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What They Have Brought (2013, video installation, loop of 2'47'')

ELSA GOMIS  |  15 AUGUST 2020  |  ISSUE #11

My family fled Franco's Spain to migrate to Algeria at the time when it was a French territory. I only know this country and the story of migration which for me accompanies it through old film footage shot by my grandfather between the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 60s. I have digitalised these images and started to use them as a material for artworks questioning my colonial European identity.

One day, as I was watching this footage, I realised that I was wearing a necklace that my mum, a little girl in the film, was also wearing. This awareness triggered a strange feeling: I had one ‘still’ thing around my neck which had travelled from and known this fantasised country. I decided to look for all the objects I saw in my grandfather’s films that I had today in my apartment. I found four of them: the necklace, the camera with which he shot, a set of cocktail glasses and my mum’s braid from when she was a toddler, kept in a tie box. What They Have Brought is a video installation dealing with the feeling of experiencing exile through the emotional charge carried by objects. 


The use of split screens allows to set up a dialogue between two natures of images: the objects as I know them in the present time and as I imagine them in the past. Through this device, I make an act of familial archaeology as objects are transformed into fossil evidence of my ancestors' history.  


Oliver Le Romancer composed the music of this installation. It has been exhibited at the contemporary art event Nuit Blanche in Paris.

A single-screen version of the video can be seen here and a view of the installation shows it ‘spatialised’ in the exhibition place here

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Elsa Gomis

Elsa Gomis is a director and a PhD Researcher at the Film Studies Department of the University of East Anglia. She is an editor of the section ‘In Images’ in the popular scientific journal De Facto of the Institute Convergences Migrations in Paris. From January 2021, she will be a seminar leader and tutor in European Cinema at the University of Oxford. Photo by Martin Peterolff, 2018.

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