Memories of Places by Lilia Benbelaïd for HAS Magazine

Memories of Places

Lilia Benbelaïd

Visual Artist
An approach to drawing that attempts to capture the memories that imprint any urban space.
Chut.e, Lilia Benbelaïd

Our cities are composed of spaces that being constructs, inhabits and lives. This accumulation of places gives rises to landscapes, an agglomeration of inhabited dwelling and abandoned lots, abandoned sometimes to be revitalized, maybe. Backdrop of scenes and events from daily life, places that welcome the interactions of bodies, of dreams and the presence of living beings.

Our memories are stored in geometric forms, and are hidden behind façades, they accumulate in homes, wander in streets and glide through squares. The place welcomes the memory fabricated by the individual according to the zeitgeist, in the form of images, odors and sounds that have traveled far from our memory. The memory takes its place in the spirit and in the vacuum; the places is a silent witness, and to remember revives theses souvenirs. We meet again old faces, we hear words that no longer echo, long silences also. We see again bodies that move in an untouchable emptiness. These floating images of the spirt are reinterpreted and scrambled by time. We even ask ourselves if these moments really existed.

Memory is volatile and evaporates in an ensemble of particles. Although invisible, it collides against each partition in a given space, comes and goes. Physical and material, the space is the receptacle of memory, this film roll that we rewind, and which shapes our identity. Memories forge us, as do places.

I draw cities to describe and preserve urban landscapes in constant movement. The pencil nib re-transcribes a place in a lived moment that seems to have escaped us. I draw places so that the memory does not die in forgetting, that it continues to exist, even if the face that we loved throughout countless year disintegrates over time. By drawing an alley, the memory of a first kiss is immortalized, the sound of laughter reverberates in the atmosphere and darkens after one more countless goodbye. This street that may leave some completely indifferent, is engraved in the memories of others. The places belong to furtive instances of existence, where banality creates the unprecedented. These sketches are sometimes anchored in notebooks that will perhaps never be reopened but that have the power to reintegrate visual memories. Drawing becomes another witness to memory. Though, it requires the will to remember.

Fragmented and fictive, these sketches create distance between themselves and reality by telling the trajectory of an existence in images. The union of light and shadows that coexist in these places becomes a drawn line on paper but does not exist in reality. This line curves, creases and takes off to defy the laws of gravity in space and makes time relative. It improvises in illustrating places disconnected from the real world  in order to call forth memory. This fiction intermixes with an urbanity that nourishes itself on memories and lived emotions. The sketches seem as confused as the memory and is imitated in free interpretation. I use these rough sketches to hold past motions that are crystallized on paper. The paper becomes itself a receptacle of visual memories and gathers what seems to have evaporated. I employ art to liberate emotion that evokes for me lived space, to remember a moment that is stolen from memory, but still wanders in ordinary places. I draw the intangible and invisible recollection by decomposing places from our past.

Souvenirs de Lieux, Lilia Benbelaïd

Fuite, Lilia Benbelaïd

Published in HAS Magazine (Humanities, Arts and Societies), Issue 05, July 2022
To read the article, click HERE