Episode 140: Modern Art and Architecture in Morocco in the Aftershock of the 1960 Agadir Earthquake
On February 29, 1960, an earthquake leveled much of the southern Moroccan coastal city of Agadir. Over the next decade, a new Agadir would be built in an avant-garde brutalist architectural style, representing a concrete example of Morocco’s newly independent future. And yet, this future is haunted by the trauma and violence of the past, by way of both the earthquake as well as colonialism. The literal and figurative aftershocks of the earthquake would go on to impact, in ways that are often obscured, various facets of life all around Morocco and beyond, especially with regards to visual and material culture. This raises the questions about the entanglements of human actors with non-human forces when it comes to histories of modernism, decolonization, and nation-building.
Riad Kherdeen studies global modern art and architecture, with a focus on the region of West Asia/Middle East and North Africa (MENA). He is working on a doctoral dissertation project on modernist art and architecture in Morocco related to the Agadir earthquake of 1960 titled “Spectral Modernisms: Decolonial Aesthetics and Haunting in the Aftershock of Morocco’s Agadir Earthquake (1960)." His interests fall within three main clusters of study: the first is in comparative and planetary modernisms via postcolonial studies and critical theory; the second is in the study of perception, including aesthetics, phenomenology, psychoanalytic theory, cognitive psychology, and neuroscience; and the third is in materialisms, ranging from the micro scale with technical studies of visual and material cultural production, including techniques, processes, technologies, and materials/conservation science, to the macro scale including Marxist/historical materialism, new materialism, ecocriticism, and systems theory. Riad holds a B.A. in Art History and a minor in Chemistry from New York University (2013) and an M.A. in the History of Art and Archaeology from the Institute of Fine Arts (2016). His M.A. thesis “Masdar City: Oriental City of the Twenty-First Century,” advised by Jean-Louis Cohen, looks at the urban design and architecture of Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates as a new iteration of the “Orientalized” city within a genealogy of recent urbanism in the Arab world, one that still succumbs to the imagined representations of the region created by European imperialism yet embraces those stereotypes to construct new narratives about its people and its nascent nation. Previously, Riad has held positions at the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Art Genome Project at Artsy.