PARIS: “Somewhere between silence and words” revives memories of a trip to Algeria made by Florian Gaite, philosopher, art critic and curator of the exhibition which runs until November 28, 2021 at the Maison des Arts Malakoff centers in Paris.
The exhibit “seeks to convey the voices and silence that characterize Algeria so well,” Gaité told Arab News in France.
“It is an attentive ear beyond the Mediterranean. Algeria is a country as well known as it is unknown, and whose complexity – social, political and historical – is equivalent to the cultural diversity expressed there.
Gaite said he set up the project before the Hirak movement and the widespread protests in Algeria in early 2019.
“It upset my vision of the Algerian scene, a country that I did not know, and on which I had prejudices and preconceived ideas from an exclusively Western reading,” he added.
“When I arrived in Algeria, I realized that the sensitive and sensory experience felt there was made up of two extremes. On the one hand, it is an extremely talkative country, where several languages are spoken, a kind of linguistic tinkering. The same language is not spoken from city to city or between generations.
“The older generation speaks Amazigh, their children speak French and Arabic, and the younger generation is more Arabic and English oriented. This stratification of languages seemed crazy to me because in Algeria, there is also a lot of silence. It is a country where people whisper, where there is modesty, ”he said.
Gaite said Algeria is a country “marked by many traumas and by a form of detention” because the same injuries are not discussed between generations.
“There are two pitfalls that I wanted to avoid: The first is to place myself as a Western critic coming to evoke the Algerian artistic scene, in which I am not specialized. The second consisted in choosing artists as simple mediators to bear witness to the Algerian. artistic scene. In fact, they know their country better than I do and their testimonies are more accurate and authentic.
According to the organizer of the exhibition, colonization, Islamism and state authoritarianism are among the many traumas in contemporary Algerian history.
“These are a series of causes, prohibitions, denials, repressions that hinder speech and often prevent its transcription in the form of a story. The presence of the testimony and documentary function in contemporary Algerian art thus responds to this need to bear witness to the past as well as the present – colonization, the war of liberation, socialism, the black decade, the Bouteflika era, the Hirak – and to propose rewritings, to exhume what has been erased or falsified, to give a voice to all that is forgotten, ”he declared.
“Somewhere between silence and words” brings together artists born, living or working in Algeria, including Louisa Babari, Adel Bentounsi, Walid Bouchouchi, Fatima Chafaa, Dalila Dalleas Bouzar, Mounir Gouri, Fatima Idiri, Sabrina Idiri Chemloul, Amina Menia and Sadek Rahim.
These Algerian or Franco-Algerian artists were selected by Gaité, who specifies that some are still poorly represented in French galleries.
“This exhibition, which includes more women than men, presents works made with various materials such as paper, charcoal or even fabric.
While in Oran, birthplace of Gaité’s grandmother, the curator met Sabrina Idiri Chemloul, a Franco-Algerian director, who introduced her to her mother, Fatima Idiri.
Born in Aurès, in northeastern Algeria, Idiri lived in Nancy in a family that was part of the resistance networks of the National Liberation Front.
Returning to the country after her independence, she is a self-taught artist – from styling to painting on silk, from mosaic to Berber embroidery – strongly influenced by Impressionism and Orientalism.
“Hirak’s fervor has changed the game,” she said.
By choosing figurative drawing as an artistic identity, she strives to preserve the memory of one of the traditions of her native region, the Aurès, says Gaité.
“By creating his masterpieces from coffee grounds and acrylic, the artist pays homage to the free and liberated poets and singers that are Azriat.
Idiri studies colonial photography and seeks to deconstruct images in order to rediscover the spontaneity of avant-garde artists frowned upon, even marginalized, during the colonial period.
The exhibition also includes works by Mounir Gouri, winner of the Friends of the IMA (Arab World Institute) prize.
Based in France, Gouri produces moving paintings of “harraga”, or illegal immigrants, turning their journey into a performance.
Gaité highlights a painting of a starry sky, painted in charcoal. “The message that the artist wishes to convey is that when the harraga are in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea in the dark night, the stars are their only source of light.
Works by the visual artist Amina Menia, who lives and works in Algeria, are also on display. His art takes the form of an urban archeology, centered on places and architectural language.
Menia’s works have been exhibited in numerous museums, art centers and galleries, including the Center Pompidou in Paris, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the Museum of African Design in Johannesburg, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Marseille and the Royal Hibernian Academy of Dublin.
Works by Sadek Rahim, a multidisciplinary artist who lived in Syria and Jordan, and studied at the Beirut School of Fine Arts, are also presented.
“Somewhere between silence and words” takes place until November 28, 2021 at the Maison des arts de Malakoff, in the Hauts-de-Seine, in Paris.
This story was originally published in French on Arab News in English