MONUMENTS IN EXILE : AN INFINITE PAGE OF MARBLE WRITING
At the independence of Algeria in 1962, what is commonly called the «Algerian War» officially ended after eight years of armed conflict. In all, France will have remained 132 years in my country. During this long period, France developed a commemorative policy through all sorts of cultural gestures in order to leave its mark on the territory. In addition to architecture and urbanism, the transformation of space, language and religion, etc… it has sown monuments and other commemorative steles across the country. So much so that at independence, these monuments became problematic for the young Algerian state. A “war of memories” was to inevitably take over the military battle.
The commemorative memorials were thus at the heart of this symbolic battle. At the same time that the Europeans and the “pieds-noirs” massively reached the “metropolis”, France carried out the repatriation of many of the most significant monuments scattered throughout Algeria. While, generally, the base and trunk are left in Algeria, the « head » of the monument (most often statues representing political or military figures, winged cherubim or angels, etc.) is repatriated in mainland France and grafted to another monument.
These marble “stumps” thus regenerate by trying to take root in another soil of memory whose ferment is the nostalgia of the ancient pieds-noirs, members of the OAS, and other unconditional of “Algérie Française”. In Algeria, the monuments left by France are diverted, reinterpreted, repainted, as if to give rise to a blank page whitened palimpseste and ready to welcome a new narrative.
With their plates torn off, their truncated bodies and their headless trunks they nevertheless express the history of resilient cities, almost pacified in the chapter of the colonial night. And even if no one pays any more attention, these lonely monuments, forgotten there as a baggage fallen from a boat, resist as they can in time. Nevertheless, they remain an urban landmark never neutral, always waiting for a sign of destiny. A marble alphabet for an immemorial history that never ends being written… These marble pages are also my artist language. My work questions the city, the urban space, its strata and its palimpsest walls, its superimposed stories and its marble books that give themselves the replica. I could not be insensitive to these screaming beings, enclosed in these funerary monuments or escaped from the catacombs, and who silently shout a story of which I do not grasp all the subtleties and all the episodes.
Nevertheless, a part of my story is in these shredded monuments, and like a detective or an archaeologist in search of relics that complement the puzzle of the present, I need these marble pieces to complete the face of my time and look it in the eyes.