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EMPIRE LINES: With Zineb Sedira

Artist Zineb Sedira records cultural and postcolonial connections between Algeria, France, Italy, and the UK from the 1960s, featuring films, rugs, and radical magazines from her personal archive. Dreams Have No Titles (2022) is Zineb Sedira’s love letter to cinema, the classic films of her childhood in Paris, coming of age in Brixton in London, and ‘return’ to Algiers – three cities between which the artist lives and practices. Born in 1963, the year after Algeria achieved independence from French colonial rule, her and her family’s diasporic story is central to her practice. Zineb recalls her first encounters with ‘militant cinema’, and international co-productions like the Golden Lion-winning The Battle of Algiers (1966). She shares her decision to represent France at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022, controversial reactions from French media and society, and solidarity from her radical contemporaries and women, like Françoise Vergès, Sonia Boyce, Latifa Echakhch, Alberta Whittle, and Gilane Tawadros. We discuss the legacy of her work in the selection of Julien Creuzet, the first person of Caribbean descent and from the French overseas territories to represent France at the Venice Biennale in 2024. Zineb shares how personal histories contribute to collective memory, subverting ideas of ‘collection’, and using museum and gallery spaces to make archives more accessible. With orientalist tapestries and textiles – her ‘feminist awakening’ – we discuss how culture can both perpetuate political and colonial hierarchies, and provide the possibility to ‘decolonise oneself’. From her academic research in the diaspora, Zineb suggests how she carried much knowledge in her body as lived experience, detailing her interest in oral histories (and podcasts!), as living archives. With Nina Simone, Miriam Makebe, and Archie Shepp, performers at the Pan-African Festival in Algiers (1969), she shows her love of jazz and rock music, played with her community of squatters and fellow students from Central Saint Martins. Finally, we see how the meaning of her participatory works change as they travel and migrate between global audiences, and institutions and funding in Algiers today, via aria, her research residency for artists. Zineb Sedira: Dreams Have No Titles runs at the Whitechapel Gallery in London until 12 May 2024. A free Artist and Curator Talk takes place at the Gallery on 11 April 2024. and the film version of the work shows at Tate Britain in London until September 2024. Zineb Sedira: Let’s Go On Singing! ran at the Goodman Gallery in London until 16 March 2024. Part of EMPIRE LINES at Venice, a series of episodes leading to Foreigners Everywhere (Stranieri Ovunque), the 60th Venice Biennale or International Art Exhibition in Italy, in April 2024. For more about Souffles, Tricontinental, and the Casablanca Art School (1962-1987), listen to curator Morad Montazami at Tate St Ives in Cornwall. For more about Baya, read into: Baya: Icon of Algerian Painting at the Arab World Institute, Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA), in Paris. Kawkaba: Highlights from the Barjeel Art Foundation, part of Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World. at Christie’s London. And for other artists inspired by the port city of Venice, hear John Akomfrah of the British Pavilion (2024) on Arcadia (2023) at The Box in Plymouth, and curator Hammad Nasar on Nusra Latif Qureshi’s 2009 work, Did You Come Here To Find History? WITH: Zineb Sedira, Paris and London-based artist, who also works in Algeria. Working across photography, film, installation and performance, she was shortlisted for the 2021 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize. Dreams Have No Titles was first commissioned for the French Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022. PRODUCER: Jelena Sofronijevic.

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