Voice-Over: Zineb Sedira
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. Zineb Sedira will be the first artist of African descent to represent France at the 2022 Venice Biennale.
May 8, 2021 - Jan 30, 2022
London-based French born Algerian artist Zineb Sedira has been mining her relationship to memory, post-coloniality, and transnational identity in her artistic practice for over 25 years. Born in Paris in 1963 to Algerian immigrant parents and raised in what is considered the “racial other” suburbs (banlieus) of Paris, Sedira went on to graduate from Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and the Slade School of Art in London, where she was influenced by Stuart Hall, British Cultural Studies, and the Black Arts Movement. Her work conveys the political through the personal, making use of multiple storytelling tactics and voices. Using photography, video, archival films, and recorded interviews, she unpacks issues such as the silenced cultural history of Algeria and her heritage inscribed within the French colonialization of Algeria—her parents’ homeland. By questioning the relation between history and aesthetics, trauma and form, Sedira has established herself as a significant voice in the global contemporary artworld. She will be the first artist of African descent to represent France at the 2022 Venice Biennale.
For her first solo-exhibition in the United States, Voice-Over, Sedira has created a new iteration of her installation Standing Here Wondering Which Way to Go 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 a worldwide 1960s political, anti-imperialist, utopian consciousness—and the eponymous William Klein documentary film of the event. Recreated for a United States audience during the turbulent year of 2020, this installation is sensitive to the overwhelming global political movement of #BlackLivesMatter, along with protests denouncing racial injustice, police brutality, and a resurgence of interest in Black liberation movements.
Standing Here Wondering Which Way to Go is composed of four “scenes” echoing cinema, theatre, 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, and the transformative and revolutionary era of the 1960s.
To introduce United States audiences to the breadth of Sedira’s work Voice-Over includes two major video installations that frame the artist’s practice. Sedira’s groundbreaking and foundational 2002 Mother Tongue video triptych, which features the artist, her mother, and her daughter exchanging childhood memories in their native languages: French, Arabic, and English respectively. This early work speaks directly to the practices of oral transmission and marginalized storytelling, and to the concept of memory as a way of representing diasporic identity across generations and cultures. Also featured is a large scale two-channel video The End of the Road, first commissioned for the opening of Mathaf: the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha in 2010, that represents a dramatic journey of destroyed and abandoned automobiles—broken cars in endless rows—as they move through a British junkyard creating a dystopian image of capitalism’s garbage in a desolate site. Sedira uses her own voice-over as a radical device that renders a literal and direct reflection on these scenes of destruction and waste which disrupt the conventions of documentary.
Organized by Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and guest curated by Natasha Boas, Ph.D. Supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation, the Institut Français and the Consulate General of France in Los Angeles.
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. 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 reconstructed, narrative of Western Art history.
Related Press Releases
Zineb Sedira in the press
“New art for the new year: Metro Phoenix museums, galleries have exciting shows scheduled” on Arizona Republic, Dec. 16, 2020.