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Kader Attia: On Silence

Past Exhibition

Kader Attia: On Silence is a major solo exhibition dedicated to the work of the artist over the last two decades, curated by Abdellah Karroum with Assistant Curator Lina Ramadan. The exhibition features a wide range of work across all media and includes site-specific installations, sculptures, collages, drawings, video and photography.

On Silence explores themes of postcolonial trauma and the ensuing decades of psychiatric 'repair' at the social and individual level. The artist's intention and curatorial approach is to provoke the viewer's emotional and physical experience while encountering works placed at various levels in the museum galleries, seen from above, from underneath, and from within but rarely straight on. There are two important commissions featured in connection with Doha.

Modern and contemporary history holds some of the noisiest tragedies that humanity has lived through, and our present moment is affected by the traumatic memories of these events. Colonialism, political oppression and environmental devastation have led to massive migrations across continents, transforming social ecologies in every centre of the world. Yet the ideologies and systems of governance today continue to create zones of silence that bury many of these histories.

This exhibition reflects on silence – a phenomenon that can trigger the need to scream – through works that provoke a visceral appreciation of postcolonial trauma and the process of psychiatric 'repair'. Focusing on Attia's practice over the last two decades, the show deals with topics affecting all humanity while looking specifically at the Middle East and North Africa. In this region the 'deafening silence' on cultural, social and historical issues is transforming taboos and limited spaces of expression into challenges to public life and political debate.

Installation called Ghost that showcases multiple aluminium foil ghost-like figures

Kader Attia (b. 1970). Ghost, 2007. Aluminum foil, variable dimensions. Installation view "Collector", Le Tri Postal, Lille, 2011/2012. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nagel Draxler. Photo: Jean-Pierre Duplan

On Silence has been conceived for Doha, a multicultural global city of migration, continuously adapting to social and political developments in the region and the world. The exhibition aims to engage the audience in reflections on issues of heritage and aspiration, convention and transgression, colonialism and liberation, the local and the transnational. All these are addressed in Attia's work, as are debates on ecology, and our material and non-material relationship to the universe. The continuing thread through his art is a focus on how enforced silence can lead to oppression and trauma, and how this silence can be broken during revolutionary moments in response to injustice.

Two major new works have been commissioned for the exhibition. The first, The Object’s Interlacing, which consists of a film and reproductions of African sculptures, explores the labyrinthine debate surrounding the restitution of artefacts taken from the continent during colonial times. The second, On Silence, is an installation made of multiple body prostheses, presenting objects of repair for people who have lost limbs in conflict zones. The work, placed at the centre of the show, invites visitors to reflect on the exhibition themes, which create a powerful catalyst for discussion and contemplation. These two recent works evoke the idea of silence as a necessary state in every dialogue, alongside voices, movement, imagination and emotion.

Kader Attia artwork of a collection of tusks

Kader Attia (b. 1970). Schizophrenic Melancholia, 2018. Merino sheep horns, magnets, 120 cm (diameter). Regen Projects Collection, Los Angeles

Kader Attia artwork of mannequin limbs suspended above

Kader Attia (b. 1970). On Silence, 2020. Protheses, variable dimensions. Commissioned by Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha

Close up of Kader Attia's artwork of mannequin limbs suspended above

Kader Attia (b. 1970). On Silence, 2020. Protheses, variable dimensions. Commissioned by Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha

Broken glass scattered on the floor of the gallery space

Kader Attia (b. 1970). Le grand miroir du monde (The Big Mirror of the World), 2017. Mirrors, variable dimensions. Courtesy of the artist and Galleria Continua, San Gimignano

Geometric Design Wall Mural

Kader Attia (b. 1970). Untitled (Wallpainting), 2020. Acrylic, variable dimensions. Courtesy of the artist.

About the Artist

Born in Dugny in the north of Paris in 1970, Kader Attia grew up between Algeria and France. He went on to study at the École Duperré (Paris, 1993); the Escola Massana Sin Barcelona (1994); and the École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs (Paris, 1998), before spending several years in Congo and South America.

Attia's work is developed using multimedia objects embedded with theoretical references and archival materials that investigate thought systems and ideologies. His exploration of the material and nonmaterial existence of traditional civilisations asks questions of the colonial legacies that colour perceptions of history and claims of ownership within societies today. His work draws attention to contemporary issues of cultural identity, immigration, gender and politics.

Recent solo exhibitions include: Kader Attia. Remembering the Future, Kunsthaus, Zürich (2020); The Museum of Emotion, The Hayward Gallery, London (2019); Roots also grow in concrete, Mac Val, Vitry-sur-Seine (2018); and Repair. 5 Acts, KW Institute, Berlin (2013). Group exhibitions include: Participation Mystique, Shanghai Ming Contemporary Art Museum, Shanghai (2020); Our World Is Burning, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2020); When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Migration Through Contemporary Art, ICA Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2019); the 12th Gwangju Biennale (2018); Viva Art Viva, the 57th Venice Biennale (2017); Tamawuj, the 13th Sharjah Art Biennale (2017); The City in the Blue Daylight, Dak’Art 2016, the 12th Dakar Biennale for Contemporary African Art (2016); Rainbow in the Dark, SALT Galata, Istanbul (2014–15); Documenta (13), Kassel (2012).

In 2016, Attia established La Colonie in Paris, a decolonial space for dialogue and exchange, focused on amplifying the voices of marginalised artists and thinkers. He has been awarded the Marcel Duchamp Prize (2016); the Joan Miró Prize (2017); and the Yanghyun Art Prize (2017). He was also a recipient of the Abraj Capital Prize (2010) and Prize of the Cairo Biennale (2008). Kader Attia lives and works between Germany and France.

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