Back to Abnormal is a cinetract commissioned by the Wexner Center for the Arts as part of its “Wexner Center Artist Residency Award 2019-2020”.
For the 2019-2020 award’s edition, The Wexner invited 20 artists and filmmakers to capture “the zeitgeist in your own backyard,” in hopes a global portrait would emerge from this index of diverse locales.
The project takes inspiration from the 1968’s cinétracts produced by a group of French filmmakers including Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais and Chris Marker, crafting short 16mm black&white silent film responding to the political and social upheaval that shook Paris in May of that year.
Back to Abnormal, Khalili’s contribution to the 2020’s cinetract was similarly shot on 16mm as a black & white silent short film. The film meditates on the evolution of public sentiment and police reaction to striking health care workers in France before, during, and right after the Paris’ lockdown from March to May 2020.
The 20 commissions are available to watch online:
At the invitation of Kunstenfestivaldesarts 2020 (Brussels) and its Diasporic Schools, Bouchra Khalili proposes an “Audio Family Album”, an online sound project.
Khalili starts from the legacy of Al Assifa, a Paris-based theatre group active between 1972 and 1978 that consisted of a group of North African workers and their French student allies. Al Assifa’s work and legacy were already the subjects of Khalili’s The Tempest Society, a video installation (documenta 14, 2017) and a publication (Bookworks, London, 2019). The group also published a newspaper, Al Assifa: The Voice of Arab Workers. 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.
For the first iteration of the Audio Family Album, Khalili invited a group of young researchers, artists and activists from Maghrebi-descents based in Brussels to choose a story of their choice, epitomizing their relationship to the diasporic experience. At the intersection of micro-history and collective memory, the audio recordings produced for the project suggests a « living archive » of voices, bringing together stories of emancipation that have helped shape the memories and contemporary strategies of diaspora struggles. Across geographies and generations, these stories form a potential collective family album where, as in the ancient tradition of public storytelling in North Africa, the voices embody the living and nomadic memory of the people.