Algeria More or Less

Imago Mundi

Contemporary Artist from Algeria

Algeria and Contemporary Art
The contemporary art scene in Algeria is today like a (re)appropriation of the aesthetic scope, a reconstruction after the period of crisis of the representation that the years of terrorism (1990-2000) generated, and that the socio- political problems that accompanied them left in dismay. A tragic moment in history that destroyed the art world, forcing it to be structured within a panorama of death that crippled creation for 15 years. Its effects are felt even today in the form of a malaise that goes through the previous generations who feel disoriented and then a frustration for the new generations who can not carve out a space for themselves and gain visibility in that, with time, they have added to (or replaced) formative contributions from their elders and traditions, the culture of the screen, the web, multimedia, photography and the moving image. In addition, the changes, conflicts and economic transformations that are changing forms and cultural content, require the redefinition of the relationship between art and reality and the traditional conventions on which they are based. The artists live, use and process the mass of images that incessantly floods their daily lives. The task proves so complex for the younger generation (aged 25 to 45 years old) who no longer perceive the impact of images that have been repeated for some time and, even when recognized, they are not able to offer a different perspective on the material.

Louadah Faouzi - Souvenir Of Algiers (2014)

Today the distancing and assimilation necessary for the return of the word deploys its effects, the door finally opens, through them, to a more free and incisive representation of their era. The Algerian cultural scene has been in continuous turmoil since 2003 due to the large cultural operations that have regularly occurred. The Year of Algeria in France in 2003, Algiers as Capital of Arab culture in 2007/2008, the Second Pan-African Festival of Algiers in 2009, Tlemcen as Capital of Islamic culture in 2011/2012 and many other events that have not only fueled the creation and promotion of culture, but they have also allowed, depending on the amount of the budget, the implementation of numerous restoration projects or the opening of new art spaces including museums (such
as the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Algiers (MaMa), art schools, cultural centers, agencies for artistic heritage, redevelopment of cinemas, theater and creation of Meetings, Days and Festivals of contemporary art, photography, cinema, dance, music... This cultural dynamic has contributed
to the emergence of a large number of artists and trends that are continuously increasing: musicians from raï to hard-rock through to the chaâbi and gnawi music, painters, photographers, graphic designers, filmmakers, playwrights, poets and writers who regularly produce to meet the demand of the public and the times. These events allow plastic artists who arrive on the local and international scene to show their work or to compare themselves with the established international artists. However, the presence of these artists, most often the result of the choices of the curators than of the will of the institutions, remains sporadic and insufficient for the purpose of an authentic visibility.

Sayoud Slimane - Portraigraphe (2014)

Aouragh Abdelhamid - Designation (2014)

Nowadays artistic representation on the Algerian scene involves fundamental issues such as the symbolic rejection and the critical distance necessary to bring to light a different look and thought. There is an ever-increasing number of Algerian artists who create works that propose ways of artistic practice as examples capable of standing in the way of cultural and artistic homogenization. We are talking about the new generation that has come out from Fine Arts Schools that have been creating works for some years that are opposed to the status quo and aesthetic norms that have been imposed on them and that, occupying the exhibition spaces, empty them from thought. These new generations are carriers of visions involved in the sense of a critical attitude that aspires to create openings, blowing holes in the unanimity of tastes and that allows a break with the culture of passive communication.

Othmane Touati - Afro (2014)

For at least five years in Algeria, and in particular in Algiers, one can observe that this artistic vitality in all fields and spaces both public and private, is increasing: museums, galleries, media libraries and other communal spaces host group or solo exhibitions and they are multiplying. But it is mainly in the “informal” areas where alternative events and niche artistic phenomena see the light. Born thanks to more or less spontaneous group or solo initiatives, based on the energy and the will for community among artists who practice courageous and diversified art forms, and who stimulate the emergence of collective intelligence aesthetics.

Farouk Abbou - The Man With A Red Beard (2014)

But the difficulty for these artists, who want to show us the world, society and themselves with a different point of view, is identified when it comes to visibility. The Picturie générale, Box24, and Collectif Annaba Art Scène collectives, that appeared in the last three years on the local art scene, are less known as the “rebels”, not very stimulated by the institutional areas and galleries used as spaces (apartments, business premises etc.) offered by patrons and art lovers. They turn them into exhibition spaces, of experimentation and sharing new ways of seeing and doing. A phenomenon that escapes from the official media machine and shows a contemporary production outside the aesthetically correct and consolidated consensus. This reality therefore conveys an inseparable specificity of socio-political, urban and artistic contexts.

Faiza Benyahia - Passage (2014)

Mejda Benchaabane - Window (2014)

If globalization and the Internet have allowed artists to tackle the real in a different way in order to propose a different interpretation, in terms of the representation we are in the presence of an occupation of an aesthetic space. To exhibit in alternative spaces means you benefit from the flexibility and freedom essential to propose iconographies that stand out from the ways and patterns of dominant representation.

Walid Mohamed Bouchouchi - Halwa (2014)

Emerging and resistant alternatives: thusly they could define these initiatives precisely because they are about alternative communities of change that offer moments to breathe or create new ways of doing and being. Their presence is important for the transformation of local art exactly because they are offering prospects that are sensitive to the aesthetic relationship with the world thanks to their interpretation of an ever-changing environment. A healthy commitment in the current artistic
and political context because, here more than anywhere else, artistic expression serves to shed light on the ways in which we represent ourselves.

Abdel Ghani Hidouche - Big Beak (2014)

Amine Mohamed Kouidri - One Thing Leads To Another (2014)

Political events and a tormented social context that feed the daily life of the city, particularly in Algiers, are a source of inspiration for artists who make use of the collective and personal memory, working on the history and more or less recent memories that transform into images, in direct opposition to those who, to an always increasing extent, tend to make it an official taboo.

Karim Nazim Tidafi - Innocence (2014)+

Mockery, an entirely Algerian characteristic, colors the discourse of the young artists who use it as a critical moment and, drawing on the popular imagination that helps to enrich, they project a sharp and mocking gaze on current events (hegemony, power...) that are poorly represented.

Walid Aidoud - Stand By (2014)

Brave artists announce new trends and demonstrate within a cultural composite universe where art and crafts, culture and folklore, amateur and professional all blend together. It is possible to see new landmarks that stand out not only for the novelty of their instruments, but especially for the original vision of the issues they face.

Fethi Hadj Kacem - The City (2014)

Between testimony and the use of art as a moment of resistance, these artists put at the center of their work the detached exploration of personal and social experiences. They implicitly criticize the deficit of public discourse on social issues, politics, culture, creating escape routes regarding the easy consumption and poverty of the imposed images.

Fatima Chafaa - Illusion (2014)

Yessad Fares - Failure (2014)

A plethora of quite uncomfortable expressions regarding the supporters of an unreal situation that is faithful to the previously established direction. The questions and the relationship between society and spectator have become more complex. Subverting the classical scene, these talks must restore the necessary relationship between the works and their critical function by introducing movements and by determining a polysemic opening and the meanings that can transform an audience forced to be engaged in this creative proposal that also affects their life.

Myriam Zeggat - Open Your Real Eye To See The Real World (2014)

This announced process of change takes time, but the images are there and their presence, which multiplies, the “offensive words” ones says to an increasing extent, exerts slow but continuous forms of expression into force.

Ahmed Badheddine Debba - Souvenir Of Infancy (2014)

The emergence of these artists in the past dozen years has been stimulated and supported by members of the local art scene and the artist of the diaspora Zineb Sedira who created in Algiers the extremely dynamic A.R.I.A. (Artist Residency in Algiers), a catwalk that puts Algerian artists and members of the international art world in contact. These are initiatives that, among other things, make sure that a growing number of artists can exhibit and study in more or less prestigious spaces of the international art scene.

Mekki Abderrahmane - Graphic Composition (2014)

Credits: Story

Project management
La Biennale di Malindi Ltd

Emanuele Benedetti

Editorial coordination
Enrico Bossan

Luciano Benetton
Emanuele Benedetti
Nadira Laggoune-Aklouche

Editing and translation
Carlo Antonio Biscotto
Emma Cole
Pietro Valdatta

Special Thanks to
Fondazione Sarenco
Collectif Box24
Mourad Krinah
Walid Aidoud
Abdo Shanan
Myriam Aiteihara
Karim Nazim Tidafi
Arisan Naili
School of Fine Arts, Mostaganem
School of Fine Arts, Oran

Art direction
Namyoung An

Emanuele Benedetti (Artists)
Marco Zanin (Artworks)

Marco Pavan

Sahia Hamba - Intra

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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