Name: Lydia Ourahmane
Residence: Saida, Algeria
Currently lives: In a two bedroom apartment in Barcelona, above Sala Parés, a venerable art gallery
Claim to fame: Ms. Ourahmane is an Algerian-British artist known for her sprawling installations that defy geopolitical boundaries. A recent work, “Barzakh”, (it means “separation” or “a barrier between two things” in Arabic) recreated her former apartment in Algeria. It involved moving 5,000 personal effects, including chandeliers and clothing, to the Kunsthalle Basel gallery in Switzerland, as well as the Triangle – Astérides in Marseille, France. Frieze magazine called the show one of the best of 2021. “The politics surrounding how objects move around the world interests me,” said Ms. Ourahmane.
Breakthrough: Born in 1992 to an Algerian father and a Malaysian mother, Ms Ourahmane grew up in Algeria during a time of social and political unrest before moving to London in 2001. At a young age, art occupied her. “I started skipping my business and English enlightened classes to hide in the art department a block away,” she said. She studied art at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she created a sound installation, “The Third Choir”, made from 20 empty oil drums from Algeria. It was considered the first work of art to be legally exported from Algeria in the 52 years since the country gained independence from French colonial rule.
Latest project: Ms. Ourahmane’s traveling installation, “Barzakh”, arrives at the SMAK Contemporary Art Museum in Ghent, Belgium, on May 21. So what’s it like to have gallery visitors rummage through your personal belongings? “There is nothing in my life that I am really ashamed of because my life is pure,” she said.
Next thing: Mrs. Ourahmane will install a sculpture yet to be named at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin in October. “It’s too premature to talk about it at this point, apart from the fact that we’ve had discussions about the impossibility of permanence,” she said.
Occupational safety: For a recent exhibition at the Renaissance Society in Chicago† Ms. Ourahmane collaborated with French artist Alex Ayed on a multimedia installation that included an ultrasonic audio scrambler and raw lithium exported from Lithuania, suspended in oil and securely sealed in its original packaging. Before handling the dangerous metal, Ms. Ourahmane sought advice from University of Chicago chemists. “We became interested in the potential and the impossibility of the material itself,” she said.