Waiting for Omar Gatlato: A Survey of Algerian Contemporary Art
Waiting for Omar Gatlato is conceived as a broad survey both of established Algerian artists and of those from the generation now coming of age in a post-civil war Algeria and in its diaspora. Waiting for Omar Gatlato is--first--the title of a book published in 1979 by the Algerian lawyer, feminist, and film critic Wassila Tamzali. Tamzali is in turn waiting for the central character of Merzak Allouache's extraordinary cinematic portrait of post-war Algerian youth released in 1976. This exhibition sketches anew the figure of Omar Gatlato, an Algerian Godot.
The events of what is called the “Arab Spring” and its aftermath have renewed interest in the work of artists identified with the Arab world. Yet, the Algerian context is hard to integrate into a broad regional history because it is exceptional, even when viewed together with its North African neighbors, Tunisia and Morocco. The specificity of its long, intimate colonial relationship to France, the fact that it experienced a violent Islamic coalition movement in the 1990s, decades before the rise of ISIS, and the significance of its non-Arab, Muslim Berber minority in political discourse and cultural life are just a few factors contributing to this exceptionalism.
Waiting for Omar Gatlato will trace two main axis in the recent history of Algerian contemporary art: the representation of migration and of the conditions of Algerian immigrants abroad, especially such as conditions reproduce the colonial situation in a new form, and artwork attempting the difficult task of historical anamnesis, or of coming to terms with the violent legacy of Algeria’s Black Decade.
October 26, 2019 - March 15, 2020
Natasha Marie Llorens