Nidhal Chamekh reflects on the times we inhabit. His artwork is situated at the intersection of the biographical and the political, the lived and the historical, the event and the archive.
This presentation takes his recent solo exhibition at Selma Feriani Gallery, Nos visages, which included new drawings, projection and installation. Drawings trace impressions from articles of French colonial propaganda (the journal Le Miroir). Precisely where Senegalese and Berber infantrymen were presented somewhere between the ethnographical survey and the hackneyed colonial and orientalist image. Emphasising the importance of the portrait in the colonial imagination.
Paradoxically, the photographic apparatus used to capture an individual's features is reduced to an identikit portrait of the Colonized, the Foreigner, and the Slave, a system shared with developments of anthropological and criminological photography, during the late 19th century. Unable to determine a name to all the faces traced by Chamekh, radicalised the denial of their existence by overlaying contradictory half-faces among each other. This has involved not so much the blurring of identities, as taking a risk of laceration and rupture in order to examine the silenced wounds of a history told by the official conquerors.
Duplicating these faces, and tearing them out of a system of coercive representation, introduces them into an alternative moment: one that re-connects layers of sacrificed fates with those vanquished of the victory. These faces which contributed to the liberation of France, remained forever forgotten in its official narrative and a war calling itself a world war, when the real theatre involved the European colonial empires. As if to better demythologise these photographs, which erase individuals by displaying them as propaganda objects, nos visages attempts to determine their position, defying anatomical rationality and struggle. (text by Morad Montazami)