In installation and durational performance Best Western, the artists create a scene aesthetically derived from their studies of Orientalist Western paintings. Reacting to the perpetuated stereotypes of “exotic” women, Mamou and Salmon present a contemporary tableau vivant in which they are the subjects. A steam-to-water distiller (similar to a perfume distiller), made from a pressure cooker and copper pipe, runs in the space. It is continuously extracting the smell from eight travel guidebooks about Morocco in the form of hydrosol, or scented water. Over the course of three hours, this steaming scented water drips onto Salmon’s skin, imbuing her with the scent of the travel guides. Mamou monitors the scene, dressed in a blue gingham robe (tailored by Mr. Abdelmajid Lahouaouzi), as she smokes Marlboro cigarettes.
Through their use of materials, the artists reference the 20th-century American Dream of simplicity, wholesomeness, and family values. Their actions conversely and self-critically examine the Western fascination in the “exotic” cultures of North Africa and the Middle East.
The traveler of the past, seeking adventure in “foreign” lands, is replaced by the contemporary tourist, whose desire for luxurious experiences and souvenirs overruns cities such as Marrakech. “Best Western” explores the ever-evolving roles of the international artist in such scenarios who occupy both spheres as self-critic and unavoidable tourist.