Integration, memory, art: interview with Halida Boughriet

By: Laurie Benson


Image: Halida Boughriet, ‘Des Intégrations’ (2015) 

Halida Boughriet is a Paris-based artist and graduate of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux- Arts. She has exhibited at the Institut du Monde Arabe, FIAC Algiers, MAC/VAL, Pompidou Centre, Dak’Art Biennale, and with the touring exhibition ‘Rencontres Internationales’. Key works are held in the permanent collections of the Pompidou and MAC/VAL Museum, Paris.

Her practice is mixed-media, often using video, photography, and performance art. Whilst not overtly ‘political art’ her work and performances question conflict in terms of the role of the body, social positioning, immigration, integration and city-spaces of (in)security. In particular, her work addresses these questions in relation to France and Algeria.


Laurie Benson: How would you characterise the relationship between art and politics? How do you approach this in your practice?

Halida Boughriet: My practice and relationship to politics is in a way about a ‘state of emergency’ that starts from the moment I explore our society or memories. Certainly it’s bound up with the living body-politic and the social body which includes national and international politics. So, in my work there is always a specific intention regarding the subject, which consequently is political.

Most of the works that I’ve done have a political aspect, but not directly. That is, except in ‘Des Intégrations where I included media coverage and even political statements in the film as audio. But it is never in direct confrontation. In Pandore’ it’s also political, using a documentary-style and images of war, but always in this sense rather than politics in terms of prominent political figures. However, the national flag is used in my work. I am talking about social politics and I include multiple elements: the individual, the question of ‘being’ in the social environment, territory, inclusion, spaces of memory, and the accounts of people who are in diverse conflicts.

 What does conflict mean to you?

For me conflict is about the moment an individual or group of individuals do not get on with one another for whatever reason. How I apply that to my work is in relation to those people who do not have a prominent social status and who are often in a fracture or ‘broken’: psychologically, socially, privately, or financially. It is about the habitus. Specifically the habitus of our birthplace and of associated memories, for example, an unequal system of immigration.


PANDORE2 - copie

Image: Halida Boughriet, ‘Pandore’ (2014)

Memory, and specifically the French-Algerian relationship, form central, if not always explicit, themes in your practice. Could you explain this context and how it informs your work, for example in ‘Mémoire dans l’oubli’ (2010-2011)?

The point of departure for this piece was intrinsically tied to my origins in Algeria. The only connection I really had was through my family relationships- with my father, my mother and my grandmother who identify as Algerian and who migrated to France in the 1970’s. The context of decolonisation is important and very present in our family.

In ‘Mémoire dans l’oubli’ I wanted to think about these women who had participated in the Algerian War of Independence, but whose stories are hardly ever broached in the imaginary, archival or media. What happened to them? What have they become? I wanted to cross over and explore these issues in Algeria where my parents were born.

I gained more and more contacts on visiting Algeria. When I met them in an apartment there was a bench by a window and I asked the women to pose in a way that made reference to Orientalism- the desires, positionalities, art history. These women had aged, they were beautiful, and they had a history. When I photographed them I saturated the light almost like a hiding place in the vein of painters such as Eugène Delacroix [Les Femmes D’Alger dans leurs appartement].

You also question and use spaces of the city as part of your work, particularly in the videos ‘Des Intégrations’ and ‘Action’. Tell us more about this.

Territory is delimited. It’s a certitude. One feels it in every country. They are delimited by a national identity interior to the country, where there are landscapes of individuals who form part of the territory. We [in France] have some more ‘sensitive’ zones- as they are named politically- but which are zones with diversity and the different cultures that are French.

However, in my performances the ideal is to place yourself in location in order to raise awareness of an action in a given moment and place. For example, I’ve walked around everywhere- in shops and the street- with sound-speakers which leads me to disrupt the territory. That’s what is interesting. It’s about positioning and the directing of oneself in a given spaces within which we are placed and work- ‘la mode de vie’. Particularly, in terms of the difference between ‘Europe’ and the ‘Orient’. In ‘Actions’ I was in a busy commercial area called Les Halles. I took hold of strangers’ hands. It transgressed a limit.

Building on this, as an artist you have used your own body in video works such as ‘Pandore’ and in your performance art in spaces such as the Pompidou Centre. Is the body the hinge?

The body for me is a thinking body, a living body, a body of being, a cultural body, a body of memory, an injured body, a body of ideas, a child-bearing body, and an aging body. It’s a summary of life. That’s why I’m interested in the body and its colours. Oh, and its relation to light and nature.

After that it’s more complicated in terms of our artistic medium and it’s important to keep it personal. I am very much interested in emotion. It’s important to include my body from the beginning and then to distance myself in relation to others, to not be in the complex of individualism, as the artist relative to others. This emotive aspect absolutely includes the reaction of the audience.

Thank you.

Halida was interviewed by Laurie Benson, a senior editor at Strife and a PhD candidate in the Department of War Studies, in Paris in November 2015. This is an edited and translated version of the transcript. Her latest piece is the video ‘Des Intégrations’ (2015).

Details of her work can be found here:

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