One Take: Lydia Ourahmane’s Two Gold Teeth – 一拍:Lydia Ourahmane的两颗金牙

A tooth in the right side of Lydia Ourahmane’s mouth had always given her trouble. Seven or eight years ago, she had a disastrous root canal and the tooth, a maxillary molar, never really recovered. Around the time Ourahmane graduated from Goldsmiths, London, in 2014, with an undergraduate degree in fine art, she was driving out of town in a friend’s van. They had taken their lunches with them to eat on the road. Ourahmane took a bite – she can’t recall what she was eating that day but she remembers that it was soft – and the tooth, always bothersome, loosened completely and fell out into her food. There was only a stump of it left in her mouth. She later had to have it extracted, leaving a sizable gap.

Ourahmane’s missing tooth wasn’t the starting point of her strangely moving, curiously powerful, multi-part installation In the Absence of Our Mothers (2018). But, in a way, the story of how and why – and to what effect and with which materials – she has filled the gap is the piece, in its fullest expression. Over the past five years, Ourahmane has produced a highly distinguished body of work balancing brute facts (the cruelties of colonialism, the inequities of late capitalism) and tough materials (oil drums, tyres, concrete and steel rebar, a crumbling wall) with elements of history or experience that might be best described as vaporous, including family secrets, a boxer’s disembodied breath, a trumpet solo, the suggestion of a crime and the rumour of an act of extreme political resistance. Algeria, the country where the artist was born and to which she often returns, has laid out before her a dense matrix of both obvious and hidden concerns, all laced into conflicts that are, she says, ‘very much on the surface, where you can touch everything’. In the Absence of Our Mothers began not with her own toothache but with her grandfather’s decision to pull out every one of his teeth in a single day: a form of extreme self-mutilation that made him definitively unfit for fighting on behalf of the French in World War II.


One Take: Lydia Ourahmane’s Two Gold Teeth - 一拍:Lydia Ourahmane的两颗金牙

Tayeb Ourahmane’s identity card, issued by the French military, 1933. Courtesy: the artist

Raised on the Algeria-Morocco border, Tayeb Ourahmane was a sniper and a good one. He did two years of compulsory military service in colonial Algeria in the 1930s. The French kept him in the army for more than a decade and forced him to train fellow soldiers against his will. When it was clear that he was going to be sent to the trenches of Europe, he took the most drastic measure he could think of to exercise his right to decline. He went on to become a major figure in the Algerian war for independence, a gruesome conflict that lasted nearly a decade, from 1954 to 1962. And his resistance was never tainted. The revolution that liberated the country from France was quickly corrupted in power. Until his death in 1979, Tayeb Ourahmane refused to be honoured by the regime that had won the war but sacrificed a hopeful democracy for a reliable autocracy.

Lydia Ourahmane’s father was one of 12 siblings. All her life, she had heard whispers of her grandfather’s story. But it wasn’t until 2015, when she visited an uncle much older than her father, that she got the full account – with supporting documents. That same year, while she was researching harragas – North African migrants who burn their passports before being trafficked (by flimsy boat) to Spain – Ourahmane met a young man at a street market in Oran. He had his wares laid out on a flat sheet, but the artist wasn’t particularly interested in anything he had to sell. When she turned to leave, he pulled out a woman’s gold chain and offered it to her for €300. Initially she walked away, before returning to ask him where he had gotten the necklace. He said his mother had given it to him to sell for the family. Ourahmane imagined he had stolen it for the cost of the crossing to Spain, that his mother might never know, that he was acting, or rebelling, in her absence.


One Take: Lydia Ourahmane’s Two Gold Teeth - 一拍:Lydia Ourahmane的两颗金牙

Lydia Ourahmane, In the Absence of Our Mothers, 2018. Courtesy: the artist, Chisenhale Gallery, London; photograph: Andy Keate

Ourahmane bought the necklace. She toyed with it as a performance prop for a few years and then had it melted down. She turned the metal into two gold teeth. One of them is delicately mounted wherever In the Absence of Our Mothers is installed. The other has been wound onto a nickel screw drilled directly into her jawbone. The process wasn’t pretty or smooth – the tooth fell out the very first day it was implanted and another four times after that – but the language of integration and acceptance that accompanied it fit beautifully, seamlessly, into her practice. These two gold teeth are foreign objects, both precious and ordinary. They expand the metaphorical potential of Ourahmane’s interest in buried histories and clandestine journeys, making In the Absence of Our Mothers at once corporeal, speculative (as evidence of both actual and imagined transactions), durational and dauntingly intimate.

Reflecting on the piece in her own body, Ourahmane says: ‘Now I’m acutely aware of this thing in my mouth because it’s much hotter than the rest of my teeth. The shape is also not quite right so food gets stuck back there and I’ve had to develop this routine of carrying floss.’ But, like her grandfather, the artist is steadfast. She says she’ll never remove it. It will outlast her own life – but not her art.

Lydia Ourahmane is an artist based in London, UK, and Oran, Algeria. In the Absence of Our Mothers was commissioned by and first shown at Chisenhale Gallery, London, as part of a solo exhibition earlier this year. In 2018, Ourahmane has had solo presentations at Kunstverein Munich, Germany, and Kevin Space, Vienna, Austria, and her work has been shown in group exhibitions including MMAG Foundation, Amman, Jordan, New Museum Triennial, New York, USA, Jaou Tunis, Tunisia, and Manifesta 12, Palermo, Italy. Her work is currently on view in ‘Crude’ at Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai, UAE, until 30 March 2019 and ‘Vies en Video’ at Museum of Modern Art, Algiers, Algeria, until 31 January 2019.

Published in frieze, issue 199, November-December 2018, with the title ‘One Take: Things to Chew Over’.

Main image: Lydia Ourahmane, In the Absence of Our Mothers, ​2018. Courtesy: the artist, Chisenhale Gallery, London; photograph: Andy Keate

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie is a writer based between Beirut, Lebanon and New York, USA.

Issue 199

First published in Issue 199

November - December 2018

Features /

Lydia Ourahmane
One Take
Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Lydia Ourahmane嘴巴右边的一颗牙齿总是给她带来麻烦。七年或八年前,她有一个灾难性的根管和牙齿,上颌磨牙,从来没有真正恢复。大约在2014年,欧拉曼从伦敦戈德史密斯大学毕业,获得美术本科学位的时候,她正开着一辆朋友的面包车出城。他们带着他们的午餐在路上吃。欧拉曼咬了一口——她想不起那天吃了什么,但她记得那是软的——牙齿总是很烦人,完全松动了,掉进了她的食物里。她嘴里只剩一根树桩。她后来不得不把它提取出来,留下了相当大的缺口。欧拉曼的牙齿缺失并不是她奇怪地移动,奇怪地强大,多部分安装的起点。但是,在某种程度上,关于她如何以及为什么——以及以何种效果和何种材料——填补了这一空白的故事,就是这部作品最充分的表现。在过去的五年里,欧拉曼创造了一批杰出的作品,平衡了残酷的事实(殖民主义的残酷、晚期资本主义的不平等)和坚韧的材料(油桶、轮胎、混凝土和钢筋、破碎的墙)与历史或经验的因素。最能形容的也许是虚无缥缈的,包括家庭秘密、拳击手的无形呼吸、喇叭独奏、犯罪暗示和极端政治抵抗行为的谣言。阿尔及利亚,这位艺术家出生的地方,她经常回到这个国家,在她面前摆出一个由显而易见和隐藏的关注点构成的密集阵地,所有这些都牵涉到冲突,她说,“非常表面上,在那里你可以触碰一切”。我们的母亲不在的时候,她开始不是牙疼,而是她祖父决定在一天内拔掉他的每一颗牙齿:一种极端的自我毁灭,使他完全不适合在第二次世界大战中代表法国作战。1933年,法国军方签发的法国军卡-in_cmyk.jpg One Take: Lydia Ourahmane’s Two Gold Teeth - 一拍:Lydia Ourahmane的两颗金牙 Tayeb Ourahmane身份证。礼貌:艺术家在阿尔及利亚摩洛哥边境上长大,Tayeb Ourahmane是一个狙击手和一个很好的人。20世纪30年代,他在殖民地阿尔及利亚服了两年的义务兵役。法国人把他留在军队里十多年,强迫他违背自己的意愿训练同胞。当很明显他将被派往欧洲的战壕时,他采取了他能想到的最激烈的措施来行使他的拒绝权。他后来在阿尔及利亚争取独立的战争中成为重要人物,这场可怕的冲突持续了近10年,从1954年到1962年。他的抵抗从来没有被玷污过。解放法国的革命很快就被腐败破坏了。直到1979年他去世,塔耶布·欧拉曼拒绝受到赢得战争的政权的尊敬,但是为了一个可靠的独裁政权牺牲了充满希望的民主。Lydia Ourahmane的父亲是12个兄弟姐妹中的一个。她一生中听到了她祖父的故事的低语。但是,直到2015年,当她拜访一位比她父亲大得多的叔叔时,她才获得了全额帐户——以及证明文件。同年,当她在研究哈拉格斯——那些在被(用脆弱的船)贩卖到西班牙之前烧毁护照的北非移民时,欧拉曼在奥兰的一个街头市场遇到了一个年轻人。他把东西放在一张平板上,但这位艺术家对出售的东西并不特别感兴趣。当她转身离开时,他掏出一个女人的金链,给了她300欧元。起初她走开了,然后回来问他在哪里买的项链。他说他的母亲已经把它卖给了他的家人。欧拉曼以为他偷了它,是为了花钱穿越西班牙,而他的母亲也许永远不会知道,他不在西班牙,而是在扮演或反叛她。丽迪雅-乌拉赫曼-在-奇森哈尔画廊_11_cmyk.jpg One Take: Lydia Ourahmane’s Two Gold Teeth - 一拍:Lydia Ourahmane的两颗金牙 Lydia Ourahm.,我们的母亲不在,2018。礼貌:艺术家,齐森哈尔画廊,伦敦;照片:Andy Keate Ourahmane买了项链。她玩弄了几年的表演道具,然后把它融化了。她把金属变成两颗金牙。其中一个是精心安装在任何地方,我们的母亲没有安装。另一个则被直接缠绕在她颚骨上的镍螺钉上。这个过程并不美好或顺利——牙齿植入第一天就脱落了,之后又脱落了四次——但是伴随着它而来的整合和接受的语言完美、无缝地融入到她的实践中。这两颗金牙是异物,既珍贵又普通。它们扩大了欧拉曼对埋葬的历史和秘密旅行的兴趣的隐喻潜力,使得《我们的母亲不在》一书具有肉体的、推测性的(作为实际和想象的交易的证据),持久的和令人畏惧的亲密。欧拉曼回想起自己身体里的那块碎片,说:“现在我非常清楚我嘴里的这个东西,因为它比我其余的牙齿要热得多。”形状也不太合适,所以食物被卡在了后面,我不得不养成携带牙线的习惯。但是,像她祖父一样,这位艺术家很坚定。她说她永远不会搬走它。这将延续她自己的一生,但不是她的艺术。Lydia Ourahmane是一个艺术家,总部设在伦敦,英国,奥兰,阿尔及利亚。《母亲不在》是今年早些时候在伦敦Chisenhale画廊举办的个人展览的一部分,首次在伦敦Chisenhale画廊展出。2018,奥拉曼尼曾在德国慕尼黑、Kevin Space、维也纳、奥地利等国举办过独奏会,她的作品在MMAG基金会、安曼、约旦、新博物馆三年展、纽约、美国、Jayou-突尼斯、突尼斯和12、巴勒莫、意大利等团体展览中展出。她的作品目前正在阿联酋迪拜贾米尔艺术中心的《粗品》中展出,直到2019年3月30日,在阿尔及利亚阿尔及尔现代艺术博物馆的《维斯恩视频》直到2019年1月31日。发表在FreeZe,第199期,十一月- 2018年12月,标题为“一个采取:东西咀嚼”。主要形象:Lydia Ourahmane,在没有母亲的情况下,2018岁。礼貌:艺术家,Chisenhale画廊,伦敦;照片:安迪·基特·凯伦·威尔逊·戈尔迪,黎巴嫩贝鲁特和美国纽约作家。《199》第一期刊登于《199》2018年11月-12月


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