Kader Attia: Restitution – Reparation?

Close up of a bowl stitched back together mirroring on the right two black and white pictures of a man with a similar scar on his forehead.

Open Your Eyes (2010), two-channel slide projection (detail), courtesy of the artist; MoMA, New York City; FRAC Pays de la Loire, Carquefou, France; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; and Lehmann Maupin. photo / Martin Monestier, Musée du Service de Santé des Armées, Paris; and Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium.

Kader Attia, born in 1970, grew up in Paris and Algeria. Before studying in Paris and Barcelona, he spent several years in the Republic of the Congo and South America.

Attia's experience of living between different cultures where histories are characterized by rich trading traditions, colonialism, and multiethnic societies has fostered his intercultural approach to researching the different perspectives societies have on their history of deprivation and suppression, and then how this affects the evolution of nations and individuals.

Attia's sociocultural research has led him to the notion of repair, a concept central to the development of his writings and artistic work. With the principle of repair as constant in nature and humanity, any system, social institution, or cultural tradition can be considered as being in an infinite process of repair, which is closely linked to wounds, recuperation, and reappropriation. Attia's work shows how repair reaches far beyond the subject and connects the individual to gender, philosophy, science, and history — as well as to nature, culture, and myth.

In addition to repair, Attia follows the idea of catharsis to aim at art's reappropriation of the field of emotion that is in danger of seizure by recent nationalist movements. Spreading from ethics to aesthetics, from politics to culture, Attia's concern is how the field of emotion links individuals to social groups through emotional experience.

In 2016, Attia founded La Colonie, a space in Paris to share ideas and to provide an agora for vivid discussion that extends his praxis from representation to action. Focusing on the decolonialisation of peoples and knowledge, and driven by the urgency of social and cultural reparations, La Colonie aspires to reunite that which has been shattered or drifted.

Attia's work has been exhibited in biennales including the 2017 Gwangju Biennale, the 2017 Venice Biennale of Art, and documenta (13) in Kassel, Germany. He has participated in group shows at venues such as the Met Breuer, New York City; MoMA, New York City; Tate Modern, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City. Attia's notable solo exhibitions have been at The Hayward Gallery, London; Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona; The Power Plant, Toronto; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; MMK, Frankfurt; Beirut Art Center, Beirut; Whitechapel Gallery, London; and KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin.

In 2016, Attia was awarded the Marcel Duchamp Prize; followed by the Miró Foundation Prize and the Yanghyun Art Prize in 2017.

Attia's work is included in how the lights get in, an exhibition on display at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art from September 7–December 8, 2019. The Institute for Comparative Modernities will host a film screening of Reflecting Memory in the Abby and Howard Milstein Auditorium in Milstein Hall on September 25 at 4:45 p.m.

Coorganized by the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art and the Institute for Comparative Modernities.