Five things to know about Kader Attia

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019 - 09:35

The Museum of Emotion is Kader Attia’s first survey exhibition in the UK. Find out more about Attia’s poetic and politically engaged work below. 

He describes himself as an activist as well as an artist

Over the past twenty years, Kader Attia has made sculptures, installations and video works that engage with urgent political issues, including police violence, the treatment of immigrant populations and the legacies of colonialism. ‘In terms of the ethical aspect of art, I have to say that we’re living in a crucial time. Visually, verbally, everything has to be used’.


He’s fascinated by the concept of repair

For Attia, repair is both a physical and a symbolic act. The Museum of Emotion features objects that have been ‘repaired’ by the artist using techniques and materials from non-Western cultures, as well as videos and large-scale installations that explore different attitudes towards physical and psychological injury. His installation The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures (2012) brings together hundreds of objects, among them repaired African masks and archival photographs of wounded First World War soldiers. 


His ambitious artworks often involve detailed research

Some of Attia’s artworks, including The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures (2012) and his video Reflecting Memory (2016), involve detailed research. This research takes different forms, but includes conversations with a wide range of individuals, from medical professionals to musicians and traditional healers. ‘When I make my videos, I go out and meet with all kinds of people’, Attia has said. ‘I’m a storyteller, and a storyteller who tells the story of the others’. 


Installation view of Shifting Borders, Kader Attia: The Museum of Emotion at Hayward Gallery. Copyright the artist, courtesy Hayward Gallery 2019. Photo: Linda Nylind


He wants to start conversations, and provoke political debate

Conversation and debate are hugely important to Attia. Speaking of his work, he has said ‘What interests me is to produce things using very simple forms, so as to lead people in the direction of genuine exchanges of views – a real, fundamental dialogue’. In 2016, the artist set up La Colonie, a space for politically engaged debate in a multicultural neighbourhood in central Paris. Over the past three years, La Colonie has hosted discussions on topics including re-appropriation and colonial architecture, and has featured a wide range of speakers including the philosopher Bruno Latour. 


He wants us to think about how powerful emotions – among them joy, anger or sorrow – might bring about positive social change 

In this exhibition, Attia explores the complicated role that emotion plays in all areas of our lives. In works such as The Field of Emotion (2018–19), he explores the ways in which dictators and demagogues stir up and exploit strong emotions, and in The Museum of Emotion as a whole asks us to consider how and whether powerful emotions might heal rather than create conflict, and what role the museum might play in that process. 



Kader Attia: The Museum of Emotion was at Hayward Gallery from 13 February until 6 May 2019

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Header Image: Installation view of Kader Attia: The Museum of Emotion at Hayward Gallery. Copyright the artist, courtesy Hayward Gallery 2019. Photo: Linda Nylind