The Art of Repair

Kader Attia at the Frankfurt MMK

“Show the wound, because you have to reveal the disease that you want to cure.”

Kader Attia, Los de Arriba y Los de Abajo, 2015. © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016, Courtesy Kader Attia, Lehman Maupin and Galerie Nagel Draxler. Photo: MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst / Axel Schneider
Kader Attia, J’Accuse, 2016. © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016, Courtesy Kader Attia and Galerie Nagel Draxler,. Photo: MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst / Axel Schneider
Kader Attia, Chaos + Repair = Universe, 2014. © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016, Courtesy Kader Attia and Galeria Continua. Photo: MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst / Axel Schneider

Joseph Beuys words speak so strongly to Kader Attia. The Algerian-French artist is also concerned with injuries and scars, which are written in individuals and societies, but also with healing and “repair”. This is also documented by his great exhibition Sacrifice and Harmony at Frankfurt’s MMK. In contrast to Beuys, Attia, who is represented in the Deutsche Bank Collection, appears less as a mystic and alchemist. His focus is much more on factors such as politics and history, on the power relations that make the present state of the world.

The first work of the exhibition directly confronts the visitor with one of these power relations. In the central hall of the MMK, Attia, who grew up in the suburbs of Paris, installed a walk-through metal corridor. It feels depressing to go under the low, garbage-covered grids. But for the Palestinians in Hebron, this is a bitter everyday reality. They protect themselves from the garbage which the Jewish settlers living in the upper floors throw at them to drive them out of their homes and businesses. Los de arriba y los de abajo (The Above and the Down) makes the brutal division of a society perceptible.

The corridor draws the visitors into a video room, where interviews are conducted, which Attia held with scientists and historians, but also imams and priests. The talks deal with reality and virtuality, religion and spirituality, mental illnesses and Holocaust trauma, but above all, possibilities for healing. Cultures follow very different paths, which are increasingly colliding with one another in our globalized world. Attia shows that everyone has their own truth – the psychoanalyst, the school physician, the shaman, the clergyman.

At one point, everyone agrees: the repression of the past so popular in the West does not contribute to healing. That the ghosts of the past return time and time again shows Attia’s Installation J’accuse in an impressive way. He borrowed the title of a feature film, produced in 1938. In it, director Abel Gance shows how the fallen soldiers of the First World War rose from their graves to warn the succeeding generations of an impending war. Among the performers were also survivors of the bloody battles of Verdun, who show their wounds in the film: their most cruel mutilated faces. A detail of J’accuse can be seen on a large screen. A collection of wooden brushes installed on rusty metal frames serves as an audience. The busts were made by carvers from Senegal. They served as photographs of distorted survivors of the First World War. Their sculptures are inevitably reminiscent of the works of Expressionist sculptors, who owe their vocabulary of form from African art.

“It is very important for me to really remember,” says the artist who was born in 1977. “And the West has often committed the historical error of trying to hide its wounds, its injuries, its scars, and not speak of them any more.” That is why in the West the repair mostly follows the ideal of perfection. It should be invisible, otherwise a broken object will simply be replaced by a new one. In the process however, the story behind the object is erased or disposed. For Attia, artefacts from ethnological collections are particularly interesting. He often incorporates them into his works. This is also the case with his widely acclaimed installation  The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures at the documenta 13 (2012). Seams and breaks, traces of time and history remain visible in the installation.

Fractures can be aesthetically displayed. This is demonstrated by the installation of a ball made of mirror pieces cut with copper wire at the end of the exhibition hall. Their different colored backs form the outer skin. It is only by looking at this globe that one sees the mirror surfaces – a glimmering, infinitely appearing world of constantly changing light reflections and reflections. Attia has named this work which begins with destruction, Chaos + Repair = Universe. It is through the process of recomposition that the world becomes palpable in all its dimensions and beauty.

MMK Talk with Kader Attia and Gerhard Kubik
Tuesday, May 10, 7 pm at the MMK 1
Kader Attia talks to the ethnologist Gerhard Kubik, an internationally renowned figure in the field of intracultural African cultural research.
In English. Admission free. Supported by Deutsche Bank Foundation.

MMK Talk mit Kader Attia und Gerhard Kubik
Dienstag, 10. Mai, 19 Uhr im MMK 1
Kader Attia im Gespräch mit dem Ethnologen Gerhard Kubik, der zu den international renommierten Größen im Bereich intrakulturelle afrikanische Kulturforschung zählt.
In englischer Sprache. Eintritt frei. Gefördert von Deutsche Bank Stiftung.

Kader Attia. Sacrifice and Harmony
bis 14.08.2016
Museum für Moderne Kunst – MMK 1, Frankfurt am Main

Translated from the Original German Text from the Deutsche Bank Foundation by Geronimo Cristobal, Jr.


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