- Artist Amina Menia
- Title Enclosed
- Date 2012
- Medium Photographs, plans, video interview, postcards, coin, banknote, stamp and documents
- Duration 8 minutes, 53 seconds
Enclosed revisits the extraordinary history of a monument located in the heart of Algiers. Completed in 1928, Paul Landowski’s Monument to the Dead was commissioned by French authorities to commemorate French and Arab soldiers who died in World War I. It held centre stage from 1928 to 1978.
In the late 1970s, the mayor of Algiers appointed M’hamed Issiakhem, one of the founders of Algeria’s modern art movement, to hide this remnant of colonialism. Not wanting to remove or destroy the statue, the artist decided to enclose it in a sort of sarcophagus.
I find this 'double monument' to be a perfect metaphor for the complex and tense Algerian-French relationship. Through the commission of Issiakhem, the Algerian government made a clear public statement about the reestablishment of freedom and identity. They used the city’s terrain as a political forum to express the sociopolitical project of the young Algerian Republic. The new monument staged the displacement of symbols necessary to confront the colonial legacy.
In 2012, during the celebrations for the fiftieth anniversary of Algeria’s independence, a crack appeared in the outer sarcophagus, and it began to crumble. A debate has since grown between those who want to keep this shell and those who want to remove it, leaving the original monument, with all its troubling significations.
As a third generation of artists to deal with this memorial, I have chosen to place the works of the two artists in dialogue. Issiakhem was obliged to cover the original monument, but he offered us the choice – or perhaps, the responsibility – to accept or reject it. Reflecting on this gesture, I have tried to underline discreet realities, highlight unseen details, create links where dots were left…
Archival material has kindly been made available by the Issiakhem family archive in Algiers, Indivision Landowski and the Musée des Années 30 in Boulogne- Billancourt, France.