almost Afro-futurist depictions of a modern and progressive Morocco the creative duo’s projects can only be described as awe-inspiring. Working firmly from a North African perspective, the creative collaboration of the duo culminates in utterly unique pieces of work that aren’t situated in the world of fashion editorials or even fashion at all as Artsi explains,
“I do not believe what we do is fashion editorial or even fashion. We play with the ideas of branding from a place of criticising it, we try actually to show that branding can be everything. We also through pictures try to do something that makes people, when they look at that, think. Of course in a very creative, artistic and humoristic way.”
As Artsi mentions above, projects by Artsimous often use elements of branding from Balenciaga, Gucci, Prada and even McDonalds as props but never as the thematic centrepiece of their work, and even then it comes with a caveat. Many of the branded pieces within the projects are faux luxury brand pieces sourced from the many street vendors and markets that sell the items throughout Marrakech. The statement; a somewhat sobering reminder of Morocco’s obsession with branding. Initially, I thought that this meant a subversion of the ever-expanding influx of Western culture and identity not only in Morocco but throughout Africa and well frankly the rest of the world but it would seem the Artsimous team have a different perspective.
“These are not ‘Western’ brands anymore as they are visible worldwide and exist worldwide. From our point of view, these brands are symbols of a new culture, and we use them in our photography to create the dialogue between a culture that we came from and the new culture that exist as we see it.”
Two projects come to mind that perfectly illustrate the views Artsi expresses here, Fake me as well as Fake you explore this very concept. The projects see arguably the most simplistic setups for Artsimous projects. Fake me is comprised of veiled women in all black with a simple black background and a multitude of branded packaging serving as accessories draped on or around the heads of the faceless figures. Fake you takes the concept to the next level as the very material the veiled women are draped in is in of itself made from faux offcuts of the brands they are donning upon their heads. It is truly a rather simplistic but utterly effective critique not to mention a beautiful paradox when taking into account that Artsi fashion label ART/C is firmly situated within slow fashion.
Faux Luxury goods and McDonald’s fries packet aside the work of Artsimous transcend far beyond critique and commentary on the modern landscape of fashion. In all honesty, their work has this incredible sense of immersion and authenticity that has become all the harder to come by in a saturated market. Colour palettes are warm, inviting and thoroughly engaging. The images have this ability to transport you to this unknown time in an unknown place and make you feel almost every element of the image itself. From the textures of the kaleidoscopic Moroccan textiles to the harsh North African sun beating down. With seemingly more avant-garde ideas pushing forward the work of Artsimous, it is only natural that the duo will continue to explore and unpack their views on the modern culture through imagery that is more akin to a masterful oil painting than a mere subversion of fashion editorial work.
The Carpet Seller