The Franco-Algerian artist has won the sixth edition of the biennial prize.
Announced on 11 October 2017, the winner was chosen among a pool of international candidates for his “passionate engagement with current affairs and with the shared fate of humanity”.
2017 sees an autumn rich in art prizes and awards worldwide, with artists of Asian, Middle Eastern and African origins winning among impressive shortlists. Recently the latest Deutsche Bank Artist of the Year Award for 2018 went to Lebanese Caline Aoun, while the Abraaj Group Art Prize awarded Lawrence Abu Hamdan and Haegue Yang took home the Wolfgang Hanh Prize 2018.
Only yesterday, the Fundació Joan Miró announced renowned Franco-Algerian artist Kader Attia as the winner of the 2017 Joan Miró Prize, with a cash award of EUR70,000 provided by ”la Caixa” Foundation, who will also cover the cost of producing a monographic exhibition of Attia’s work, to be held in 2018 at Fundació Joan Miró. At the award ceremony, the artist received a diploma and a trophy designed by André Ricard.
Founded in 2007, the biennial prize, now in its sixth edition, is awarded by the Fundació Joan Miró and Obra Social “la Caixa” in recognition of exploration, innovation, commitment and freedom in present-day artistic work, which shows the same spirit of Joan Miró’s life, oeuvre and philosophy. Past winners of the prize include Ignasi Aballí (2015), Roni Horn (2013), Mona Hatoum (2011), Pipilotti Rist (2009) and Olafur Eliasson (2007).
The winners are selected by an international panel of judges who are acclaimed professionals in the field of modern and contemporary art. The 2017 prize jury was composed of Iwona Blazwick, Director of Whitechapel Gallery (London), Magnus af Petersens, Director of Bonniers Konsthall (Stockholm), Alfred Pacquement, Former Director of the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), Nimfa Bisbe, Head of the ”la Caixa” Foundation contemporary art collection, and Rosa Maria Malet, Director of Fundació Joan Miró (Barcelona).
Kader Attia: focusing on multiculturalism
Kader Attia (b. 1970, Dugny, France) now lives and works between Berlin and Algiers, while being fully engaged in the programming of La Colonie, a space of cultural and artistic exchange in Paris he founded last year in October.
Attia, who spent his childhood between his parents’ Algiers and his native Paris, was exposed to a multicultural environment all his life. He had his first solo show in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1996, lived in Venezuela and in Barcelona. This early and lifelong experience with diverse cultural milieus formed his artistic practice, which reflects on the aesthetics and ethics of different cultures.
With poetry and symbolism, Attia explores the repercussions of Western cultural hegemony and colonialism on non-Western cultures, and how these have in turn influenced the West. Attia conducts an examination of colonial and post-colonial identity politics, “moving from tradition to modernity in the light of today’s globalized world, for which he creates a genuine genealogy”.
The artist started off working with sculpture, to develop a practice encompassing a wide range of media and techniques. As quoted in the press release, Attia has said:
In my artistic practice, the form is just as important as the concept, since it describes the fundamental presence of space within this inseparable dialogue it maintains with time. A repair could be the tie that lashes these paradoxical states together.
His detail-oriented photographic and film work captures the “silent noise”, as Attia calls it, emitted by the history of colonisation. His minimalist installations recreate spaces that question the viewer’s fantasies and phobias, while his sculptures made with unconventional materials, ranging from couscous to plastic bags, “often juxtapose a formal sensory appeal with sharp-edged content”.
For Attia, his work aims “to help repair social injuries that are both centuries old and planetary”. Attia’s wide range of interests have frequently led him to turn to other disciplines, exploring the concept of repair from the vantage point of these fields, such as medicine, physics, philosophy, psychoanalysis, architecture, history and political science. He says:
For me, the idea of repair is no more than a continuum. Repair is neither a beginning nor an end; it is the space in between. I often use the most tangible aspects (such as damaged flesh or broken objects) to clearly explain the issues at stake in processes of repair, whether abstract or concrete, since they operate with the same principles.
One might think that when something breaks, all you need to do is put the pieces back together. In fact, though, repair is about more than just control. It is a process that can be understood, for example, as a form of cultural reappropriation. Or that can be seen in parallel dynamics on other scales, such as reenactment, natural selection, translation, absorption, improvement, rectification or transformation. From culture to nature, from gender to architecture, from science to philosophy – any system of life is an infinite process of repair. Repair makes continuity possible.
Last October 2016, Attia won another award dedicated to a celebrated artist, the Prix Marcel Duchamp, and previously others such as the Cairo Biennial Prize in 2008 and the Abraaj Group Art Prize in 2010. His work is currently on display at the 57th Venice Biennale.
When unanimously selecting Kader Attia as the 2017 winner, the jury deliberated:
Launched in 2007, the Prize is awarded every two years to an international artist for his or her artistic achievement, as well as for his or her intellectual affinity with Joan Miró’s oeuvre and legacy. In the case of Mr. Attia, the jury applauds the breadth of his research, his bold, syncretic approach to the impact and lingering effects of colonialism, as well as his encyclopaedic, yet nuanced, elaboration of the notion of “repair” as the basis of his artistic production. Attia’s passionate engagement with current affairs and with the shared fate of humanity has close links to Joan Miró’s involvement in the critical episodes that marked his generation, while Attia’s unique take on complex, often traumatic, human relationships across cultures resonates with Miró’s universal aspirations.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
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