Today from our friends at REORIENT we bring you Zöe Hu’s article on artist Soukaina Joual. Hu says of Joual’s exploration of meat as a subject, “Meat’s link to violence is an easily made one, and it only takes the viewer another thoughtless step forward to affix the MENA region onto that relationship; but Joual avoids the obvious constellation of meat–violence–Arab world, instead tinkering with a type of humor that seems almost prankish in how it addresses viewers.” This article was originally published on February 13, 2017.
Soukaina Joual is not afraid of blood, and doesn’t understand why anyone else would be, either. I know this because I spent a weekend with her in Fes in Morocco for an arts conference, during which we joined an organized group tour at a local horse clinic. Joual is from Fes, where horses and mules play an essential role in the economic circuit of the city’s old Medina, one of the largest pedestrian-only areas in the world. Halfway through the clinic tour, I wandered into a stable to find the guide explaining an ongoing procedure in which veterinarians were amputating a horse’s tongue. Crouching in front of the horse, staring into the silver sea urchin of needles and instruments clustered in its mouth, was Joual.
Flesh and blood lend much inspiration to Joual, a 26-year-old artist whose first step in 2017 will be a residency at Rabat’s historic l’Appartement 22, which has seen the likes of Mona Hatoum and Adel Abdessemed cross its threshold. Her art spans multiple mediums and often invokes the raw, the red, and the repulsive. Because of its vivid imagery, it sometimes darts into the territory of gore; but what makes Joual’s pieces so provocative in particular is the playfulness involved. There is an underlying gesture in her oeuvre that swivels like a weathervane between the fake and the real. A piece like Saucisse may have all the similarities and texture of a sausage, but it is deceptive, a bloody ruse crafted from acrylic and clay. “It’s interesting—when people see meat, they have such a strong reaction,” Joual tells me. “It’s just something that exists beneath your own skin. I don’t think I’m using meat or this image of meat to shock; it’s a way of expression.”