The word ‘Algerianism’ initially described a literary movement constituted in the early twentieth century by a group of French-Algerian intellectuals – known as Pied Noir – who aimed to build a cultural ideology to reunite both settlers and native communities. After the independence, Algerian thinkers wanted to reconstruct a ‘new’ Algerian persona and identification using the algerianism term as a more nationalist and patriotic reference but this was soon abandoned as it was already carrying various connotations. Algerianism (part 1) is a project collaboration co-curated by Toufik Douib and Patrick Altes, that looks to illustrate the richness and complexity of the Algerian identity today, far from mere perceptions of its colonial past. Though the presence of French artists in the project reflects part of a common history, it is moreover a celebration a young and engaged generation of artists that is restoring the place of the Algerian culture within the international contemporary scene.
The perspective arising from the works presented is that there are multiple and eclectic facets of Algeria, being a singular country within the Maghreb, African, Arab and Francophone worlds. In fact, each artist shares an engaging vision and powerful message on the question of cultural identity exploring topics such as the preservation of traditions, current geopolitical crisis or the place of women in the Algerian contemporary landscape.
The curators sought to emphasise the links between countries, the mutual influences and sources of inspiration, provide a series of connectors as well as a vision of the different trends that define art in Algeria at the moment. Far from being exhaustive, this exhibition was designed more like a “taster” of the variety of directions artists have chosen to express their identity.
The idea of identity itself is definitely not fixed and oscillates between countries and cultures to testify to the multitude of influences that make art contemporary and relevant. The appropriation of Algerianism as a title for the exhibition was a deliberate attempt at creating an all-encompassing platform to present original artists while referencing the themes of memory, filiation and identity.
Patrick Altes, co-curator of the project ‘Algerianism’, is a French visual artist of Spanish origins born in Algeria in the middle of the war of independence. His artistic process is a personal attempt to shift perceptions and engage in an open-minded and creative dialogue to acknowledge the wounds of the past, the effects of the Algerian revolution but also the new relationship that is emerging after more than 130 years of strained cohabitation.
Mizo works with fashion codes, media and technology influence or globalisation triggers, the most powerful and audacious depiction in his series is probably the feministic 1940s American Pin-up, or the darker portrayal of the Algerian 90s civil-war. Mizo suggests through these various aspects of socio-cultural or historical scope there is an ultimate explanation in the switch of Algerian women’s life and style.
Yasser Ameur works on the concept of the Yellow Man as a way to offers a parallel to current social human condition, imagined and shaped to be contextualised to the Algerian people. Far from being a personal choice, he defends the symbolism behind the yellow colour, which he associates with the inspired work the Yellow Christ by Paul Gauguin, implied to denounce the negative aspects we see in modern societies nowadays
Hania Zaazoua ‘Princess Zazou’ invites us to walk into a teasing, almost trivial, dream world to explore an alternative and unseen version of the society in which she lives. By duplicating and crushing images, formatting codes, creating a double meaning through composed and recomposed ideas; Hania gives us a card map game that can be read and interpreted in many ways “It is a sort of treasure hunt, led through four unique and interconnected artworks, that aims to connect us to each other in the end.”
Souad Douibi questions the evolution of Algerian society and issues of generational miscommunication. The pivotal point of this installation being the language, which is referred to the country’s endeavour to preserve both arabisation and Amazigh, the dialect spoke by the Kabyle and Berber populations. The symbols and repeating patterns illustrate a mirroring relationship between the tribal Adam and Eve confronted with a modern, formatted version of their own selves.
Kaci Oula Aissa, when not photoshooting for the trendy Algerian fashion magazine ‘Dzeriet’, dedicates his time travelling across the country and be involved in independent photography collaborations, that, he admittedly sees as a way to connect with the people from other cities in a necessity to explore the essence of national identity.
Patrick Altes & Toufik Douib
Patrick Altes is a French visual artist of Spanish origins born in Algeria in the middle of the war of independence. Altes has lived for many years in South Africa, Ecuador, France and England, gaining an MA in Fine Art from the University of Brighton in 2008. He has been twice recipient of a prestigious Leverhulme Trust Award. In his latest series of digital artworks, he seeks to dissociate personal nostalgia from its political instrumentalisation as well as question the dominant and widely accepted historical and political narrative relating to post-colonialism. His artistic process is a personal attempt to shift perceptions and engage in an open-minded and creative dialogue to acknowledge the wounds of the past, the effects of the Algerian revolution but also the new relationship that is emerging after more than 180 years of strained cohabitation. It is also a personal exploration of the uncomfortable and ambivalent notion of birthright, and how memory, romantic ideals and political beliefs shape our subjectivity in terms of a sense of belonging and our ways of making sense of history. For many displaced people, belonging, roots and identity are complex, shifting and unsolvable factors in subjectivity. Patrick Altes is represented by: Janet Rady Gallery (London, Dubai), Hay Hill Gallery (London), ArTbridge (London) and Lahd Gallery (London, Riyadh).
Toufik Douib is an Algerian event director and curator born and raised in Algeria, he also lived in Paris before moving to London in 2008. He has always been committed to intercultural understanding, and for the past years has been actively involved in various cultural projects that showcase Algerian culture in the UK, such as ‘A Journey to Algeria with the London Algerian Ballet’ as part of or Festival 2013 or as an author contributor at the Wall Street International. He is a recent graduate in Business Event Management from the London Metropolitan University.