Kader Attia digs up the concrete bodies at MAC VAL. Poetic and political!
While we can still see, until May 13 at the Palais de Tokyo, the fruit of his collaboration with Jean-Jacques Lebel, Kader Attia continues his quest for truth in a new exhibition at the MAC VAL whose immense exhibition space he invests by proposing an initiatory journey around two closely intertwined notions: architecture and its relationship to bodies.
How should we look at the major urban projects of the post-war period, the large complexes characteristic of dormitory cities? What remains of the modernists’ utopia? What do we maintain with our living space, private or public, with our history and our roots? What relationship between the physical body and the social body? How do our societies deal with the visible and the invisible, the included and the excluded? And how society finally rewrites its own national narrative and fails to recognize the wounds left by colonialism, slavery, gender inequalities, discrimination against LGBT people, especially transsexuals…
These are all questions that Kader Attia asks in this exhibition”Les racines poussent aussi dans le béton” proposed at Mac Val. The articulation of the exhibition is singular. The route alternates dark spaces with rooms in full light, video or sound documents with purely plastic works. It oscillates between past and present, roots and concrete. With always in watermark, the common thread of Kader Attia’s work: repair. Repairing the wounds that men inflict on themselves, from the humiliations of colonization to fractures between communities. Kader Attia claims the idea that one must”free oneself from the yoke of the great official national narrative in order to re-appropriate and write oneself one’s narrative, to expose one’s vision of things The denial of neighbourhood culture is the denial of a whole hip hop culture, the workers’ culture, languages..
“Roots also grow in concrete” offers a visual but also physical experience, mind and body, body and space, with the aim of bringing people together. The exhibition is conceived as an opera with several acts. It begins with a hyphen between reality and history, in this first”cabinet” which stretches the beginning of the 20th century, Kader Attia returns on the traces of his childhood in a Sarcelles metamorphosed by the large ensembles. At each end of a long corridor two films face each other and oppose each other. On one side”Pépé le Moko” with Jean Gabin in the alleys of the kasbah of Algiers and on the other side”Mélodie en sous-sol” in which, Gabin always, returns in his suburb transformed by the bars of buildings. Between the two, a set of collages marries large ensembles with scenes from Moroccan or Algerian life. The following small piece pays homage to Ghardaïa. On the ground a desert of couscous grains represents Ghardaïa’s plan. This echoes in particular Le Corbusier who, fascinated after having visited Ghardaïa where everything is thought: water management, administration, traffic, shops, elaborated alongside Jeanneret the five points of modern architecture which notably gave birth to the radiant City, which he himself called the”Beni Isguen vertical*”. A vision that is both poetic and political, recalling the origin of these great precepts of modern architecture.
Still concerning architecture, Kader Attia sows here and there in the exhibition of references. Beams recovered on demolition sites, vertical and proud, whose cracks are stapled, scars remained visible because for Kader Attia, unlike our modern societies, they must not be hidden to heal. A black room in which a series of refrigerators dressed with mirror tiles, and glass tiles, draws a skyline, and refers to the coldness of over-built megacities and yet dreams of a fantasy world. A video shows a succession of floors and windows of a building facade in Vitry that ends on the roof with a clear view of the city – a paradox of the utopia of large complexes that have become modular prisons. Effect reinforced by a grid-shaped front.
In this setting, the effects of architecture on the psyche and the bodies are questioned.
For from this dimension the human emerges with the same cracks. Barriers symbolizing forbidden spaces are crossed and perforated with stones. Were they launched by people who wanted to free themselves from a closed space or is it nature that wants to take back its rights? These barriers prevent access to a white wall on which is written with white chalk”To resist is to remain invisible”.
A video, already presented, around the subject of the missing limb underlines how our brain keeps in memory the missing limb. Metaphor of a society that cannot amputate its many roots without suffering. In the same spirit of negation, another video shows the interviews on the future of postcolonial bodies, questioning the black body notably with interviews of Théo’s relatives from the infamous”Théo affair”. Further on, a corridor is inhabited by large portraits of Algerian transsexuals and by two mirrors, one with a woman’s shoe and the other a man’s shoe facing each other. An installation that questions the masculine-feminine and our acceptance of difference. Kader Attia’s memories are also brought together in an installation mixing photos of Algerian women, members of his family who repair a terracotta dish. A concrete mixer brewing cloves scents the space and evokes both a construction worker’s father and a mother cook, while on a wall traditional breads are planted reminiscent of childhood games.
On a last video, a cube formed of sugar cubes melts because of the oil poured on it. This work plays on the opposites white and black, hard and fluid… White gold on one side, symbol of the slave trade, and black gold, symbol of the exploitation and plundering of natural resources of African countries. Two matters whose exploitation has unfortunately enslaved peoples.
And to finish this journey two photographs side by side; on the one hand a noria, traditional well of the Maghreb and on the other hand the concrete ruins of a workshop of an old Wolkswagen factory invaded by vegetation. This work opens on an indefinite future, nevertheless optimistic, because the roots also grow in concrete.
The roots also grow in the concrete
Exhibition Kader AttiaFrom
April 14 to September 16, 2018Commission Frank Lamy assisted by Julien BlanpiedTwo other exhibitions are also worth a visit in Vitry:
The New Breath just after Meiro Koizumi‘s storm
The fruit of a residence given to Meiro Koizumi. He tries to decipher the motivations and representations of 16-20 year olds and more particularly wishes to question the impact of social conditioning and media propaganda on the military involvement of young people, even the sacrifice impacted by the history of his country and suicide bombers, and recently by the attacks. During this residence Meiro Koizumi met young people from Chevilly-Larue, whom he questioned about these attacks. He realized that if he knew nothing about French culture, the young people in question knew about manga culture. Amazed at the freedom of the body they could have, expressive even extroverted with a certain exuberance for a Japanese. He asked them to play again on stage a story inspired by a manga. The result is a multiple video game, superimposed, in which a ballet is played like a peaceful battlefield.
The MAC VAL invited the artist duo Grout/Mazéas with Black Bivouac to interfere in the exhibition of the works in the collection from April 14 to August 19, 2018
For this 8th exhibition of the works in the collection, the choice was to associate and enlighten the works based on their power and their will to express themselves. All of them, in fact, have a certain narrative power, more or less obvious exchange. They summon a mode of narrative and expression. They tell stories, invite to continue, even to build, initiate a climate, suggest. They question our own watching power.
Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne
Place de la Libération94400
*Béni Isguen, one of the 5 cities of the Ghardaïa pentapole, Algeria
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