Highly acclaimed, multimedia artist Kader Attia’s most recent exhibition reveals the artist’s latest explorations into the ideas of repair and appropriation.
On 16 April 2016 the Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt opened a solo exhibition of the work of Franco-Algerian artist Kader Attia, who investigates the long lasting effects colonialism has had on non-Western culture in tandem with historical and political notions of identity on the continuum, ranging from tradition to modernity.
Kader Attia (b. 1970, France) is a child of two countries and cultures – Algeria and France – however inextricably linked they have been over the course of history. “Kader Attia. Sacrifice and Harmony” at the MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt continues Attia’s exploration into contrasting notions of repair. This is an ongoing investigation for Attia, which first manifested in 2012 with an installation titled “The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures” that debuted in dOCUMENTA 13.
As Rachel Corbette reported in her 2012 article on dOCUMENTA 13 for ArtNet,
The neoclassical Fridericianum is one of the few buildings renovated after the bombings, and French-Algerian artist Kader Attia mirrored his own vision of postwar repair in one of its rooms. He stocked a maze of steel shelving units with vintage colonialist texts and African wood-carved busts bearing disfigured faces. Viewers who wind through the aisles to the end encounter a final twist: a slideshow of grossly injured World War I soldiers, revealing Attia’s weird reversal of history in which the traditional African figures echo the shattered faces of European white men.
Attia juxtaposes divergent notions of repair. Objects belonging to ethnographic collections originating in the Americas, Asia or Africa reveal repair either through sticking or additions of new materials. In the Western conception, repair is intended to be so invisible so that it looks as if the object was never used nor damaged. As stated in the exhibition text,
Attia considers these two approaches in relation to a whole variety of technologies and areas of knowledge and, by pointing to identical phenomena in different cultural settings, makes it impossible to assign them unequivocally to one specific culture or another. His aim is not to reconcile cultural differences but to heighten our awareness of pluralities.
Regarding the non-Western idea of repair, Attia notes that
injuries have always been part of the body. The visibility of the subsequent repair is not a problem, on the contrary, it’s part of the new life of the person or object.
Attia goes on to say:
‘Repair is not only about fixing,’ Attia says. ‘It’s a process that binds two situations, that turns one situation into another through a sort of improvement, positive or negative.’
Attia seeks to push viewers outside of their comfort zone through observing objects in various states of (dis)repair that have occurred throughout history. Attia himself views repair as an idea and methodology where previously oppressed people’s can reinstate their freedom. As quoted in a 2013 article in The New York Times,
“Integrating a Western element into an African object is an intentional act,” Mr. Attia said. “It means the slave is beginning to devour the symbols of power.
“Kader Attia. Sacrifice and Harmony” is on display until 14 August 2016. Attia has exhibited in a number of museums, galleries and biennials. His work is also currently on display at the 2016 Biennale of Contemporary African Art in Dakar and EVA International Ireland’s Biennial. Previous exhibitions have taken place at the Henry Art Gallery, Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon and the Wexner Center for the Arts.
Negarra A. Kudumu
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