Through her various artistic propositions (videos, photography and installations), Bouchra Khalili, Winner of the SAM Prize for contemporary art 2013, (b. 1975, lives and works in Berlin) associates subjectivity and collective history in order to question the complex relationships between colonial and post-colonial History, contemporary migrations its geographies and stories and the imaginary that result from it.
For her exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo, Bouchra Khalili presents a new series of works made up of films, photographs and documents. Produced in Algeria, this new project takes its part of the artist’s investigation over the last ten years into the forms and discourses of resistance as expressed by the members of minority groups that arise from these colonial and post-colonial histories.
With ‘Foreign Office,’ Bouchra Khalili revisits the period spanning from 1962 to 1972 when Algiers became the “capital of the revolutionaries” after Algeria’s independence. The city opened its arms to the many militants of African, Asian and American liberation movements such as Eldridge Cleaver’s International Section of the Black Panther Party, the ANC (African National Congress) led by Nelson Mandela, the PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde) led by Amilcar Cabral, and even the now-forgotten Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Arab Gulf.
Taking as a starting point this facet of Algerian history whose piecemeal transmission, in the form of legend, has frozen it in the past, the film portrays two young Algerians of today who recount this history, questioning its traces and the reasons why it has been forgotten by their generation. Questions surrounding oral tradition, language and their relationship to the story and to history are at the film’s core and reveal an alternative historiography.
The series of photographs establishes an inventory of the different places that welcomed these liberation movements based in Algiers, while a map made by the artist reinstates them within the city’s contemporary topography.
As in each of her previous projects, this corpus is the result of research and a compilation of personal accounts that enabled the artist to propose an examination of history’s transmission modalities and a modern-day reading of a collective heritage while questioning the material that makes up this (hi)story, its narrative potentialities and its resonance in the present and perhaps into the future.