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Zineb Sedira: Dreams Have No Titles review – magic moments in the bar that can take you anywhere

Walk into the Whitechapel Gallery and you are plunged straight into a bar. The bottles are lined up and mirror balls dangle overhead. A tango plays and a couple are on the dancefloor. What begins to feel a bit uncanny is that I’ve watched these moves before: her checking her reflection in a mirror that isn’t there, the suave and slightly creepy bloke popping a mint before taking her hand and drawing her close, the exaggerated steps and turns, and his fumbled lunge for a kiss. It’s funny how things stay with you.

It was just like a movie, people say, when the day starts feeling unhinged. The clock is stuck at a quarter to 12, and we are watching a live re-enactment of a scene from Ettore Scola’s 1983 film Le Bal, in which the viewer is transported to different, pivotal points in the 20th century in a series of flashbacks, all taking place in the same Parisian dance hall. In the unfolding scene it is 1936, but we’re here now, and the dancers are as real as you and me. The bar is a film set and big lights are set up around the edges and the doors to the toilets are just a trompe l’oeil photograph stuck to the gallery wall. The last time I was in this bar it was 2022 at the Venice Biennale, where Zineb Sedira got an accolade from the jury for her work in the French pavilion. Here it is again. Wherever we are, we are also somewhere else.

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