New Cartographies: Algeria – France – UK
I have got to give it to The Cornerhouse, the cinema and arts centre based in Manchester. Time after time it organizes interesting, engaging, accessible and high-quality exhibitions. That includes the current one, called New Cartographies: Algeria – France – UK. The show features work from artists based in the three countries mentioned in the title. New Cartographies provides an insight into the experience of Algeria, of being Algerian for those living in the country as well as those based abroad.
It is also an extremely timely exhibition, what with the uprisings taking place all over North Africa and the Middle East. Most of the works are of a dream-like character, they are sensitive, and they deal in a rather oblique way with the political history of the country. A search for one’s personal identity takes centre stage, for example in Sophie Elbaz’ work, as well a more literal search for Algeria in the form of the work done by John Perivolaris. The exhibition contains an interesting mix of photography, film, video and installations.
The video works are moving, not only because they describe how dedicated Kouaci was as a photographer, but also because they so clearly depict the risk that important and local photographic archives around the world will be lost due to lack of funds and knowledge.
One fascinating part of the show is formed by the work produced by Bruno Boudjelal, called Algeria – Scrapbooks 2009. I could not help but wonder to what extent his work is inspired by Jim Goldberg’s recent series Open See and New Europeans. But whereas Goldberg takes pictures and then asks immigrants to write and draw on his images, Boudjelal, as the son of an immigrant, shows his feelings and experiences in his images and writing upon returning to the country of his father.
I was particularly moved by the two video works produced by Zineb Sedira, called Images Keepers. These films record interviews with the widow of Mohamed Kouaci. The latter used to be the official photographer for the Algerian government during and after the Algerian war. Not only do the interviews record the experience of recent historical events by those who lived through them, it also sheds light on some beautiful black and white photography. It seems that the work of Mohamed Kouaci forms an important visual legacy that deserves to be restored and archived properly. The video works are moving, not only because they describe how dedicated Kouaci was as a photographer, but also because they so clearly depict the risk that important and local photographic archives around the world will be lost due to lack of funds and knowledge.
To summarize, New Cartographies is a beautiful and interesting exhibition and is still on view at The Cornerhouse until June 5.