Bouchra Khalili
EXHIBITION From 11.06.2020 To 23.11.2020

The Nordic Chapter memorializes sites of anti-colonial movements, records fleeting encounters between influentially radical figures and draws lines between major sociopolitical thinkers and contemporary oppressed and marginalized communities. The exhibition alludes to monumentally important moments of modern history, the ripples of which are still manifestly emanating around us but whose context and specificity risk fading.

The first part of the exhibition, presented at Oslo Kunstforening sheds new light upon Foreign Office, Khalili’s mixed-media project produced in 2015 in Algiers. Foreign Office meditates upon the internationalist era in North Africa, investigating the decade between 1962-1972, during which Algiers became the capital of anti-colonial movements of liberation, hosting the headquarters of Nelson Mandela’s ANC (African National Congress), Amilcar Cabral’s PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde), and Eldridge Cleaver’s International Section of the Black Panther Party, a revolutionary, socialist political organization, originally formed to monitor the behavior of Police officers, based in the United States and briefly in Algiers. 

Foreign Office is presented at Oslo Kunstforening, along with The Speeches Series (2012-2013), a video trilogy focusing on speech acts, agency, citizenship and class belonging, as represented by members of contemporary migrant communities originating from former colonized nations. A counterpoint to Foreign Office, The Speeches Series examines the continuum of anti-colonial struggles among immigrant communities and citizens of immigrant descent in Europe and the United States of America.

The exhibition at Fotogalleriet responds to the exhibition at Oslo Kunstforening with a reflection on the ethics of solidarity as epitomized by influential political activist, poet, essayist, novelist and playwright Jean Genet (1910 – 1986) and his unconditional commitment to oppressed and revolutionary groups. Twenty-Two Hours (2018) is a 45-minute film focusing on Jean Genet and his three-month-long stay with the Black Panthers in the U.S. It also includes The Radical Ally (2019), an artist’s publication offering a visual and textual investigation of Twenty-Two Hours and A Small Suitcase (2019), a photographic series documenting Genet’s suitcases and contents used during his stay with the Black Panthers and the Palestinian(s) (organisations in Jordan). The contents of the small suitcases were notes that formed the manuscript of Genet’s posthumous memoirs Prisoners of Love. The Typographer (2019) is a short 16mm film concluding Khalili’s investigation of Jean Genet and his conception of allyship. The piece articulates Genet’s only professional training – typography – with the last sentence he wrote, forming the epigraph of Prisoner of Love published posthumously. The Typographer documents the typesetting and printing of his last sentence. Genet’s commitment to typography illuminates the historical role that typographers played in the dissemination of progressive ideas among the working-class throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, a long history depicted in Jacques Rancière’s The Night of the Proletarians.

As early as the 1950s, Norway was mobilizing support of African independence movements and anti-apartheid movements. This solidarity came in the form of information sharing, awareness raising, infrastructure, education and training and international advocacy. This activism left traces throughout Norway at the multiple sites of mobilization, organization or demonstration and in the bodies of those who expressed solidarity. The rich and important history of Norwegian support of radical African independence organizations traverses Oslo and Norway like a constellation of unmarked, unremarkable sites and largely forgotten events. 

The Archipelago: The Nordic Chapter (2020) is a work on paper, mirroring The Archipelago (2015) exhibited at Oslo Kunstforening offering an «archipelique» map of liberation movements’ headquarters throughout Oslo and Algiers. 

Concluding the exhibition, a discursive and performative program invites you to a moment of collective remembrance and incantations with a series of lecture-performances gathering witnesses of the international solidarity movement. It will reflect on the position of the witness to collective emancipation. Mirroring the geography of Khalili’s exhibition, the series of lecture-performances and conversations will focus on the struggle against apartheid in Southern Africa, the Palestinian revolution and the Black Panther Party. The development of this program has been informed by Jean Genet’s conception of unconditional solidarity and allyship: not speaking on behalf, nor-in lieu, but from the position of the witness.

Ultimately, the program of complementary exhibitions and the series of lecture-performances invite us to ask ourselves: how to stand in solidarity; who can and how to bear witness to the history of collective emancipation.

The Nordic Chapter by Bouchra Khalili is organised by Oslo Kunstforening, Fotogalleriet and Transcultural Arts Productions (TrAP).

This exhibition has been made possible through the generous support of the Institut français, ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen), Oslo National Academy of the Arts, The Audio and Visual Fund, Arts Council Norway, The Fritt Ord Foundation and The Norwegian Association of Art Societies.     
Oslo Kunstforening’s principal funding comes from The Arts Council Norway and the Oslo Municipality.

Fotogalleriet’s principal funding comes from The Arts Council Norway. Additional funding is provided by the Norwegian Photographic Fund (Nofofo). Partial funding comes from the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Culture and the Oslo Municipality.

Transcultural Arts Productons (TrAP) principal funding comes from The Arts Council Norway, with additional funding from the Oslo Municipality and Viken Fylkeskommune.

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Foreign Office, 2015

Foreign Office focuses on the period during which Algiers – between 1962 and 1972 – became the «mecca of revolutionaries», hosting headquarters and offices of many liberation movements from Africa, Asia and the Americas, such as Eldridge Cleaver’s International Section of the Black Panther Party, Mandela’s ANC, or the PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde) founded by Amilcar Cabral. Taking as a starting point this forgotten past of post-independence era and internationalism, Foreign Office, invites viewers to reflect on history and its transmission, and on emancipation as essentially linked to poetry. The film shows two young Algerians «re-writing» this history through images, language, and orality, articulating an historiography defined by «cinematic montage» as well as by translation as forms of writing, investigating, and reflecting on history and its resonances. The series of photographs documents the ghostly places that once hosted these liberation movements, revealing the hollow dissipation of utopia, although still continuing to haunt the present-time.

The silkscreen print entitled The Archipelago maps the factual geographical dissemination of locations of liberation movements’ headquarters throughout the city of Algiers. It operates as a montage between the film and the series of photographs. Translated into island formations this archipelago transposes an «All-world» as defined by Edouard Glissant. But it also shows a lost «Atlantis», of which liberation movements’ acronyms remain the last faintly visible traces. Foreign Office thus forms a combination of fragments in which «montage», orality, translation and poetry suggest an alternative historiography of utopias to reflect on potential gestures of resistance.


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The Speeches Series, 2012 – 2013

The Speeches Series (2012-2013) is a video trilogy focusing on language (Chapter 1), citizenship (Chapter 2), and working-class (Chapter 3). 

For the first chapter, Mother Tongue, Khalili collaborated with five exiled people based in Paris and its outskirts, inviting them to select, translate, memorize, and «retell» fragments of major texts from political thought and contemporary culture written by Malcolm X, Abdelkrim El Khattabi, Edouard Glissant, Aimé Césaire, and Mahmoud Darwish. 

For the second chapter, Words on Streets, Khalili worked with five immigrants in the Italian city of Genoa, who devised original manifestos that address notions of nationality, citizenship and belonging. 

The third and final chapter, Living Labour, sees five undocumented workers in New York analyze the structure of oppression as it is reflected in labour conditions, epitomizing social and political exclusion, eventually reflecting on potential new forms of civic belonging.


Twenty-Two Hours, 2018 

Twenty-Two Hours investigates Jean Genet’s visit to the United States between March and May 1970. Invited by the Black Panther Party, the French poet stood in solidarity with the revolutionary movement and its leadership, which was at that time arbitrarily detained. During the two months he spent in the US, he toured the country, tirelessly calling for solidarity.

Nearly 50 years after, Quiana and Vanessa, two young African-American women examine Genet’s commitment to the Party in the very same area where the poet delivered his first public speech: Cambridge, Massachusetts.

As much storytellers as film editors, the young women combine fragments of images, sounds, stories, and film footage, to tell the story of Genet’s commitment to the BPP, suggesting a reflection on the civic poet as a witness to history.

Simultaneously, Doug Miranda, a former prominent member of the Black Panther Party who organized Genet’s tour on the East Coast narrates his meetings with Genet and his own commitment to the Party.

So, who is the witness? Is it Genet who stated that he came to the US to bear witness to the repression suffered by the Party? Is it the former Black Panther, who knows that he’s duty, is to now bear witness to the struggle for liberation to which he dedicated himself? Or it is the young storytellers/film editors, reactivating this story?

Twenty-Two Hours refers to the time spent by Genet with Hamza, the young fedayee man who inspired his Prisoner of Love and epitomized Genet’s commitment to oppressed groups and minorities. The title suggests a simple question: are twenty-hours enough to dedicate oneself to the struggle of other people? Twenty-two hours thus becomes a definition for an ethic of solidarity.

Commissioned for Ruhr Triennale, produced with the support of Oslo National Art Academy, Harvard film Study Center, Secession, Vienna.


A Small Suitcase, 2019 

A Small Suitcase refers to a quote in Khalili’s film Twenty-Two Hours, examining Genet’s stay with the Black Panthers from March to May 1970. When receiving the visit in Paris of two Black Panthers calling for his solidarity, the poet answered that he was ready to fly to the U.S. on the next day, because «All I have in this world is one small suitcase». He indeed flew the next day.

In the summer of 2019, two small suitcases belonging to Genet and kept by his lawyer in Paris, were donated to IMEC (Institut Mémoire de l’Edition Contemporaine, Paris), that hosts the most extensive repository of Genet’s archive. Untouched for nearly 35 years, the small suitcases revealed various written material: letters, notebooks, and notes written on small pieces of newspaper. This heterogeneous collection of writings emerged as the early draft of Genet’s posthumous epic poem Prisoners of Love, devoted to the Black Panther Party and the Palestinian revolution.

In the summer of 2019, Khalili was invited to photograph the suitcases. Progressively shifting from documentation of archives, the series transforms into a dialogue with a ghost in the form of a palimpsest combining time, space, words, eventually asking a crucial question: how do we remember poetry and its essential connection to emancipatory ideas?



The Radical Ally, 2019 

The Radical Ally is a visual and textual investigation of Khalili’s Twenty-Two Hours, where she follows Genet’s traces during his stay with the Panthers to question what remains of the political memory of the Party. In 1984, as Jean Genet was preparing the edition of his major articles, he chose to start with a text that did not belong with the rest of the articles included in the collection. «The Declared Enemy», written in Tangiers the same year that Genet was invited to encourage support of and bear witness to the repression suffered by the BPP (1970). When Genet wrote «The Page of Tangiers», he did it in response to a question he posed rhetorically to the American painter and poet, Byron Gysin: «Friends? I am looking for an enemy of my stature». In this publication, the artist and contributors explore the position of the radical ally as the reverse of the declared enemy.

The publication is an examination of the conception of allyship as embodied by Genet: not speaking for, not speaking on behalf nor in-lieu of, but from the position of the witness.

Edited by Xavier Nueno, co-edited by Bouchra Khalili, Graphic Design: Léon Muñoz Santini. Published by Gato Negro Ediciones and instituto de investigation independientes. With contributions by Jackie Wang, Bonaventure Ndikung, Patricia J. Williams, and Bouchra Khalili.


The Typographer, 2019 

While Genet was known to the world as an avant-garde writer, the only profession he was offered as an orphan gifted schoolchild was typography for which he received training for a short period of time, before fleeing from the workshop run by the public welfare system.

In France, typography was traditionally the profession left to the gifted children of workers, who as typographers become essential in circulating revolutionary ideas among the working-class.

Although his training in typography lasted for only a few weeks, Genet always paid great attention to the typesetting of his books, cultivating a fascination for typography as a metaphor of literary practice.

Khalili’s film depicts a typographer typesetting and printing the last sentence Jean Genet wrote during his lifetime. Following Genet’s last will, that sentence forms the epigraph of Prisoner of Love (his posthumous epic poem on the Black Panther and the Palestinian revolution), providing in retrospect an illumination of Genet’s poetic art.

Shot in 16mm and in black & white, the use of celluloid film operates here as a metaphor of cinema as a technic of typesetting for images, emphasizing the nomadic power of words and images to navigate throughout minds, time, and media.


The Archipelago: The Nordic Chapter, 2020

The Archipelago: The Nordic Chapter mirrors The Archipelago. Reactivating the same methodology, it is drawn from the perspective of the geographical dissemination of headquarters of Norwegian movements and key events devoted to international solidarity. As for its «sister» work produced for Algiers, the architectural structures turned into island formations suggest an archipelic topography of Oslo reflecting its history of internationalism

Bouchra Khalili was born in Casablanca, Morocco in 1975. She lives and works in Berlin. 

She graduated in Film & Media Studies at Sorbonne Nouvelle and Visual Arts at the Ecole Nationale d’Arts de Paris-Cergy. 

Encompassing film, video, installation, photography, printmaking, and publishing, Khalili’s practice explores imperial and colonial continuums as epitomized by contemporary forced illegal migrations and the politics of memory of anti-colonial struggles and international solidarity. Deeply informed by the legacy of post- independence avant-gardes and the vernacular traditions of her native Morocco, Khalili’s approach develops strategies of storytelling at the intersection of history and micro-narratives. Combining documentary and conceptual practices, she investigates questions of self-representation, autonomous agency, and forms of resistance of communities rendered invisible by the nation-state model. 

Khalili’s work has been subject to many international solo exhibitions, including at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2019), Museum Folkwang, Essen (2018), Jeu de Paume, Paris (2018), Secession, Vienna (2018), Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus (2017), MoMA, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2016), Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2015), MACBA, Barcelona (2015), PAMM, Miami (2014-2013). 

Her work was also included in collective international manifestations such as the 2nd Lahore Biennial (2020), the 12th Bamako Biennial and BienalSur, Buenos Aires (2019), Documenta 14 and the Milano Triennale (2017), The Encyclopedic Palace, 55th Venice Biennale (2013), La Triennale’, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2012), the 18th Biennale of Sydney (2012) and the 10th Sharjah Biennial (2011). She participated to numerous collective exhibitions in international institutions such as Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2019), Cardiff National Museum and Centre Pompidou (2018), MCA, Sydney (2016), Kunsthaus, Zurich (2015), Van Abbe Museum (2014), New Museum (2014), Carré d’Art, Nîmes and Tropen Museum, Amsterdam (2013), Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2010-2013), Hayward Gallery, London; South London Gallery, London and Cité International de l’immigration, Paris (2012), Beirut Art Center and Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon (2011), Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid (2008-2009). 

A finalist of the Guggenheim’s Hugo Boss Prize (2018) and the Artes Mundi Prize (2018), she was also the recipient of Columbia University’s Institute for Ideas and Imagination Fellowship (2019-2020), Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute Fellowship (2017-2018), Ibsen Award (2017), Abraaj Art Prize (2014), Sam Art Prize (2013), daad Artists-in-Berlin (2012), Vera List Center for Art and Politics Fellowship (New York, 2011-2013), among other distinctions. 

She is a founding member of La Cinémathèque de Tanger, an artist-run non-profit organization.