In Arabic there is a word “sobri,” which translates as the act of waiting in a positive sense. That something better will come
– Lydia Ourahmane interviewed by Ellen Greig, Curator: Commissions, Chisenhale Gallery, London, January 19, 2018.
Algerian-British artist, Lydia Ourhamane’s The You In Us is the artist’s first UK solo exhibition and commission at London’s Chisenhale Gallery bringing together installation, sculpture and sound that draw on the artist’s quest into exploring her postcolonial biography via the emotional, psychological and political charge of material and place.
These explorations are most evident in conceptual and autobiographical work, In the Absence of our Mothers (2018), a central piece in this exhibition traversing past and present histories, as Ourahmane connects another’s experience to her own, in a visceral and powerful way. The work consists of a single gold tooth on display in the gallery, and a duplicate implanted in the artist’s mouth. The gallery’s “golden tooth” is shown alongside Droit de Sang (Blood Right) (2018), which are documents belonging to her grandfather, Tayeb Ourahmane and include a military conscription card (1933), military records (1933), French passport (1954) and proofs of participation in the Algerian War for Independence on the Moroccan frontier (1969), showing how her grandfather resisted joining mandatory military service under the French occupation. He got out of this by pulling out all of his teeth, and this archival display also holds documents that have been used by her grandfather’s descendants to claim French citizenship by right of blood. The gold used in both sculptural pieces also has a story of its own as it was acquired as a gold necklace belonging to a young man Ourahmane met in Oran, Algeria who was selling it for $300, the same price it costs for a seat in a boat across the Atlantic from the North African country into Spain.
New sound work Paradis (2018), which is embedded in false wooden floors throughout the gallery, is the core of the exhibition. The work’s wooden structure sits at approximately 10 cm above the gallery’s floor with speakers vibrating onto the wooden surface, creating amplification through contact. The piece welcomes interaction through standing, sitting, walking around, and even lying down. Paradis combines audio from field recordings made by Ourahmane whilst in Oran with sound scores composed and performed by the artist and her collaborators. She also produced Paradis, 11.10.2017, 23:45 (2018), a moving image commission for Chisenhale Gallery’s website. The silver doors into the exhibition, coated in black sulphur, will reveal their colour as visitors interact with them for the show’s duration.
Featured image: Lydia Ourahmane, The You In Us (2018).Installation view, Chisenhale Gallery, 2018 Commissioned and produced by Chisenhale Gallery, London. Photo: Andy Keate.