Kader Attia

Untitled (Mirrors), 2012
Specchi / Mirrors
182 x 182 cm
Courtesy Galleria Continua, San Gimignano / Beijing / Le Moulin
Photo: Michele Alberto Sereni

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Kader Attia (France, 1970)

Repaired mirrors, lithographs
Courtesy the artist and Galleria Continua, San Gimignano / Beijing / Le Moulin; Galerie Christian Nagel Berlin-Cologne-Antwerp; Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna

Marked by a heterogeneous cultural education, Kader Attia has developed an artistic language that draws upon his North African origins, his birth and education in France and the cosmopolitan condition of being a contemporary artist. Typical of his poetics is the reflection on themes of cultural reappropriation and of the hybridization of objects, references and experiences of different historical and geographical contexts.
Reappropriation literally becomes “repair” in the series Repair Analysis in which the artist works with mirrors, fractured and then stitched back together with wire. These are placed into a dialogue with a series of nineteenth-century lithographs by French artist Nicolas Henri Jacob, who for over twenty years worked with the physician Jean Marc Bourgery to create a monumental anatomical atlas (for a total of 725 lithographic plates), the reference guide for various surgical techniques.
The lithographs and mirrors show wounds that have not been concealed. Fractures and repairs are not denied or hidden. Reversing the contemporary Western notion of the restoration of artifacts and contradicting the ideal of aestheticization of the human body, Attia makes reference to an anti–modern conception of repair, choosing to openly demonstrate a process that allows for the assemblage of different elements.
If on one hand Attia draws upon the reality of a found object like the illustrated plates, on the other he puts the reality of the individual visitor at the centre: the individual experience of one’s own body reflected in his “repaired mirrors.” The individual is placed in front of the border between himself and his image, caught in the contradiction between the objectivity of scientific detail and the subjectivity of the transitory experience in front of the mirrors. As in his other works, Attia focuses on the value of the experience rather than the result, working with emptiness and the formal tension between presence and absence, creating a reflection on the existential condition of contemporary man.
The central element of the works in the exhibition is in fact the mirror, fundamental topos of Western culture: an object that is at once revelatory and interlocutory, which refers to the real but can not grasp its essence. The fractured mirror becomes the projection of a deformed image in which we no longer recognize ourselves. The image of our body becomes unstable and transitory, an illusion between objective and subjective perception, between the real and the imaginary. The mirror represents the border to a further world which we can only access through a provisional and ephemeral appearance .


Kader Attia (France, 1970; lives and works in Berlin) was born into an Algerian family in the Parisian suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis. He spent his childhood in France and Algeria, and the multicultural vision of Attia’s work is rooted in the artist’s own personal life experience: the inter-cultural conflicts experienced as a child, like the years spent in Congo, Venezuela and Algeria, are constantly recurring features of his work. Attia’s first solo exhibition was in the Republic of Congo in 1996. He showed for the first time in Italy in 2003, as part of the 50th Venice Biennale. In 2005, he was invited to take part in the 8th Lyon Biennial; in 2007, he realized his first solo show, Momentum 9, in the United States, at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston. This was followed by two further solo exhibitions, Square Dreams at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Newcastle (2007), and Black & White: Signs of Times, at the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo di Quarte in Spain (2008). That same year he had a residency at the IASPIS in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2009, he took part in the Paris Triennial (La Force de l’Art) and in the Havana Biennial, and also curated the show Périfériks at the Centre d’Art de Neuchâtel in Switzerland. He won an award at the Cairo Biennale in 2008 and the Abraaj Capital Art Prize and a place in the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship Program in 2010. Also in 2010, he contributed to the Sydney Biennale, the Busan Biennale in Korea and shows at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Matha Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar, and the Haus der Kunst in Munich. In 2011, he showed at the 4th Moscow Biennale, the Dublin Biennial and many other internationally prominent venues, including the Tate Modern in London, the Mori Museum in Tokyo, the Centre Pompidou, and the Sharjah Art Foundation. In 2012, he participated in the group exhibition Hajj, Journey to the Heart of Islam, at the British Museum. Attia’s works are housed in many private and public collections, including the Tate Modern, the ICA of Boston, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Collection Centre Georges Pompidou.

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