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Zineb Sedira
Themes of provenance, separation and return are key to Sedira's practice. and the questions surrounding a partial return to Algeria, apparent in Silent Sight, are resolved in the recent films Saphir, 2006 and Middle Sea, 2008.

In Silent Sight, Sedira remembers returning to Algeria as a child and the confusion she experienced when her mother donned the haik or veil. 'I remember,' she says in voice-over, 'as soon as we arrived, she would get it out, change into it, become it.' The 'it' is not named but signified by the tight framing of the artist's eyes, edged by two bands of white, mimicking the effect of a veiled face. Discordant music intensifies the alienation the daughter recalls. The eyes look left as if seeking someone. 'The anxiety of confusing her with others would be lifted with a glance from her.' The artist's experience of the sudden threat to the symbiotic bond is brilliantly portrayed. Her search for presence in absence, the personal in the depersonalised, echoes the way the Western view, unaccustomed to veiled women, negotiates feelings of incomprehension. It also conveys to a wider audience the way we mask our disappointment with the unavailability of the mother and eventually grow used to it. 'She was very at ease…she felt protected by it. It was her home, my home...' This acceptance from the artist-onlooker who is both inside and outside, acts as a model for those who find the 'niqab' one of the most disturbing symbols of Islam.

This split positioning is central to Sedira's approach - whether in her use of parallel screens or in films like And the Road Goes On, 2005, where consciousness itself seems split. Here, the coastal landscape of Algeria is filmed from a moving car. The horizontal layers of colour stack like a landscape painting, from the dusty road, the red earth roadside, the green scrubland and the deep blue sea to the pale blue sky. Small farms, settlements and fields of crops pass in a blur but as the car passes people, such as a walking man in a headscarf, or a young woman using a mobile phone, or three people sitting at the roadside, the image is staggered, as if to connect with those who seem to move at a less Metropolitan pace, in a more ancient time. But the figures also become ghosts - ghosts of those massacred in the villages during the Civil War, those one million Pieds-Noirs who fled during the exodus of 1962, those economic migrants, like the artist's parents.

Sedira's striving to freeze her sighting of them acts as a memorial, an answer to the desertion that the landscape suggests. This is the view of a returning daughter, trying to find a way to match her pace and her history with the land and people of her ancestors. It may have a hint of what French philosopher Jacques Derrida dubbed nostalgerie, but it avoids sentimentality.

Silent Sight, Installation view, 2002
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