Refracted memories

by Clelia Coussounnet

“One must first remember what is called a day to be forgotten.”
Abderrahmane Moussaoui

The deviation of a wave passing from one environment to another is called a refraction. Light, electromagnetic, seismic or acoustic rays are exposed to this physical phenomenon. During the crossing, vibrations transform the wave durably, impelling a change of its direction.

If the memorial process is the passage of reality and events from experience/the present to memory/the past, and considering reality gets reinterpreted between these temporalities, the memorial process can poetically be contemplated as undergoing a refraction. Indeed, the constitution of each individual’s mental archive and imaginary is impacted by unconscious variations and changes of direction. In the case of similar facts, this produces, from one person to another, fragmented memories, sometimes contradictory or conflicting. In continual motion, grappling with reality and its inevitable deformation, memory evolves according to temporalities and new elements that nourish it. Permeated by a flow of images, spoken narratives and readings, memory is the aggregate of experiences that individuals really lived or that they appropriate (from their family, relatives, a community they identify with).

In Algeria, the generation that did not face directly the 1990s black decade had to reconstitute indirect individual memories from limited and indelible archival images trivialising violence. The available archival material was transformed by everyone’s prism to such an extent that there is no collective memory on this weighty period of Algerian history and the wounds it incurred. Sofiane Zouggar is particularly interested in the dissemination and circulation of these archives, in the transmission of violence and war traumas, and in how the absence of speech and narratives around the 1990s triggered silence, denial, and obliteration.
For some years now, like a researcher, the artist has been reworking the archive relentlessly and exhuming traces he classifies as data, hoping that the missing collective memory work will start before all individual testimonies disappear. His installation Artefact recalls scientific experimentation procedures, with the doubts inherent to research and its unknown results. Zouggar plays around the idea of transforming/reformulating the archive in order to overcome the banality of violence. In his ephemeral laboratory, he tests three simultaneous experiments with distinct variables. In the dark, triptychs of screens and projectors broadcast photographs and videos of the black decade, almost inaccessible to the public. The emitted light is actually geared towards earth as if to determine, in a projection towards the near future, whether it is possible to grow something alive from such refractory memories. The unresolved archive lingers in the shadow wondering which direction to take and how to rebuild a collective imaginary.