Related themes

Migration and Movement

Artists move around the world, shifting their identities, cultural traditions, and artistic techniques.

Autocar--Tangier, Figs. 1-4

Yto Barrada
(French, born 1971)

2004. Chromogenic color prints, Each 34 5/8 x 34 5/8" (88 x 88 cm)

Barrada lives and works in Tangier, Morocco’s northernmost city, separated from Spain by only 7.7 miles of water. The colorful, geometric designs of Autocar—Tangier, Figs. 1–4 might appear at first glance like abstract paintings. But a closer look reveals that the colors are derived from the designs of company logos, and the thin black lines are the outlines of doors. Barrada has photographed in closely cropped compositions the sides of buses traveling from Tangier to Europe. The transportation companies’ logos serve as a visual vocabulary for illiterate individuals hoping to cross the border illegally, each motif indicating a bus line or destination. As Barrada explained, “What I am really unearthing, discovering, and learning to read are the strategies of resistance, the ‘hidden transcripts’ of people who are faced with superior power.”1

Yto Barrada interviewed bus riders in Tangiers. These are a few of their testimonials:

Fig. 1: “Portugal bus goes direct, no stop. Nazarenes, old and young. Parked in front of the shrimp factory. One guard, but since he’s in charge of the whole area, he can’t check everything all the time. Climb in the middle of the planchas. Those who have papers go inside the bus.”

Fig. 2: “French with Moroccan plates. Migrants from Italy, Spain, France. Parked in front of the port near the ticket booth. 4 AM arrival in Tangier, 6 PM departure. Bring biscuits and dates, and plastic bag for shoes. They notice in Spain right away if your shoes are not clean. Bus goes onto Bismillah ferry, room for three small people under the bus.”

Fig. 3: “To Barcelona. Sometimes Egyptians are on the bus, not only Nazarenes. It only comes in summer. The guards are paid well and they change three times: one in the morning, one afternoon and one all night. They are always old. They have a television set. Room for two hiding places, one in front and one in the back.”

Jennifer Higgie. Interview with Yto Barrada. Frieze. Available online at
Jennifer Higgie. Interview with Yto Barrada. Frieze. Available online at
Elizabeth Rubin, “Castle in the Sky,” Vogue, June 2014

A work of art made from paint applied to canvas, wood, paper, or another support (noun).

Resembling or using the simple rectilinear or curvilinear lines used in geometry.

A term generally used to describe art that is not representational or based on external reality or nature.

Point of View
Barrada said, “The closing of Europe’s common border to Moroccans coincided with the arrival of satellite dishes and DVDs in Tangier. So everybody was getting this rose-tinted vision of a European paradise that was forbidden to them.”2

Waiting Game
“In Tangier, the desire, the determination to leave are shared by illegal immigrants and all the young in the city,” Barrada said. “Waiting, waiting to leave, is an urban dimension in Tangier.”3