top of page

The artist as an in-disciplinary researcher

By Driss Ksikes


Over more than twenty years of artistic practice, he has never ceased to invent aesthetics in his living spaces. He has, among other things, participated in the implementation with the young people of Hay Moulay Rachid of a creative mural review, designed with the involvement of city dwellers a model of the abandoned park of the Hermitage, crisscrossed the moussems to immortalize by clichés of ordinary families, each with a fetish object, as he polished rocks in gold leaf that shimmered the European El Dorado for immigrants. More recently, he contributed with the residents of a sand quarry in Benslimane to save an adjoining forest, as an attempt to put culture, in the plant sense, at the heart of people's lives. Each time, he engages in a new “political practice of art”[1], without ever falling into the trap of political art. For this, he adopts the humble attitude of someone who seeks to learn, not only from books, but also from the people who live in the spaces and experience the places of confusion. After which, he seeks to put everything into an equation through a creative act.

Hassan Darsi has the art of listening, his head tilted, his eyes draped. His body is calm and alert at the same time, allowing him to bounce back, instinctively, as if seized by an emergency, to ask you to go further, to say more, to dig deep into your uncertainties to better face the thing you care about. He obviously knows, like Socrates, that speech is pharmakon, cure and poison, that only maieutics provides access to the truth that lies within each of us, that it is not infused science but diffuse consciousness.

He knows, as an esthete engaged in the city, like the romantic Shelley, that "poets are the unrecognized legislators of the world"[2], that they can only repair it by creating, for lack of being able to modify its laws. breeding. And since he situates his exploration/creation process in his city (Casablanca), then today the countryside (Benslimane), he approaches these welcoming topos not as identity places, but as public spaces to be reconstructed by the imagination and dialogue. His concern is to "nhabit the world, to see himself as belonging to a larger space than his ethnic group or his nation"[3], while maintaining his critical posture within it.

To maintain this critical and creative position at the same time, Hassan Darsi evokes the need for a paradox. As a prelude to one of the Artistic Gateways to La Source du lion, we can read: “paradox insidiously inhabits our lives, our social relationships, our environment, our thoughts, our actions. It is the opposite of received ideas, prejudices and logical certainties”[4]. An anthropologist, a historian of the present time or a cultural researcher, anxious to listen to common sense and to detect the contradictions and the problems underlying the whole, could not explain his approach more eloquently. Further on, the text specifies that “paradox is a link, a meeting place, a space for debate, a place of articulation, the very essence of any act of creation”[5]. Starting from an orthodox conception of research, as an organized act, formatted by a scientific discipline and corseted by rules, we could believe that our initial deduction was hasty. To tell the truth, the definition of the creation that he proposes, as being born in an in-between, hybrid, tense, open to the unknown and the possible, perfectly matches the contours of in-disciplinary research.

In his praise of complexity, the philosopher-sociologist Edgar Morin castigates, through disciplined research, "the blind intelligence (which) isolates all objects from their environment and cannot conceive of the inseparable link between the observer and the thing observed"[6]. However, it is precisely in this interval that lies the paradox pointed out by the artist. In a pilot experiment carried out together, entitled Houdoud[7], probing the limits and possible transgressions between art and research, I saw him at work leading young practitioners and researchers to question the subjectivity of their gaze and the complexity of the object to be studied or created, in connection with the space where they evolve, the temporality in which they are located and other contingencies that emerge from the immediate context.

In his practice as a model maker, Hassan Darsi borrows from geologists and geographers a few techniques, sampling, reproduction, scaling. But it is not so much at the methodological or technical level as in terms of attitude and ethos that he could be related to a researcher. Even if he is not originally enrolled in a scientific discipline? He first has a long academic training in art acquired in Belgium, but also a praxis of citizenship as a philosophy, in the sense of a way of being. This makes him a “reflective actor”[8], as one would say a researcher by act, not by status. Indeed, this multidisciplinary artist conceives research, not as a method inscribed in a protocol, but as an inner, embodied quest, as a necessary, existential process, a prerequisite for any creation. Because if the artist, as he conceives it, is the one who shows unresolved enigmas, it is important to remember that the in-disciplinary researcher is the one who, freed from the shackles and specialized silos, conceives his field like a series of puzzles to unfold. Both have in common the quest for realities as a means and the quest for meaning as an end. Even if on arrival, they branch off. The artist shares a sensitivity, which retains the right to mystery, while the researcher insists on elucidating it through discourse.

One of the eminent researchers, aware of the limits of discourse, to whom Darsi refers is Edward Said. He had the art of navigating between literature, philosophy, history and music. He constantly practiced side steps, shifts, to better define his object of study, fleeing, elusive from a single prism. His intellectual plasticity was imposed on him by the novelty of his favorite subject: the influence of Western representations and hegemonies on the conception of culture in general and of the East in particular. He justified his in-disciplinarity by forging the concept of "amateur intellectual"[9], who deals with what does not concern him, precisely because he does not want to leave matters as serious as justice between humans , as polluted by power relations, in the hands of experts alone.

Darsi, like Saïd, is as aware of the aporia of expertise as of Orientalism as a distorting mirror. And he is not content to translate it through his visual work, but also through a deliberate inclusion in his city, fleeing from globalized modes of representation. But unlike the American-Palestinian theoretician, exiled, the Casablancan artist does not play the public intellectual who appears at home. On the contrary, he likes to be discreet, to remain singular, behind his big glasses and his scaly frame, so as not to become a circus animal. Except that he does not shy away from his civic duty. He carries within him "a heightened awareness of the imminence of the danger that awaits us"10] and constantly seeks, through a fruitful dialogue with critical thought, to detect the places of its manifestations: an abandoned royal heritage (The square of below), gold and oil, as attributes of an attractive and devastating capitalism, the reification of bodies through advertising, or even television as a place closed to representations of plurality. And from time to time, he manages to bring out "public works" which, revivified by art, speak for him (on the Hermitage park, on the Aïn Sebaâ zoo) as alerts of a world who is dying. 

Through this practice of discreet whistleblower, Darsi is one of those rare artists, writers, researchers, amateurs, undisciplined, marginal, who seek to capture through beauty and show through action the disaster that surrounds us. He does it with joy, irony, nonchalance and rigor. Everything gay knowledge requires to stay alive.


[1] Michel Gauthier, "Portrait of the artist as a heterotopologist", in Hassan Darsi, the action and the work in progress, Ed. Le Fennec, 2011

[2]Percy Bysshe Shelley, "A Defense of Poetry" in Essays, Letters from Abroad, Translations and Fragments by Edward Moxon, London, 1840.

[3]Felwine Sarr, Living in the world, an essay on relational politics, Ed. Memories of inkwell, Quebec, 2017

[4] author: Florence Renault


[6] Edgar Morin, Introduction to complex thought, Ed. Seuil, Paris, 2005


[8] Michel Crozier and Erhard Friedberg, The actor and the system, Ed. Seuil, Paris, 1977

[9] Edward Saïd, Intellectuals and power, Ed. Seuil, Paris, 1996

[10] Walter Benjamin, On the concept of history (text written in 1940), translated and published in 2013

bottom of page