Elsa Guily


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.


Nach dem Studium der Bildenden Kunst an der ERBA (Ecole des Beaux arts de Rennes) studierte Guily Kunstgeschichte und Kulturwissenschaften an der Humboldt Universität zu Berlin (BA) sowie Kunstgeschichte im globalen Kontext an der Freien Universität Berlin (MA). Neben ihrer wissenschaftlichen Arbeit ist sie als freischaffende Kulturkritikerin und Redakteurin für Contemporary And (Plattform für internationale Kunst aus afrikanischen Perspektiven) und IAM (Intensive Art Magazin) tätig. Außerdem arbeitet sie als freie Kuratorin. Ihr Fokus liegt auf der Verbindung von dekolonialen Praktiken und Kritischer Theorie in Bezug auf visuelle Kulturwissenschaften. An der Schnittstelle zwischen sozialer und kultureller Theorie, interessiert sich Guily vor allem für Themen der Postkolonialität in Erinnerungsrepräsentationen und für Archivierungsprozesse in der Geschichtsschreibung sowie in künstlerischen Praktiken.


Between tension and strength, the art of Sokari Douglas Camp; Nnenna Okore, between fragility and potency: a world of sculptural transformation und Otobong, Nkanga, mapping a world of relations, Künstlerinterview-Serie, 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, hrsg. von 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, hrsg. von Safia Dickersbach, Berlin: Dickersbach Kunstverlag, S. 274–277.