International exhibitions Kader Attia, Essential, Galleria Continua, San Gimignano

International 2012 Archives

Kader Attia, Essential
Galleria Continua, San Gimignano (Italy)
11.02 - 31.03.2012

07.09 - 25.11.2012

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Press release

Galleria Continua is pleased to present Essential, a new solo exhibition by Kader Attia. The project comprises a series of recent works, some of which have never been shown in Italy.

A French artist of Algerian origin, Kader Attia quickly and forcefully made a name for himself on the international art scene. Taking the plurality of his cultural background as a point of departure, the artist tackles themes regarding the relationship between East and the West, with particular reference to the complex historic events associated with colonialism and its consequences. He investigates the concept of diversity, be it cultural or religious, sexual or socio-political. His works, often expressed in a symbolic language and with a minimalist aesthetics, explore the tensions, traumas and fears of our daily lives.

« Between the moment in which a spirit imagines something it wants to realize and the moment in which the thing is realized, there exists a temporal void , a space. » It is that same infinitesimal space which Michel Foucault identified between the elaboration of a thought and the moment in which it is expressed verbally. This is the reflection chosen by Attia to introduce Mimetism (2011). The work consists of a sheet of lead placed on a pedestal. Lead is a ductile material, which can be manipulated in any way without it ever breaking. The viewer has the possibility to give this sheet any sculptural form whatsover, expressing through this action, the creative desire within us all. Mimetism is conceived as an endless sculpture which materializes the thought, emotions and fantasies of the viewer.

Fullness and emptiness, the formal tension between presence and absence, and the metaphysical distance between artist, object and observer are the underlying concerns of Attia’s work. The artist is fascinated by what takes place in the physical and temporal space between two things. His practice focuses on the experience rather than the result, on the rendering visible of what is absent besides what is present. To resist is to remain invisible is what is written - white on white, imperceptible at first glance - on one of the walls of the gallery. Attia views this work as a gesture that can assume universal value : it can be realized in any part of the world and translated into any language, depending on the geographic context and the person who produces it. « Resistere è restare invisibili » is an affirmation that seems at odds with what happened in the recent Arab Spring, but nor for the artist, who regards resistance as a daily practice, a natural rather than a cultural act.

An evanescent, fleeting gesture is also represented in Revolution. Of the lemma that Attia traces with water on a large shhet of paper, there remains just the slight wrinkling produced vy the water wich has dried, and a video of the performance.

Many of Attia’s works dwell on the theme of boundaries, of geographic borders, of pysical and social barriers. Untitled (Concrete blocks) is a large installation made from a series of concrete blocks arranged in a spiral. Until the age of 16, the artist used to spent his summers at Bab el Oued, one of the poorest suburbs in Algiers. Near this neighbourhhod is a pier named Roches Carré. The beach - which once faced onto the sea and was an escape route for those desperately trying to leave the misery of the country by swimming out to a ship bound for Marseilles or Spain - was completely cemented over in the 70s and became a kind of pier built from large blocks of concrete.

Exhibition March 3 - May 6 2012. Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35 Avenue - Astoria, NY 11106. T. 718 777 68 88. Opening hours Tue - Thu 10.30 am - 5 pm. Fri 10.30 am - 8 pm. Sat - Sun 10.30 - 7 pm. Mon closed.

From then an access to the sea became difficult and dangerous ; the « Roches Carré » had not just created a full-blown frontier but also an insuperable pyschological passage that dashed all hope of change. « This beach is the border separating these people from the contineent, but above all from their dreams of a better life. This massive and strange construction imprisoned them in a cruel reality, as did the French slums where many immigrants ended up living. With the passage of time, continues Attia, I find it ironic that I grew up in the midst of concrete buildings in a poor Paris suburb, and that I often spent my summer holidays playing on the blocks of thos beach, also made of concrete. »

Also geaturing in the show is Inspiration / Conversation, a video installation where two sreens transmit the image of two faces on profile which, face to face, blow into an empty bottle. Recurring here once again is the concepte of emptiness but also of a retrieved everyday object, which, through this action, becomes something else : a sculpture, a trunk, a body extension, a sexual organ. As the artist comments, « we must rediscover our vital, repetitive, orgasmic movements : a cry, a breath, a movement. Re-appropriation is a natural gesture. This re-appropriation will take place through the absorption and the « translation » of the objects of our everyday environment,as has always been the case. In recycling plastic water bottles, there is no talk about the big problem of water. It is the invention of a moral for the protection of our existence from that of the environment in which we live. »

© ArtCatalyse International / Marika Prévosto 2012. All Rights Reserved