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Zineb Sedira / Under the Sky and Over the Sea

2010-09-19 to 2010-10-31

Dreamlike imagery and elaborate soundscapes characterize the work visual artist Zineb Sedira. Through poetic meditations in video and photography she explores transitional conditions – of being in and between continents, languages, remembered pasts and imagined futures. Bildmuseet at Umeå University is proud to present the first extensive solo show of Sedira’s work in Sweden. The exhibition Under the Sky and Over the Sea comprise a selection of works dating from 2002 including her most recent work Floating Coffins from 2009.

In her video work, photographs and installations London based artist Zineb Sedira is investigating existential and human conditions of mobility, migration, transfer and displacement. In MiddleSea (2008) she stages the renowned boat journey between Algiers and Marseilles. Set on a sailing ship a man, alone, walks around the empty corridors of a deserted vessel, waiting. He waits like all the exiled wishing to return or in search of a new life.

Key to Sediras’s work is also the question of narration. In Mother, Father and I (2003) she stages her parent’s reminiscences of the Algerian War, and their transformation from opponents of the French colonial rule to economic migrants in France. The parents lighten the burden of their past by sharing it with their daughter while she fills the gaps in her knowledge of their history, going back to the very origin of her family displacement. Narration, communication and the transfer of histories is also at the centre in Mother Tongue (2002) which highlights the generational shift of languages in Sedira’s family over the course of successive migration – her Algerian parent’s Arabic, her own French and her daughter’s English. This work brings into sharp relief the ineluctable consequences of migration and the communication breakdown between generations.

Sedira has developed a poetic language of narration with strong cinematic qualities. Like in the dual channel video installation Saphir (2006) where she constructs a narrative where the central characters are the soundscape and the architecture of the port in Algiers. The faded grandeur and decrepit colonial architecture is fore-grounded by the sonic atmosphere of the harbour traffic with seagulls squawking, horns blaring, maritime machinery clanking, bikes revving.

The exhibition Under the Sky and Over the Sea also includes Sedira’s most recent work, the multichannel room size installation Floating Coffins (2009), filmed in one of West Africa’s most famous boat scrap yards, a few kilometres away from Nouadhibou in Mauritania. It’s one of the only places in the world where old vessels are dumped without first being dismantled. On the beach, hundreds of dead fish poisoned by the noxious waters show the scale of the resulting ecological catastrophe. This thin stretch of land is also marked by the dream of migration. People from all over Sub-Saharan Africa gather there in the hope of boarding for the Canary Islands, a perilous, sometimes fatal journey.

The exhibition Under the Sky and Over the Sea is conceived in collaboration with Pori Art Museum in Finland and Kunsthallen Nikolaj in Copenhagen and is accompanied by a catalogue. The video installation Floating Coffins has been commissioned by New Art Exchange, Nottingham, UK.