She never ceases to navigate between the two shores: Algeria where her father was born, and her maternal France. Katia Kameli could only respond present to the invitation of the Louvre and participate in a project which aims in particular to evoke the dialogue between Islamic civilization and Europe. Born in 1973 in Clermont-Ferrand, the artist is one of the twenty or so contemporary visual artists invited as a counterpoint to the heritage collections displayed throughout the territory in the eighteen exhibitions « Arts of Islam, a past for a present « .
His video, The Algerian novel – chapter I, is projected at the Abbé-Grégoire de Blois library, between a Mughal crystal cup and a funerary stele testifying to the first centuries of Islam in Tunisia. “The choice of this city resonated with me, because it so happened that my father, a worker, worked there, and I find it important that these historical pieces move to less usual places, she congratulates herself. I don’t know yet what meaning this can construct, but I hope that my film will resonate with these works. «
Above all, she calls for the setting up of a real work of mediation, fundamental in her eyes. “It is essential that the young people, to whom this project seems to be addressed as a priority, understand that they have to deconstruct and reconstruct history. In this respect, my film is a perfect medium. « The first of a trilogy (she produced chapters II and III), this 30-minute documentary evokes an astonishing image market in the city of Algiers, where the artist has carried out numerous projects. “It’s a kiosk that has existed for a very long time, I knew it as a teenager when I traveled with my father, and I saw it grow, evolve: at the beginning it was especially rich in colonial images, and little little by little the photos became more and more political. I quickly felt that there was a knot there. «
From the café opposite, she observes for a long time the onlookers who have come to discover these scraps of memory, she becomes attached to the buyers, analyzes the way in which the kiosk, each morning, takes the photos out of their boxes and redraws a story. “In this country where there are few museums, apart from the Fine Arts which few visit, and no access to archives, this place is a space of freedom, another rare thing in this territory. « But in her film, Katia Kameli does not limit herself to drawing up an inventory of the iconography unveiled there: she offers to « read » these images to « Historians, passers-by, collectors, intellectuals, in order to understand what needs this stall meets ». It’s like a storybook, which is constantly being rebuilt.
She regrets a little that the following two components, which revolve around the same place, but in a more analytical way, are not also projected: « Learning to read an image, understanding how its different interpretations are constructed, is really a message to pass on to the younger generations », she assures. She knows it, with each of her presentations, her Algerian novel affects visitors, especially a public not necessarily used to museums. “At the FRAC PACA in Marseille, [Fonds d’art contemporain de Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur] where I exhibited my films this summer, I was moved to see Algerian families coming, grandparents who watched these images with their grandchildren, and used them a bit like an instrument of handover from memory. «
In the same exhibition, she also unveiled superb collages from her Stream of Stories series, made from her exploration of the oriental origins of La Fontaine’s fables: we know that the classical author drew a lot from Aesop; but the Indian tales, as well as the famous Persian epic Kalîla wa Dimna, also fed him a lot.
In her collages, Katia Kameli merges these imagery, but carefully dissects their different origins in her cartels, integral parts of the work: with this long-term project, she hopes to recall « That it is time to reopen the history books, to understand that all history is narration, and that it is important to know the author, and his goals: all speaking is power, school to politics. You must therefore learn to search for yourself, and remember that under the established facts, there is always a narrator, or a translator ”. Borrowing a line from Assia Djebar, the Algerian poet, Katia Kameli entitled her Marseille exhibition « She lit the heart of the past ». His greatest desire is that his work serve this purpose.
This article was written as part of a partnership with the Louvre Museum and the Réunion des Musées Nationaux