at MASS MoCA
Image: Yto Barrada, Tangier Island Wall. Photography by Brian J. Green, courtesy of Lower Manhattan Culture Center Arts Center at Governors Island, New York.
As a noun, a baffle is a partition or artificial obstacle that checks and regulates passage (of air, of water, of sound). But it is used more commonly as a verb: to baffle is to confuse or to perplex, to trick and to cheat. Over the past twenty years, artist Yto Barrada (Moroccan, French, b. 1971) has built a practice exploring borders, both natural and manufactured, and the tools and languages we use to navigate and outsmart them.
Ways to Baffle the Wind is an exhibition of films, sculpture, textiles and works on paper—of games, experiments, found materials that model, parody, and learn from our attempts to regulate and organize nature. Crab pots, cotton balls, natural dyes, and wooden blocks are put to use in the study of natural phenomena. They figure in both personal experiences and in scientific studies of matter and movement beyond our control.
The exhibition is a collaboration between Rivers Institute for Contemporary Art & Thought, based in New Orleans, and MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts. The exhibition includes the artist’s film about her mother’s state-sponsored trip to America — “Tree Identification for Beginners”—researched in the archives of the Amistad Research Center, also based in New Orleans.