Lydia Ourahmane’s works often begin as large, open-ended propositions that find the edges of possibility within the political, environmental, and metaphysical conditions in which she operates. For Tassili, Ourahmane and a group of collaborators have produced a new moving image work and a series of scans that draw from a journey on foot in Tassili n’Ajjer, a largely inaccessible plateau near the border between southeastern Algeria and Libya.
Tassili N’Ajjer is host to thousands of prehistoric engravings and cave paintings that describe the transformation of life in the region over thousands of years. Scenes of conflict and ritual submit to a drastically altered ecological landscape, now an arid and inhospitable expanse of desert. Ourahmane’s work subsumes an encounter with a hallucinogenic array of this imagery – of ancient demons, extraterrestrials, and lost rivers and forests – in a place that both collapses and measures the severity of time. “The desert is the only place where we can visit death,” writer Ibrahim Al-Koni has said. “Because it is the isthmus [barzakh] between total freedom and existence.”
Ourahmane’s project offers an expansive vision of a site sustained by the remains of a singular source of water and unsettled by decades of governmental and colonial interference. Much of her past work has engaged with the hard-won movement of original objects across contexts, but her exhibition at SculptureCenter explores a new approach to the mediation of site and material through video and other techniques of replication or simulation. Interweaving extended passages of moving image, Ourahmane’s film wordlessly narrates the desert’s terms, untangling the dualities of pilgrimage/tourism, archaeology/extraction, and surveillance/documentation. The film is scored in chapters by four composers as an exquisite corpse.
Lydia Ourahmane (b. 1992, Saïda, Algeria) is an artist based in Algiers and Barcelona. Ourahmane’s research-driven practice spans spirituality, contemporary geopolitics, migration, and the complex histories of colonialism. She incorporates video, sound, performance, sculpture, and installation on an often large or monumental scale that has consequences beyond the walls of her exhibitions. Drawing on personal and collective narratives and experiences, Ourahmane challenges broader institutional structures such as surveillance, logistics and bureaucratic processes, and the ways these forces are registered. Her recent solo exhibitions include: Survival in the afterlife, Portikus, Frankfurt, and De Appel, Amsterdam (2021); Barzakh, Kunsthalle Basel and Triangle – Astérides, Marseille (2021); صرخة شمسية Solar Cry, CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco (2020); and The you in us, Chisenhale Gallery, London (2018), among others. Her work was included in the 34th Bienal de São Paulo (2021) and the New Museum Triennial (2018). With collaborator Alex Ayed, she presented LAWS OF CONFUSION, Renaissance Society, Chicago (2021) and was included in Risquons-Tout, WIELS Contemporary Art Center, Brussels (2020).
For Tassili, Ourahmane brought together a group of fellow artists, musicians, and filmmakers to travel with her and to contribute to her exhibition at SculptureCenter, including artists Hiba Ismail and Yuma Burgess; filmmakers Alana Mejía González and Jacob Oommen; guides Ahmed Hamid and Berka Ayoub; psychiatrist Isabel Valli; musicians felicita, Nicolás Jaar, Yawning Portal, and Sega Bodega; and editor Robert Fox.
The exhibition is curated by Kyle Dancewicz, Deputy Director.
Lydia Ourahmane’s new moving image work Tassili, 2022, is commissioned and produced by SculptureCenter, New York; rhizome, Algiers; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; Kamel Lazaar Foundation, Tunis; Mercer Union, Toronto; and Nottingham Contemporary.
Lydia Ourahmane: Tassili is organized in partnership with B7L9 Art Station, Tunis, where it will travel in spring 2023. Presentations of Ourahmane’s video work are planned for 2022-23 in partnership with Mercer Union, Toronto (fall 2022); Nottingham Contemporary (fall 2023); rhizome, Algiers (winter 2023); and the Open Space program of the Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (dates forthcoming).
Images: Lydia Ourahmane, Tassili, 2022, installation view, Lydia Ourahmane: Tassili, SculptureCenter, New York, 2022. 4K video, 16mm transferred to video, digital animation, sound. 46:12 minutes. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Charles Benton
Commissioned and produced by SculptureCenter, New York; rhizome, Algiers; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; Kamel Lazaar Foundation, Tunis; Mercer Union, Toronto; and Nottingham Contemporary.