Kader Attia Demo(n)cracy, 2009.
Photo : courtesy of the artist & Galerie Krinzinger, Vienne

French-Algerian artist Kader Attia works in the aftermath of what he considers to be the legacy of decolonization. His spatial interventions engage conversation around issues of colonialism, such as repression and privation. In Demo(n)cracy (2009), Attia condemns democracy as a hegemonic vehicle of Western thought. Although he is less explicit in confronting this ideological system in subsequent works, he nonetheless constantly re-examines it through the design of spaces of protest in which he shifts the power dynamics. This shift allows us to re-evaluate the colonial structures that we participate in and the obliteration of culture and identity that they entail. Attia’s conceptual and material spaces rely on collective reflection to develop new possibilities that can offer us greater agency. Participating visitors are thus empowered to build new forms, outside the colonial project. In Paris, in 2016, Attia opened La Colonie, a place for encounters and for open, heterogeneous reflection, enriching debate through diversity. With Noise, Silence (2017), he presents an interior that plays on the visitor’s discomfort; the metal rods jutting violently out of the quilted surface elicit conflicting sensations. The work refers to fear of the “other” — a persistent effect of colonization. Perambulation through this interior initiates a reflection on contemporary surges in xenophobia and racism. The artist thus makes use of perceptions as agents of change.

Attia’s work offers tools for reintegrating what had been suppressed and for resisting future suppressions. He stages decolonized arrangements embodied in a multitude of spatial, audio, or visual situations whose purpose is articulated around the concept of reparation. His work acts as a locus of debate that heals social wounds by bringing together both various audiences and fragments of a shattered past. Although he heals, Attia nonetheless keeps the scars of culture and identity fully in view, interstices that are as integral to the process as are the reflexive spaces that he designs.

Translated from the French by Ron Ross

Kader Attia
Arab Spring, installation view,
Beginning of the World, Galleria Continua, Le Moulin, 2014.
Photo : Oak Taylor-Smith, courtesy of the artist & Galleria Continua, Le Moulin
Kader Attia
Noise, Silence, installation view,
Reflecting Memory, Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, 2017.
Photo : Ela Bialkowska, courtesy of the artist & Galleria Continua, San Gimignano
Kader Attia, Maude Johnson
Kader Attia, Maude Johnson
Kader Attia, Maude Johnson
This article also appears in the issue 92 - Democracy

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