“Algiers has never stopped changing throughout the centuries:
Berber, Phoenician, Roman, Arab, Andalusian, Ottoman, French.
It has known and assimilated all styles.
It shifts, lashes out, snorts like an asphalt animal.
It sheds its skin like an urban reptile.”
Excerpt from Un Album de famille bien particulier, Amina Menia, 2012
My biological city.
My city of the heart and by choice.
For me, being from Algiers comes before being an artist.
Etymologically, its Arabic name, El Djazaïr, means “the islands”.
A city-archipelago, then, with its multiple architectural styles. With its multiple (infinite) layers.
A bit like my practice, which, as it happens, strives to combine different layers, media, and languages…
All of my artworks converge towards this name.
This city inhabits me more than I inhabit it.
A city that is so tough to live in and yet…
I don’t know what I’d be (I’ll never know), what sort of artist I’d be, without it.
Living in Algiers.
I am cut off from the art world, from international events.
So how do we enhance our practice, compare and renew ourselves?
Although the city throws its feet into the water, it must be confessed that it is a cultural desert.
Every day, I question my creative process. I work in solitude. Without feedback.
And I have no sanctuary. Living costs are too high to pay for a studio space.
The city will be my studio!
At some point, I decided to overcome obstacles instead of putting up with them.
For the rest, I make do.
I think that’s sort of how it goes…
So Algiers is this constellation (yes, an archipelago); of lives, images, sounds, words,
ideas, muted murmurs…
Living in Algiers? It’s hell!
A hell with a view of paradise!
Working in Algiers?
But an exhilarating struggle.
Being an artist in Algiers?
This city that gives you everything, and that takes so much from you
Reinventing yourself every day, starting over, transcending yourself
Fording doubts and realities upstream
Hesitating, doubting, no longer knowing why you do it
Being invaded by nerve-shattering, useless questions,
having to justify yourself
Life isn’t normal, nothing is simple, promises aren’t kept,
morning-afters are difficult, lack of certainty for the future, insurmountable horizons…
But there is so much beauty aal around, so many reasons to hope, a tenacious, sometimes tenuous hope, volatile smiles, and this overarching sense that everything is possible, which makes you continue to hold on
Algiers, song of inharmonious possibilities,
And the public sphere.
My constant quest.
This improbable opening, amid encircled agorae.
My silent commitment.
Because going towards the audience, entering public space, is my faith…
At the heart of my practice
An old quest.
So, yes, I have merged life and work; I have overcome – as I said – difficulties
and I’ve made a method out of it. Catharsis.
I have assumed the constraints and integrated them
into my works; I’ve turned them into a work of art.
They’ve left traces. Streaked strata.
Because I have decided, yes: obstacles, I desire them instead of putting up with them.
Algiers will be my studio!
My subjects of predilection? I’m passionate about history and architecture.
I’m an urban animal. I love the city with its share of contradictions and paradoxes. And I love the architecture in that it enables me to probe and understand
I search in it my repertoire of signs, my visual alphabet; I search through other languages, I borrow from other disciplines.
I am by turns architect, archaeologist of the urban, anthropologist of the contemporary, sociologist of solitary arts, sculptor of the ephemeral…
If you look at it closely, my work resembles this city; the conjoined fragments, the assembled islands, the eternal reconstruction…
Mosaic City: I write in fragments
Archipelago City: I am always gathering and restoring
Palimpsest City: I chose writing by accumulation, but also by erasure
Bring Algiers with me!
To Marseille, Dublin, or Folkestone, Algiers is with me, everywhere.
Like bringing a fragment of the Pouillon l’Algérois building to Marseille,
Or wanting to decolonise a bit of the Irish landscape; Algiers/Dublin: one struggle!
Or revisiting the art of the monument at Folkestone (GB)
Algiers is always there. In resonance, in parallel, in opposition…
And very soon: bringing a “fragment of the landscape” to the MUCEM.
Over the years, I’ve realised that I increasingly resemble Algiers.
This palimpsest-writing; fragments, strata, collapsing, eclipsing…
Algiers, I traverse it, while being traversed by it.
Fragments of stories
Stories dotted over the quays
Sap of the centuries
Theatre of conflict and desire
And winds of change help me to progress, to hold on, to act, to create, transform, live,
What does it mean to be an artist in Algiers?
An artist from Algiers?
I really like this confusion,
It is not at all a question of geography, but of history.
I feel that I belong to the history of this city more than to its territory.
I am sustained by the history of my city, my country, and I have worked in cycles and temporal loops.
And, quite naturally, I allowed myself to be drawn by the history of Algerian art, thus opening up a new chapter in my practice.
Always with the same love for Algiers, its walls, its neighbourhoods…
Since histoires d’art (art histories) are always more beautiful than histoires d’amour (love stories).