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Elsa Guily

Dissertation project

Listensing to (post-)Algerian memories on display


Memories of migratory experiences which emerged in and around the Algerian independence war (1954–1962) remain oppressed, silenced or the subject of controversy in 'today's France. In asking to whom and from whose perspectives memories of migratory life experiences can speak, my research project focuses on the postcolonial issue of so-called ''memory wars'' of 'France's colonialism in Algeria. To that purpose I investigate the sonic, visual and discursive responses to it that France's National Museum has provided, conducting a connective memory study bringing together voices and stories of two exhibitions'' (MNHI and MUCEM). 

The project asks: whose knowledges of migration history are on display at the national museum, stressing how practices of remembering and forgetting are performed, mediated and staged, producing discursive visual representations. Looking at the sonic dimensions of the material world as a medium that can speak out, my inquiry pinpoints how 'individual's memories, materialized through objects and storytelling can exist as dissident counter-narratives or ''reverse discourse'' (Foucault 1978). How can research based on collective listening experience reconstruct gaps and silences in history? What kind of visual and sonic strategies could be developed to listen to a patrimony on the margin silenced by the museum? Does the museum have sonic materiality at all that is hearable for the viewer? 

Rethinking self-documentation and voicing memory strategies within an archival exploration of sonic documents in and around museum underlines the emergence of a critical approach to the national narrative on display – and which can, in turn, create counter-histories as ways to rethink, at least, the concept of national museums. My journey in sonic cultural memories aims at challenging Eurocentric assumptions on citizenship-belonging representations, to make audible its more complex voices and its transformative hybridity towards the visibility of decolonial European perspectives, as a means of contesting cultural and political modes of imperial domination inherited from colonization.


Guily has studied Fine Art at ERBA (Ecole des Beaux arts de Rennes), Art History, Culture Studies at the Humboldt-Universität Berlin (BA) and Art History in global context at the Freie Universität Berlin (MA). In addition to her academic work, she works as a freelance cultural critic and editor for Contemporary And (platform for international art in African perspectives) as well as IAM (Intensive Art Magazine), and as an independant research curator. Her focus lies at the intersection of decolonial practices and critical theory in visual culture studies. Overlaping social and cultural theory, Guily is particularly interested in looking into issues of post- and coloniality in representations of memories and processes of archiving in history writing as well as within art research based practices.



Please note that these listings appear in the language they were originally published.

Between tension and strength, the art of Sokari Douglas Camp; Nnenna Okore, between fragility and potency: a world of sculptural transformation and Otobong, Nkanga, mapping a world of relations, series of artist interviews, in: Nigeria. IAM-Intensive Art Magazine, 03 Issue, 2017.

A fragile city built on sand. A conversation between Youssef Limoud and Elsa Guily, in: I Am Built Inside You, ed. by Julia Grosse, J. und Yvette Mutumba, Berlin: Contemporary And (C&), ifa Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, 2017.

Art Shall Stand Against The Corruption of the Minds, in: Protokollum — Globale Perspectives on Visual Vocabulary 2016/2017, ed. by Safia Dickersbach, Berlin: Dickersbach Kunstverlag, p. 274–277.