Berlin-based French artist Kader Attia fills one of the cavernous spaces in Cockatoo Island’s Turbine Hall with a 312-square-metre patchwork of corrugated iron and scrap roofing materials. The series of shanty town roofs collected by the artist, reflecting the conditions in which the majority of the world’s population lives, are installed at different angles to make a 350-square-metre patchwork of corrugated iron, satellite dishes and other scrap materials.
A microcosm of contemporary reality, Kasbah (2010) looks at how the other half lives in a world where poverty is at such a scale that almost half the world’s population subsists on less than US$2.50 a day.*
Visitors are invited to walk across them… Walking tentatively over the work, one not only becomes part of it but also implicitly part of the economic and power matrix that creates these shanty towns.”
Born 1970 in Dugny (Seine Saint-Denis) He lives and works in Paris
Attia’s first solo exhibition was in 1996 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since then he has exhibited regularly in France, in institutions such as Palais de Tokyo and Lyon Contemporary Art Museum.
Attia has gained international recognition by participating in the Venice Biennale (2003), Art Basel Miami (2004) and the Lyon Biennale (2005). Attia’s most recent solo exhibitions have been at Galerie Christian Nagel, Berlin, Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna, Centre de Création Contemporaine, Tours, Boston ICA, US, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Newcastle, UK, le Magasin, Grenoble, France and Andréhn- Schiptjenko, Stockholm, Sweden. Kader Attia was nominated for the Price Marcel Duchamp in 2005 and awarded the Prize of the Cairo Biennale in 2008.
As an artist, he applies a duality of thought and hybridism to his artistic process, which he entirely puts down to his background, unafraid of tackling questions of immigration, globalisation and religion in a variety of disciplines. Installation and multi-media are often the final products of his process, characterised by exceptional attention to detail.
The allegorical minimalism of his work is frequently unsettling owing to the discord between their external sensory appeal and controversial content. Spending his childhood between Paris and Algeria has made Attia feel akin to both an Arab and Western way of thinking. He now lives and works between Algiers and Berlin.
In Ghost, a large installation of a group of Muslim women in prayer, Attia renders their bodies as vacant shells, empty hoods devoid of personhood or spirit. Made from tin foil – a domestic, throw away material – Attia’s figures become alien and futuristic, synthesising the abject and divine. Bowing in shimmering meditation, their ritual is equally seductive and hollow, questioning modern ideologies – from religion to nationalism and consumerism – in relation to individual identity, social perception, devotion and exclusion. Attia’s Ghost evokes contemplation of the human condition as vulnerable and mortal; his impoverished materials suggest alternative histories or understandings of the world, manifest in individual and temporal experience