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Kader Attia. Scars Remind Us That Our Past Is Real

  • Art, Sculpture
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

The Japanese 'kintsugi' technique involves restoring broken ceramic pieces with a type of gold varnish. It's done to transform a cracked object into a unique element, making the fissures stand out. It's more than a reconstruction procedure, it's a philosophy of life: dealing with trauma as a way to achieve catharsis and overcome pain. The work of French-Algerian artist Kader Attia, winner of the latest edition of the Joan Miró Prize, looks at different scenes of suffering and reparation. This first Attia monographic in Spain is a highly emotional one indeed.

The architecture appears as a body that shows its stigmas in public, with the impressive reproduction of the Independance Hotel in Dakar, made from filing cabinets where the police kept reports on activists, or the dizzying screening of 'La tour Robespierre'. The intensity increases with 'Open your eyes', in which Attia denounces the myth of perfection that reigns in the West and takes on images of traditional African masks patched with European elements, like a button instead of an eye, with harsh photographs of disfigured soldiers from the First World War treated with a rudimentary plastic surgery. For Attia, Europe has always tried to erase or gloss over the bloodiest episodes of its colonial and wartime past. The video 'Wounded heroes', made in Barcelona for the exhibition, looks at the present and collects testimonies of victims of racism, classism and abuses of power.

Several torn and resewn canvases open the startling installation 'J'accuse', where a handful of deformed wooden busts accompany the film of the same name shot in 1919 by Abel Gance. Attia's project is about the treatment of emotions, as a society, but also as individuals: 'Works of art are mirrors, for better or for worse, of past, present and future stories,' he says.

Written by
Aina Mercader


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