Sophie Elbaz: Interior Geographies

Sophie Elbaz: Interior Geographies

The installation traces Elbaz's family's roots -- particularly that of her father and grandfather -- to Constantine, Algeria

Sophie Elbaz, L'ile fantastique, 2007 (photo credit: Publicity/Courtesy, Sophie Elbaz, MAHJ Paris)
Sophie Elbaz, L'ile fantastique, 2007 (photo credit: Publicity/Courtesy, Sophie Elbaz, MAHJ Paris)

Interior Geographies is shown in the exhibition rooms in the MAHJ’s auditorium foyer. Divided into four distinct spaces and combining photographs, videos and family archives, it describes the process by which the artist has re-appropriated her family history.

The importance of the imaginary in the assimilation of inherited or reconstituted memories is primordial.

The evocation of family memory in the discourse of mourning or severance with the past often characterizes the vision of the second generation. Sophie Elbaz set out to understand why her grandfather chose to stay in Constantine (where he died on 21 December 1962, six months after Algerian independence), whereas his wife and three children left for France in the 1950s. The several trips she made to Constantine and Algeria gave rise to a complex, ecstatic then painful confrontation with reality.

It is with an entirely new vision, drawing on images from the past and those she created herself, that she is now expressing both her enchantment and disenchantment, the driving forces of a singular and extremely personal work.

The installation runs through January 27, 2013.

Elbaz writes:

In 2007, I went to Constantine in search of my Sephardic origins on my father’s side. There, I made an initial, poetic film in memory of my grandfather, Jonathan Elbaz, and the Île fantastique triptych. Today, the reinterpretation of this material left in “limbo” and my family archives has inspired this photographic itinerary. From the need for enchantment to the evidence of disenchantment, it poses the question of our relationship with reality, memory and history, and our right distance from them.

The exhibition opens with the question of passed down identity and heritage. The second space, a kind of passage towards the other spaces, symbolises the relationship between the living and the dead, between memories and traces.

The third space deals with the idealisation of the rediscovered origin. A series of photographs reflects a totally projective perception of the city of my ancestors and the strange sensation of complete disorientation in such a familiar country.

The final section leaves us in the silence of ruins. At the end of the journey, the imaginary dimension is gradually effaced by the reality of Algeria today.