In the exhibition The Algerian Novel we show the film project Le Roman Algérien (Chapitre un, deux, trois) in three parts by the French-Algerian artist Katia Kameli.
The relationship between France and Algeria is a reoccurring theme in Katia Kameli’s art. She explores how it has affected people, countries, communities and the public discourse. She also describes the dilemma of having multiple identities, where cultural identity and geographical belonging is a complex and sometimes questioned issue.
In the film’s first chapter, from 2016, were are introduced to a kiosk in central Algiers, Algeria, where Farouk Azzoug and his son sell historical postcards, stamps, photographs and coins. The kiosk is a central part of the narrative in The Algerian Novel – this film project which turned into a trilogy. That was not the original intention, but the material grew, the questions multiplied, there were some unexpected turn of events and Katia Kameli’s curiosity moved the project onwards.
In The Algerian Novel the dramatic structure is not linear, and the meta perspectives multiply as the parts are added. After the viewer gets to hear a few different voices and see how the kiosk operates, things go deeper in the succeeding parts from 2017 and 2019. In these, the French-Algerian philosopher and art historian Marie-José Mondzain plays a major part as she offers her interpretation of the first film. She discusses the traces of a collective memory and the stories told by pictures. We also get to meet the Algerian writer, lawyer and feminist Wassyla Tamzali who in turn analyses a selection of the photographs Kameli has bought from the kiosk.
In preparation for the third chapter, Katia Kameli returns to Algeria in 2019 together with Marie-José Mondzain to show her the kiosk. She also accompanies Mondzain in a personal search for some paintings by her father, meant to be held in an Algerian museum. They come into contact with the photojournalist Louiza Ammi, whose work and archive piques Kameli’s interest. She also has an idea about including the feminist film La Nouba des femmes du Month Chenoua (1978) by the writer Assia Djebar. All these ideas materialise, but things take a new turn when they suddenly find themselves in the middle of the demonstrations against the authoritarian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika which will eventually force his resignation. History and the present become interlaced.
The Algerian Novel asks for the viewers’ concentration. Its three parts create a complex and sharp tale of archives, the effect of images on our memory, the telling of history, feminism and resistance.