For nearly twenty years, Kader Attia has been interested in the question of repair, understood in both senses, as the action of repairing – an object, a wound – and reparation. Hence the importance of the object and the archive in his work as the tangible traces of history and of the wounds that require reparation. The space of the installation then becomes a space of memory, but also a space for rethinking the intrinsic links between political, personal and aesthetic histories that are distinct in appearance.
The series of busts, Culture, Another Nature Repaired (2014), from which the Museum has three works, was created in collaboration with artisans in Bamako (Mali) and Brazzaville (Republic of the Congo). Conceived using photographs of soldiers mutilated in the First World War (known as gueules cassées in France), it offers another reading of the cultural transfers and exchanges between the African and European continents, continuing along the lines of The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures, the monumental work conceived by Attia in 2012 for dOCUMENTA (13). Indeed, if these busts remind us that the great figures of modern Western art history – from the German expressionists to artists like Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso – were inspired by the Other, such was their fascination with African sculpture, then this sculpture here presents its own vision of Western man in all his destructive savagery.
If we remember that the Great War was ‘global’, that many of the belligerent nations were also nations that colonised sub-Saharan and North Africa, and that they recruited large numbers of soldiers from that part of the world, that after the war the more or less long-term consequences for the colonised countries were disastrous, then the significance of Attia’s proposition becomes clear. In his work, the artist poses the question of what can be done now to repair, to make reparation for history.
Nicole Schweizer (ed.), Kader Attia, Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Zurich, JRP Ringier, 2015.
Léa Gauthier (ed.), Kader Attia. RepaiR, Paris, Blackjack éditions, 2014.
Axel Lapp (ed.), Kader Attia. The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures, Berlin, The Green Box, 2014.