Katarzyna Falęcka: Photography’s Routes: Revisiting the Visual Cultures of the Algerian War of Independence (1954-62)

This project examines the increased mobilisation of photographic archives and collections pertaining to the Algerian War of Independence (1954-62) in artistic and photographic practices since the 1980s. As one of the most violent decolonisation conflicts, which led to the fall of the French Empire and the emergence of other liberation struggles across the African continent and the Middle East, the war remains a highly divisive moment in twentieth-century history. The recent archival “returns” performed by artists and photographers have been motivated by a desire to create counter-hegemonic depictions of the conflict, recover the agency of those who were relegated to the archive’s margins and understand the larger mechanisms that structured the war’s visual cultures. The project critically tests such strategies, remaining attentive to the fact that the mobility and reproducibility of photographic images – while allowing for public engagements – also means that they can be activated in many ideological directions and to often contested ends. By attending to the aesthetic and political potentialities of these artistic excavations – performed in the framework of both state archives and private collections – the project urges us to think flexibly about what the politics of archival “returns” might be.

Katarzyna Falęcka is an AHRC-funded PhD student in the History of Art Department at University College London (UCL). Her thesis examines the histories of photography from the Algerian War of Independence (1954-62) through the lens of post-war artistic and photographic engagements with these images. In 2018, Falęcka held a fellowship at the Kluge Centre, Library of Congress, DC. She curated a series of talks on Algerian contemporary art at the Mosaic Rooms in London, co-organised the conference “Decolonising History: Visualisations of Conflict in a ‘Post-War’ Europe” at UCL, and serves on the board of the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Art.


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