Exploring ideas around cultural exchange, appropriation, and the tangled relationship between North Africa and the West in the wake of decolonisation, Attia articulates theories of ‘repair’ and ‘reparation’ through his practice. These ideas are expressed through objects and installations that juxtapose broken objects – African masks with highly visible, jagged repairs – alongside documentary imagery of World War 1 veterans with significant facial injury and surgical reconstruction.
Absence and the void are further themes within Attia’s practice. Ghost (2007) comprises an installation of empty aluminium-foil casts of seated Muslim women in prayer. In Asesinos! Asesinos! (2014) over 100 doors are split into halves and presented in a vast, upright formation of A-frames. They recall bodies in a crowd that surge forward in protest, a sensation enhanced by the work’s title (‘Murderers! Murderers!’) and the megaphones mounted on top of them.
Attia’s installation The Construction of Fear: A Culture of Evil (2013-) extends the theme of injury and response through interlocking steel shelves that suggest an archive or library. On the shelves are late 19th and 20th century books and newspapers that extend the colonial gaze into the present through their depiction of European encounters with a non-Western, uncivilized ‘other’.
Curated by Chief Curator Rachel Kent, this is the first solo presentation of Kader Attia’s work in the Southern hemisphere.
Kader Attia will also be presented at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 30 September – 26 November 2017.