Parisian artist’s work shines light on lighthouses
Zineb Sedira, a worldly artist born in Paris who has won awards in London and Paris, held her first solo exhibition in the United States Friday night at the Blaffer Art Museum.
Sedira’s “Lighthouse in the Sea of Time” consisted of photographs and six video installations originally commissioned for the 2011 Folkestone Triennial. The artist’s works document her journeys to two specific lighthouses in Algeria: Cap Caxine, near the capital, Algiers; and Cap Sigili, in the more remote region of Algeria called Kabylia. Sedira’s works capture aspects of her lighthouse experiences in a vast array of challenging angles.
“I found it to be very romantic. I especially loved the video installations. The mood set a relaxed setting for what I’d imagine to be the perfect getaway date, full of light breezes from the ocean and descending a flight of dramatic spiral staircases,”said creative writing junior Catherine Ha.
“You wouldn’t imagine that from a lighthouse, I guess, and I’m sure the artist didn’t intend to make it romantic. But with the raindrops and soft lighting, the slow dissolving of the video clips and the close attention to details, I found it to be oddly cozy and romantic — yet that one scary Alfred Hitchcock movie also comes to mind,” Ha said.
While some viewers may have found light in the exhibition or even a romantic view, “Lighthouse in the Sea of Time” has a deep historical and arguably political background. The two lighthouses Sedira visited were both built and maintained by France when Algeria was a colonial outpost. After the end of the Algerian War of Independence in 1962, they were then transferred to Algerian control.
In two of her six video installations, Sedira portrays the story of a lighthouse keeper and his careful attention to visitor logbooks and technical equipment in the lighthouse archives.
One video, “The Life of a Lighthouse Keeper,” shows an interview with the lighthouse keeper, and the second, “A Museum of Traces,” consists of no sound but the noise of him typing visitors’ names into the logbook. Photographs of pages of the logbooks, written in French and dating back to the 1960s, surround the walls, giving a deep look into the history of the lighthouses.
With “Lighthouse in the Sea of Time,” Sedira displays the subtle ways that monumental historical struggles may continue to echo today.
“I thought the artist’s usage of photography, video installation and lighthouse logging was an innovative way to convey the story she was trying to tell,” said biology senior My Tran. “Each section of the exhibit was like a stanza, making her masterpiece very poetic.”