Contemporary from representing France on the Venice Biennale, the London-based French-Algerian artist Zineb Sedira opens a solo exhibition Cannot You See the Sea Altering? on the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, on the south coast of England (24 September- 8 January 2023).
In pictures, movies and installations courting from 2011 onwards, the present returns to a recurring obsession of her inventive observe—the ocean, wealthy in multi-layered symbols and recollections of migrant identification.
“The ocean was a leitmotif in my life for a very long time,” Sedira says. “My mother and father migrated from Algeria to France by boat within the 60s, then I migrated from Paris to London by boat within the 80s.”
“The ocean is usually a area of confinement or of freedom, relying on which aspect of the world you’re,” she says. “Should you come from the South, it’s a type of barrier to most of Europe however in the event you’re in Europe, it’s extra an area the place you may discover and journey to different international locations.”
In a yr when as much as 60,000 refugees are predicted to land on the UK’s south coast seashores, the Bexhill present could have a specific poignancy, although it options no direct references to present migration crises.
Partly that’s as a result of it was deliberate to open greater than two years in the past, earlier than the Covid-19 pandemic struck—and earlier than the refugee crises triggered by occasions such because the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan or the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Extra basically, it displays Sedira’s inventive observe. “I work extra with metaphors and analogies quite than pinpointing explicit disasters or political tales,” she says. “After I discuss concerning the sea it’s about all varieties of migration, whether or not authorized or unlawful.”
Somewhat than specializing in the current, the present, unfold over two flooring of the gallery, provides tangential meditations on previous histories, not least these of her dad or mum’s technology navigating the dislocations of a post-colonial world.
Her three-channel video set up, Transmettre en abyme (2012), conjures the North African exodus to France via a 50-year collection of pictures, curated on-screen by the Marseilles gallery proprietor Hélène Detaille, recording the motion of ships within the French port metropolis.
Lighthouses, alerts of protected passage and hazard, chart a passage via the present. Lighthouse within the Sea of Time (2011), one other multi-screen movie and sound set up, explores the symbolism of two lighthouses constructed underneath French colonial rule to information transport via the jap and western approaches to Algiers. Registre du phare (2011) illuminates Algeria’s journey to independence in 1962 via the day by day logbook of a lighthouse keeper.
Sedira’s inventive imaginative and prescient is each bodily and metaphysical. Sea Rocks, a photograph commentary of eroded boulder formations on the Algerian coast, references the shaping powers of waves over time, erasing reminiscence and historical past. Different pictures move a medical scanner’s eye over the abandoned ruins of French colonial seaside villas in Algeria and Nouadhibou’s port on Mauritania’s Atlantic coast—the world’s largest graveyard of deserted rust-buckets and a historic transit level for African migrants risking the ocean path to Spain. Subsequent to those Sedira has set a partial reproduction of her Brixton studio, together with her assortment of classic marine objects and books.
Brixton, a hub of London’s Caribbean-African neighborhood, was a scene of race riots within the Eighties and 90s. However for Sedira, arriving in 1986, it was a protected haven from the anti-North-African racism she grew up with in France after Algeria’s battle of independence. In Brixton, as non-white and non-black, she handed underneath the radar: “Algeria meant nothing to individuals,” she says.
Nonetheless, “in Brixton I might see black individuals struggling like I did in France,” she provides. “Which is why I made a variety of buddies with individuals like Sonya Boyce. I might recognise myself of their tales.”
“I’m a lot nearer to the black artwork motion than the Younger British Artists, for example. All my work is about any type of racism, whether or not it’s via a colonial scenario or a post-colonial scenario.”