Kader Attia: On Silence
Curator: Abdellah Karroum
Assistant Curator: Lina Ramadan
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.
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 ofheritage 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.
From the series ‘Mirrors and Masks’, 2013-2015, wood, mirror and steel, variable dimensions. Installation view The Museum of Emotion,Hayward Gallery, London, 2019. Image courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nagel Draxler. Photo: Thierry Bal.
Ghost, 2007,aluminum foil, variable dimensions. Installation view Collector,Le Tri Postal, Lille,2011-2012. Image courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nagel Draxler. Photo: Jean-Pierre Duplan.
Chaos + Repair = Universe, 2014, mirror fragments, metal wires, approx. 60 cm (diameter). Installation view Sacrifice and Harmony, MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt/Main, 2016. Private Collection, Switzerland. Courtesy of Simon Studer Art and Galleria Continua. Photo: Axel Schneider.
From the series ‘Following the Modern Genealogy’, 2012-2021, photographs and vintage documents on cardboard, 80 x 120 cm (each). Image courtesy of the artist.
Still image from Reflecting Memory, 2016, HD digital video projectionwith sound, 48 min, 1 sec. Image courtesy of the artist. MAC/VAL Collection, Paris.