Chrysanthèmes Chrysanthemums, 2009-ongoing
Photographic series (presented in the form of installations or a projection)
I decided to travel along the North coast of Algeria to question the memory attached to certain places and sites.
Two types of public sculptures particularly attracted my attention: commemorative stelae and monuments dedicated to martyrs. I am interested in this tradition of erecting an object as a souvenir of an event or to commemorate the opening of a bridge or a public building. These are political communication tools that generally ring sourly of hijacking and demagogy. The commemoration stelae markedly punctuate the landscape and possess a very powerful suggestive dimension. These objects evoke something that is anticipated, suspended, something that is in preparation... They are the symbol of promises that are often not honored.
Monuments for martyrs are justified by an incredible will to take refuge in the past and ceaselessly celebrate the same events and the same period of the Algerian war of independence.
I am always very struck by this phrase by Nietzsche: “the past must be forgotten if it is not to become the gravedigger of the present”. I am frustrated that Algerian art in the public sphere limits itself practically exclusively to the bitter subject from the past.
With these photographs, I want to document these public commissions which are carried by a political or a community project. What is this « public » art in a country which is badly lacking in democracy? What are the ideological references of an epoch region? What is the intention of these popular expressions? What are the aesthetic references of these artists? Indeed the objects vary from Byzantium to Chinese pagodas or a certain formalism... All these associations are highly charged with meaning. The materials which are used are also revealing: it can range from a cult of marble to extraordinary choices of colour.
The monument itself and its ambiguity in present times is at the core of my research. Time has often had its effects on these objects and specific signs of belonging having slowly disappeared. But the object remains there, in the landscape. Mute or unfinished.
The title chosen for this series, Chrysanthemums, points ironically to a common expression pertaining to funeral rituals: “To inaugurate chrysanthemums”. It was famously used by the French president Charles de Gaulle in 1965 referring to devalued legitimacy or to a futile official act. As such it is charged with the history of postcolonial history in Algeria.
These objects are commonly neglected, ignored or deliberately vandalised. They have lost their function and became quasi useless.
The photographs are taken in a documentary manner, sombre and dry, with the aim to reinstate the object in frontal relation with the viewer.
For the first incarnation of this series at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Algiers during Autumn 2010, I chose to reproduce four stelae life-size on billboard constructions. At Cornerhouse in Manchester in April 2011, 3 stelae were accompanied by a mural photograph.
I finished this series by a presentation in the form of a slide projection to scroll through these images and suggest links between objects and monuments.
Baïnem, Blida, Dely Brahim, Douéra, El Affroun, Grarem, Koléa, Miramar, Oued Alleïg, Oued Dar El Oued, Port de Jijel, Sidi Abdallah, Sidi Maarouf, Tessala, Ziama