London-based French born Algerian artist Zineb Sedira has been mining her personal relationship to post-colonialism and a transnational identity in her artistic practice for over 25 years. Sedira’s work, which conveys the political through the personal, continues to draw on the silenced cultural history of Algeria and her own autobiography. Born in Paris to Algerian post-war immigrant parents and raised in what is considered the “racial other” suburbs (banlieus) of Paris, Sedira then graduated Central Saint Martin’s School and the Slade School of Art, where she was influenced by Stuart Hall, British Cultural Studies, and the Black Arts Movement. Zineb Sedira will be the first artist of African descent to represent France at the 2022 Venice Biennale.
In her solo-exhibition, Voice Over, Sedira will create a new iteration for SMoCA of Standing Here Wondering Which Way to Go an installation first shown at the Jeu de Paume in Paris in 2019 and commissioned by Jeu de Paume, Paris, France; IVAM, Valencia, Spain; Gulbenkian, Lisbon, Portugal; and Bildmuseet, Umeå, Sweden. This work is inspired by the 1969 Pan-African Festival of Algiers—a key historical event that marked Algeria’s important role in various liberation movements in Africa along with the global 1960s political, anti-imperialist, utopian consciousness—as well as its eponymous William Klein documentary film of the same year.
Standing Here Wondering Which Way to Go is composed of four “scenes” echoing cinema, theater, and music festival stages. The work’s central element entitled Way of Life is a life-sized diorama that recreates the artist’s own living room in London, complete with her personal collection of 1960s objects, books, photographs, and records. Visitors to the exhibition are invited to take a seat on the couch and to watch a video on the TV screen that features Nadira Laggoune, a prominent Algerian art historian, in Nadira (2019) recounting her own experience of the Pan-African Festival. Sedira has conceived this living room as an intimate space in which to simultaneously host and educate visitors on these particular anti-imperialist themes.
Other scenes in Standing Here Wondering Which Way to Go explore the sense of utopia and resistance that accompanied the Pan-African Festival through various media including Mise-en-scène, a film the artist created from decaying found archival footage of Algerian militant films, and For a Brief Moment the World was on Fire and We Have Come Back that are comprised of photomontages with various 1960s objects and books and collected vinyl records from counter-cultural social justice music. This vibrant installation will engage further conversations around complex and layered identities, collective memories, the divisive and militant era of the 1960s, and anti-colonial histories.
SMoCA will also be exhibiting several of Zineb Sedira’s videos that focus on her interest in intergenerational oral histories, how stories are collected, recorded, and transmitted, paying particular tribute to her parents’ native country, Algeria. These videos include the much acclaimed and foundational video Mother Tongue (2002), which frames questions about language, transmission, and mobility, The End of the Road (2010), Tracing a Territory (2016), and Inconsistent Mapping (2017) in which memory, archival transmission of history and subjectivity are played out. Sedira employs her own voice-over in the videos as a radical device that disrupts conventions of documentary. Posing important questions on the relation between history and aesthetics, trauma and form, Sedira uses photography, archival film, and recorded interviews along with the voice-over-technique, to establish herself as a significant voice in the global contemporary artworld.
Organized by Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and guest curated by Natasha Boas, Ph.D. Supported by the Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation.
Dr. Natasha Boas is a French American international independent curator, scholar, and critic based in San Francisco and Paris. She has been curating for over 25 years as an advocate for under recognized artists for such institutions as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Centre Pompidou Paris, and LACMA as well as galleries and artist spaces throughout the world. Her work has gained international critical recognition most recently with Baya: Women of Algiers at the Grey Art Gallery NYU 2018 and the retrospective of the same artist at the Sharjah Museum and Barjeel Foundation. Dr. Boas views curating as a form of problem solving, a way to work through art-historical challenges posed by certain art and artists. She currently has a particular investment in understanding and presenting works by transnational women artists and makes useful connections within the broader, newly deconstructed, narrative of Western Art history.
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