The project North to North: A Journey in Postcards from Manchester to the Maghreb by John Perivolaris has been commissioned as part of the AHRC-funded exhibition, New Cartographies: Algeria-France-UK to be held at Cornerhouse from April – May 2011.
This exhibition is one of the major outputs of a three-year AHRC research project, France – Algeria: Visualising a (Post-) Colonial Relationship, which began in Sept 2008, and is being undertaken by Dr Joseph McGonagle (Department of French, The University of Manchester) and Dr Edward Welch (Department of French, University of Durham). The six-week exhibition will examine how relations between the three countries have been represented in a range of contemporary visual media, and confirmed artists include Kader Attia, Bruno Boudjelal, Yves Jeanmougin and Zineb Sedira. The commission project North to North will lead to the creation of an original installation by Perivolaris, which will be premiered at the exhibition.
What is North to North?
North to North is a month-long journey from Manchester via France to Algeria that Perivolaris will undertake 5 June – 5 July 2010.
Despite Algerian independence in 1962, after more than 130 years of French colonial rule, the relationship between France and Algeria continues to play a defining role in each country politically, socially and culturally through migration, post-colonial antagonism, and memories of a shared colonial past. At the same time, the current decade has seen an intriguing shift in Algeria’s geopolitical significance, as it became a favoured diplomatic partner in the American-led ‘War on Terror’, and an increasingly privileged trade partner of the United Kingdom, thanks undoubtedly to its large reserves of Saharan oil and gas.
Structured around a series of encounters with people connected personally to both France and Algeria, and via visits to key sites of memory that underpin the display of the Franco-Algerian relationship in the public sphere today, North to North will comprise walks and interviews with participants, subsequently uploaded along with images made by Perivolaris to his blog.
This commissioned project will also endeavour to triangulate the Franco-Algerian relationship by exploring the signs and traces of the less obvious, but no less complex, ties between the UK and a country that France has historically assumed to be its own ‘back yard’. In doing so, it will raise questions about the contemporary relationship between notions of the “North” and “South” in an increasingly globalised world.
Indeed, technologies of globalisation will form an integral part of Perivolaris’s journey. Central to it will be the iPhone, which will enable him to communicate virtually with correspondents via the blog, permitting online followers to track, annotate and suggest alternative paths for his journey, and to record and photograph the people and places he encounters. The iPhone application Shoot it! will play a particularly pivotal role: allowing Perivolaris and those he meets to make and send physical postcards back to Manchester as he travels. The journey will also duly interrogate the contemporary and historical significance of postcards made and sent between the three countries.
The material produced during the journey will ultimately form the basis of Perivolaris’s installation at the New Cartographies exhibition, which will feature the display of photographs on iPod Touch handsets with accompanying audioguide; the inclusion of postcards found, purchased, modified, and made along the way; and incorporation of correspondence sent to Manchester, both physically and online, from participants. It will thus chart John’s physical journey through audio and images but also provide his personal insight into the weaving of links between the UK, France and Algeria today. Probing the relationship between the photographer and his physical and virtual interlocutors, it will also encourage interaction between those tracking his journey online and exhibition visitors.
John welcomes comments, advice and suggestions as he plans his journey and also as he travels. Please use the comments function on his blog to get in touch with him.
You may also send postcards, maps, and letters in response to his journey to the following address:
Dr Joseph McGonagle
School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures
Samuel Alexander Building
The University of Manchester
Manchester M13 9PL, UK
John will attempt to respond directly to any correspondence. He will do so in the very itinerary of his journey, through his blog, or by sending postcards. He may also include part of this correspondence in his exhibition installation. Permission will be sought from correspondents before doing so.