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Western Sahara, 1975–91. A pile of photographs on the sand in the Algerian desert (photographs taken by the enemy). A war hidden by those who started it (censorship ordered in Rabat). Two populations against each other, in grief and in arms (neighboring communities, distanced by war and exile). An unexpected gesture of safeguarding which turns that pile and “what didn’t happen” into a mirror for both. A gesture that reveals the potential of speaking to the enemy, listening to them. Looking at them, even. To attempt to build a relationship from the ground up, directly, family to family. Slowly at first, then faster, after the conflict will have died down as freedom comes. Actually, as soon as that pile is returned to whomever is portrayed in it—to those who shot that portrait and loved it.

KEY VISUAL BERLIN BIENNALE FOR CONTEMPORARY ART 2022 © Martin Wecke Design Code Lab & MBI Graphic & Type Design Fabian Maier-Bode

An occupied African region, closed off from the world, with the voice and photography of the occupied banned. An improvised activity, from clandestine to public, turns the “unseen” into a document of the Sahrawi present. The blackness lightened, the ban circumvented (in the streets, in the prisons, in the courtrooms), the resistance to the military is peaceful but not silent. More photographs and videos, proving that the border between invisibility and its opposite can be a place that favors uprising. Those resistant to the colony have several voices to tell the world about themselves. Voices made of little things, simple, cheap, used against their ordinary destiny.

This is the story of Necessià dei Volti [The Necessity of Faces] and Vedere L’occupazione [Looking at the Occupation], two segments of the work of the Informal Collective on Western Sahara, to be developed during the 12th Berlin Biennale in their fifth extension. Inside the biennial: a diary by the writer Fabrizia Ramondino translated into German, workshops, and presentations with those who know how those wartime photographs were taken (and how they could be returned in the future), with those who disagree with the occupation and risk their lives (on either side of the border), with books and films made available for consultation. Outside the biennial: meetings in private homes to look at one of the twenty copies of the book Necessià dei Volti and other editorial materials.

Curated by the: Informal Collective on Western Sahara
With: Fatima Mahfoud, Patrizio Esposito, Yasmine Eid-Sabbagh, a.o.

This conference is part of the discursive program of the 12th Berlin Biennale. Taking the restitution debate as a starting point, it explores how colonialism and imperialism continue to operate in the present.
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KW - Institute for Contemporary Art