An Audio Family Album

For two decades, Bouchra Khalili’s work has articulated contemporary migratory trajectories, colonial continuum, and the politics of memory of internationalist struggles and collective emancipation. Through this she investigates new forms of belonging that are freed from the models of citizenship imposed by the nation-state model as it was built in the West. For this project conceived for The Diasporic Schools, Bouchra Khalili starts from the legacy of Al Assifa, a theatre group active between 1972 and 1978 that consisted of a group of North African workers – all born colonised – and their French student allies, and whose shows were mainly performed in striking factories and community spaces. Al Assifa also published a newspaper, Al Assifa: The Voice of Arab Workers. Al Assifa were the subjects of Khalili’s The Tempest Society, a video installation (documenta 14, 2017) and publication (Bookworks, London, 2019)., featuring articles and news about anti-colonial and immigration struggles. In those years, members of the group used to read the newspaper in Arab cafes in Paris to allow illiterate members of the community to access the information as well; audio cassettes were also used to circulate this content among Maghreb-descendent communities in several French cities, reaffirming oral narration as a powerful practice of resistance to the official discourse and to dominant knowledge.  In An Audio Family Album, Bouchra Khalili continues her investigation of Al Assifa’s methodology based on the dying tradition of Al-halqa, the oldest performing art in North Africa. Collaborating with a younger generation of members of the same communities living nowadays in Europe, she proposes an online archive of voices, bringing together stories of emancipation that have helped shape the memories and contemporary strategies of diaspora struggles and that, through this process, are passed on from one generation to the next. Across geographies and generations, these stories form a collective family album where, as in the Al-halqa tradition, the voices embody the living and nomadic memory of people’s struggles for collective emancipation.

Bouchra Khalili is a Moroccan-born (1975, Casablanca) and Berlin-based artist. She studied Film History at Sorbonne Nouvelle and Visual Arts at the École Nationale Supérieure d'Arts de Paris. Encompassing film, video, installation, photography, printmaking, and publishing, Khalili's practice explores imperial and colonial continuums as epitomized by contemporary forced illegal migrations and the politics of memory of anti-colonial struggles and international solidarity. At the intersection of history and micro-narratives, her work combines documentary strategies and conceptual practice to investigate questions of self-representation, autonomous agency, and forms of resistance of suppressed communities. Deeply informed by the legacy of post-independence avant-gardes and the vernacular traditions of her native Morocco, Khalili's approach combine performative strategies of storytelling and the old tradition of Northern Africa storytelling to develops civic platforms for first person accounts eventually forming collective stories of resistance and emancipation. Khalili's work has been subject to numerous solo exhibitions, such as at Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), Museum Folkwang (Essen), Jeu de Paume (Paris), MAXXI Museum (Roma), Museum of Modern Art (New York). She also participated to several international exhibitions such as at the 12th Bamako Biennial, BienalSur (Buenos Aires), Documenta 14th Kassel, 55th Venice Biennale, among others. As a cultural activist, she’s a co-founder of the Cinémathèque de Tanger, Northern Morocco's first cultural center dedicated to the preservation and promotion of film culture in the region.

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