The exhibition shows sculptures, photos, videos and installations by the Algerian-French artist Kader Attia. His first exhibition in German-speaking Switzerland revolves around Europe’s colonial past and its consequences.

Switzerland and the restitution of African artefacts


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Kader Attia was born in 1970 to Algerian parents in a suburb north of Paris. Now working in Berlin and Paris, he draws on the experience of living in two cultures as the basis for his artistic practice.

In a new video installation created for the Kunsthaus Zürich, Attia addresses the much-debated topical issue of ‘restitution’ of non-Western, especially African artefacts. The work is an attempt to delve deeper into this complex subject. It includes the voices of historians, philosophers, activists, psychoanalysts and economists. Kader Attia gathers the varying standpoints together, without apportioning blame, in order to achieve a nuanced analysis of the topic. The history of Switzerland and its collections flows into this multi-layered film, throwing up some fascinating new insights.

Kader Attia, The Scream, 2016, Diptych, Exhibition view «Sacrifice and Harmony», MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, 2016, Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nagel Draxler; photo: Axel Schneider, © 2020 ProLitteris, Zurich
Kader Attia, Measure and Control, 2013, Display case, Courtesy of the artist and Galleria Continua; photo: Ela Bialkowska, © 2020 ProLitteris, Zurich
Kader Attia, L’Empreinte de l’Autre, 2016,Installation, Exhibition view «Prix Marcel Duchamp», Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2016, Courtesy of the artist, Galerie Nagel Draxler, Galerie Krinzinger, Lehman Maupin, Galleria Continua, Private Collection; photo: Vanni Bassetti, OAK Studio, © 2020 ProLitteris, Zurich
Kader Attia, Photo © Camille Millerand
Kader Attia, Untitled, 2017, Installation, Exhibition view «Repairing the Invisible», SMAK, Ghent, 2017, Courtesy of the artist; photo: Dirk Pauwels © 2020 ProLitteris, Zurich

Attia's works at the Kunsthaus

Accompanying programme

Attia is not only an artist but also an activist. In Paris he runs a discourse and exchange platform in which people from a wide range of cultures and social backgrounds participate. Together with exhibition curator Mirjam Varadinis, Kader Attia is conceiving an accompanying program that will take place at the Kunsthaus. The dates and topics of the discussions, lectures, film screenings and guided tours will be available here when the exhibition opens.

For several decades, Kader Attia has been investigating the concept of ‘repair’. ‘Repairing’ something means restoring it to its former state; but for Attia, the word also extends to reparation – making amends for a previous wrong. He plays with this double meaning, investigating the various concepts that lie behind the term in both the Western and non-Western world. Attia presented a striking work on the subject at documenta (13) in Kassel (2012), where his large-scale installation ‘The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures’ filled an entire hall. Among other elements, it comprised wooden busts of people with disfigured, ‘broken’ faces. These ‘Gueules cassées’ were soldiers who survived the First World War but were scarred for life by the terrible wounds they suffered.

Untitled Collages_Collage G_2018.jpg
Kader Attia, Untitled (Collages). Collage G, 2018, courtesy of the artist

Kader Attia travelled to Africa with photos of the injured that he had found in German and French historical archives and, working with traditional craftspeople, sculpted busts from the photos in the former colonies. The work deals with the horrors of war but also references the relationship between western modernity and Africa – and turns history around. The Kunsthaus Zürich purchased one of these busts for its collection in 2015 and has since added further works by the artist. They are now on display in the exhibition, alongside loans from other museums and from private collections.

Curator: Mirjam Varadinis

Supported by Swiss Re – Partner for contemporary art, the Yanghyun Foundation and the Dr. Georg and Josi Guggenheim Foundation.


Image above:

Kader Attia, Culture: Another Nature Repaired, 2014 (detail), installation view: Musée cantonal des beaux-arts, Lausanne, 2015, photo: Nora Rupp, courtesy of the artist, © 2019 ProLitteris, Zurich

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