Workshop led by L’atelier de l’observatoire at ENSBA

January-February 2016, École National Supérieure d’Alger

THE COLLECTIVE MUSEUM – Algiers

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The Atelier de l’obeservatoire founder and artist Mohamed Fariji seeks to extend his project The Collective Museum to Algiers through an intensive workshop bringing together architects, students, artists, activists and citizens of Algiers for eight work sessions (twice weekly for four weeks) dedicated to exchange and reflection on the collective memory of the city of Algiers.

Alongside the sessions, Fariji will present his projects “The Collective Museum : Yasmina Park” and “The Collective Museum: Madrassa” through a talk and screening. By way of images, films and testimonies, he will discuss the act of salvaging carousels, photographs, documents and other objects from the legendary Yasmina Park (an amusement park for children, located in central Casablanca within the Arab League Park).

Yasmina Park had been abandoned for over 15 years when, following numerous work meetings and awareness raising efforts with the city’s public authorities, Fariji was able to recover a portion of what was set to be destroyed (carousels, games, pedalos, cash registers, frescoes, paintings and light fixtures) in order to incorporate them into The Collective Museum, a museum dedicated to the collective memory of cities.

Following in the same vein as his earlier project, The Imaginary Aquarium, which took as its subject the former aquarium of Casablanca, Fariji continues to collect traces of public spaces in Casablanca that have disappeared, or been forgotten or excluded from official discourse.

In this way, Fariji also intervened during the demolishment of the Ibnou Abbad primary school on Ziraoui Boulevard in Casablanca. On this occasion it was an undercover operation to recover objects, class photos, furniture, maps, books and other “memories”, testimonies from across the lifespan of a public space that saw thousands of Casablancan school children pass through its doors. These objects, on the point of being buried by bulldozers already in action, formed the Collective Museum’s first display case. It was presented to the public in October 2015 at Thinkart, Casablanca.

It is through such ephemeral “exhibition-actions” that the Museum, whose collection continues to grow progressively richer, will take its place in the public arena, in the streets, in fields, in public squares, and particularly in the form of mobile containers transformed into museum spaces. It is regularly nourished by further collecting, salvaging and research, carried out by artists, their collaborators and all those wishing to entrust their “memory-objects” or propose acts of collection (in their areas, in schools, communities, families, etc), in Morocco and other cities in the region such as Algiers, Cairo and Amman. This participative act is characterized by the will and desire for the creation of a collective memory, conceived as alternative to an “official memory” that often fails to include the individual in the writing of History. The Museum can also be exhibited through “presentation-actions”, such as hereby proposed for Algiers.

During the workshop, the participants and the artist will produce a newspaper based on their research and discussions about the city and the collective memory of places (through images, photographs, drawings, texts, collages, interviews, excerpts from discussions, etc). At the end of the workshop, they will present their progress: the work produced, the objects collected and their stories, the sounds, images, photographs, drawings, and in addition their different working methods and the acts undertaken. The elements of this presentation may then take the form of an exhibition, and render possible the production of more glass display cases for The Collective Museum: a showcase of Algiers collective memory.

The participants will be able to choose between working collectively on an identified space, or carrying out individual projects according to their interests, personal history, local area, etc. Just as in previous stages in The Collective Museum project, they will focus on places or objects of particular relevance to the city’s collective memory that are currently being, or soon to be, destroyed or rendered inaccessible.

The Collective Museum welcomes and is particularly interested in objects and documents soon to disappear from view (recovered from rubbish bins, constructions sites, etc) that recount a story of what might have otherwise no longer existed, in any form.

From one week to the next, the workshop participants will share the results of actions undertaken, and may also decide to take time in a site relevant to the city’s collective memory (such as a specific building, or abandoned amusement park) and their ongoing thoughts and reflections. This process will then be revisited as source material for work on the newspaper and the final presentation to the public.

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