In A Raft, Yto Barrada—an artist known for her multidisciplinary investigations of cultural phenomena and historical narratives—explores how artworks can provide models for reimagining relationships and alternative ways of being in our world.
In this latest iteration of MoMA’s Artist’s Choice exhibition series, Barrada has gathered works from the Museum’s collection that resonate with the ideas and work of French social work pioneer and writer Fernand Deligny (1913–1996). Barrada’s exploration centers on Deligny’s work from the late 1960s, when he lived together with other volunteers and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities in an informal network in rural France; this was an attempt to create a new way of living “outside language,” adapted for the nonverbal children. Deligny called this independent project “a raft,” envisioning it as lightweight and maneuverable, and requiring constant maintenance—an alternative to the “cargo ships” of the psychiatric institutions. Particularly resonant today, Deligny’s emancipatory ideas are being rediscovered widely, by philosophers, psychoanalysts, anthropologists, filmmakers, and artists.
Renewed interest in Deligny’s life’s work is largely due to his publishers Sandra Alvarez de Toledo and Anaïs Masson, Barrada’s longtime friends with whom she has collaborated closely on this exhibition. For Barrada, “Deligny’s search for new maps and modes of being represent a vital heritage for artists.” In bringing together selected works by artists including Anni Albers, Vito Acconci, Louise Bourgeois, Lygia Clark, David Hammons, and Bruce Nauman with films, maps, writing, and photographs that document Deligny’s revolutionary project, Barrada invites us to consider art in relationship to language in ways that might inspire us elsewhere in our lives.