[Photos: Diana Pfammatter / Ian Waelder / House of Hope Archives (1989–ongoing) of Lydia Ourahmane]

From December 4, 2021, Portikus will be presenting Lydia Ourahmane’s first solo exhibition of Algerian artist Lydia Ourahmane in Germany. This site- specific installation is conceived for Portikus in Frankfurt and de Appel in Amsterdam.

Born in Saïda, Algeria, in 1992, Lydia Ourahmane lives and works between Algiers and Barcelona. She graduated from Goldsmiths in 2014 with The Third Choir, a piece which entailed her being the first artist to export an artwork from Algeria since the country’s independence from French colonial rule in 1962.

Since completing her studies, Lydia Ourahmane continued to test the possibilities for charging and converting the elements of the physical world, be it commodities or personal property, as these move between borders, generations, and dimensions.

The installation In the Absence of Our Mothers (2018) for example, is inspired by the story of her grandfather, who had all thirty-six teeth removed to avoid getting enlisted in the military. As part of this work, Lydia Ourahmane had a gold molar implanted in her own mouth, the equivalent value to the sum a human trafficker charges for the crossing from Algieria to Europe. In her recent installation, Barzakh (2021), the artist transported the entire contents of the furnished apartment she rented in Algiers and adapted them into exhibition spaces in Basel and Marseille.

In her work, Lydia Ourahmane addresses the subtle alterations that objects and narratives undergo through migration and adaptation across times, drawing links between the personal, the geopolitical, and the complex legacy of European colonialism.

Her works often start from the (hi)stories of other people, often individuals close to her, people who are also connected with her own biography, which has been influenced by the consequences of political and religious and postcolonial impacts.

For the exhibition Survival in the afterlife, Ourahmane presents archival material– photographs, films, and sound recordings– created by or depicting members of a religious community founded by her family during the Algerian Civil War (1991–2002) and which is still active today.

In collecting, digitizing, and cataloguing this extensive photographic material belonging to her parents and other members of the Christian community, which has, since 1996, been titled House of Hope, the artist is making the sensitive and private material accessible to the public for the first time though the House of Hope Archive (1989–ongoing). The material, depicting gatherings, collective meals, and family life, are witness to a community that has been nurtured by a strong sense in collectiveness amidst political persecutions:

“These materials, which have remained within my immediate family, are testament to a spiritual movement that occurred behind closed doors, and for a period of time, in secret, in the basement of our various dwellings, which were then repurposed for a growing community of people. Many of [these people] faced persecution back home and within the larger context of society. This is the reason it became a commune, not by recruiting per se, but rather determined by the urgency of survival, in the context of a civil war.” (Lydia Ourahmane during the production at de Appel in Amsterdam, 2021).

Survival in the afterlife is embedded in a sound composition titled Notice the direction of fires, that was produced by Yawning Portal, consisting of the musicians Jess Walker and Joe Ware, in collaboration with Lydia Ourahmane. They created a soundscape that combines synthetic sounds, Foley effects, and spoken word to permeate and envelop the exhibition space, where handmade mattrasses are inviting the visitors to rest and listen. The title Notice the direction of fires alludes to the attention required to find the way in an unfamiliar landscape, where smoke from a still invisible fire may serve as an indicator of which direction to go in.

The installation Survival in the afterlife is about the creating of space to gather and forms of hospitality–especially in periods of isolation, both the present one of the current pandemic and those resulting from governmental restrictions: How is it possible to maintain a community when politics seem adamant in working against it? What can be decisive in enabling a place of hospitality when resources are scarce?

Through sharing the artists private family archive, this memory develops, in the context of the installation, into a communal experience, carried and interconnected by sound and the shared experience of being together.

The exhibition Survival in the afterlife is produced as part of the Consortium Commissions—A project initiated by Mophradat.

Further support is provided by Stiftung Städelschule für junge Künstler, Städelschule Portikus e.V., and French Bento Bar, Frankfurt am Main.

The exhibition is presented in partnership with de Appel.

Portikus is continuously supported by City of Frankfurt, Department for Culture.

[Text: Christina Lehnert]

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