Survival in the afterlife
Exhibition: – 23 Nov 2021
de Appel arts centre
Prins Hendrikkade 142
1011 AT Amsterdam
De Appel is honoured to present the first solo exhibition of Lydia Ourahmane in the Netherlands. This exhibition, realised as part of the Consortium Commissions, initiated by Mophradat, became an opportunity to organise an archive comprising photographic materials, moving images and oral documentation – all produced alongside the constitution of an active spiritual movement and community her family founded during the civil war in Algeria (1991–2002). “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,” writes Ourahmane in the midst of production. “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.” With this endeavour to gather, digitise and catalogue copious photographic documents produced by her parents and other members of a Christian commune, which came to be named the House of Hope, the artist makes these sensitive materials publicly accessible for the first time. How might this archive become a case study for investigating the changing conditions of belief at the intersection of religion, geography, politics and faith?
There are specific conditions for viewing the House of Hope Archives: gloves supplied to handle the archive will afterwards become part of its holdings, “underscoring the role of the witness.” Before reaching this archive, visitors are immersed in a sonic environment, an electronic sound composition realised in collaboration with Yawning Portal. Notice the direction of fires creates a world, a womb for nascent ways of living. Described alternately as “music to levitate to” and “euphoric ambient structures”, Yawning Portal is the collective name for two musical collaborators based between Chicago and London. In their work with Ourahmane, they conjure a landscape (using synthesised tones, foley effects and a recorded and repeated incantation), which is transmitted inside de Appel’s Aula through an optimised speaker system. Here the artist has made mattresses available to facilitate listening to the album-length composition. The title, Notice the direction of fires, alludes to the keen attention required to navigate an unknown landscape, where smoke appears as an indicator for the path of an invisible fire.
There is one element in the exhibition that is meant to disappear. Over the summer of 2021, Ourahmane has made a series of related sculptural elements – ciphers of conversations, measures of time spent – with collaborators, friends and family. What appear as hand-sewn pillows are also the foundations of a material language. These silent, sealed forms carrying the common title Closures are made to be taken away in time.