Kader Attia

Kader Attia: Reflecting Memory

January 21 - April 16, 2017
Alsdorf Gallery

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“From culture to nature, from gender to architecture, from science to philosophy, any system of life is an infinite process of repair.”—Kader Attia


The Block Museum will present an exhibition of newly commissioned work by the internationally acclaimed French-Algerian artist Kader Attia (b. 1970), based in part on the artist’s research in the collections of Northwestern University’s Herskovits Library of African Studies and interviews with university faculty across disciplines. Conceived as an installation, the exhibition will feature collage, a sculpture, and an extended film-essay. Taken as a whole, the works will expand on Attia’s long-term exploration of trauma and repair, both of the body and of society, and will probe the legacies of colonialism, slavery, and xenophobia in our time. 

Kader Attia grew up moving between Algeria and the suburbs of Paris, and uses this experience of living as a part of two cultures as a starting point to develop a dynamic practice that confronts cultural differences. His debut solo exhibition was held in 1996 in the Republic of Congo, and since then his artistic career has gained major international recognition, with inclusion in exhibitions such as the 50th Venice Biennale (2003), dOCUMENTA13 (2012), the 8th Lyon Biennial (2015), the 5th Marrakech Biennial (2016), and Dak'Art 2016. Attia has recently exhibited in major shows at the Museum of Modern Art, the Centre Pompidou, the Tate Modern, and the Guggenheim Museum. In 2016 he was awarded the Marcel Duchamp Prize, among France’s most prestigious arts award, and his solo exhibition Sacrifice and Harmony, at the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, was named German exhibition of the year by the International Association of Art Critics (AICA).

Kader Attia: Reflecting Memory is organized by the Block Museum in partnership with the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies. The curatorial team included Block curators Kathleen Bickford Berzock and Janet Dees, and Antawan I. Byrd, PhD candidate in Art History. Support for the exhibition has been provided by the Myers Foundations, the Diane and Craig Solomon Contemporary Art Fund, the Alsdorf Gallery at the Block Museum Endowment Fund, and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities. 



About the Herskovits Library of African Studies

Established in 1954, the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies at Northwestern University is the largest separate Africana collection in existence. Its scope is as wide as the continent of Africa itself; its subject matter ranges from art, history, literature, music, and religion to communications, management, and cooking. The Africana collection is a resource for the entire university, and most of Northwestern's disciplinary programs are reflected in the collection. In addition to serving the NU community, the Herskovits Library staff also serves regional, national, and international scholars.

The Block Museum of Art and the Herskovits Library participate in an ongoing initiative to document artists from African and the Diaspora who are involved in projects at the Block Museum. View the Herskovitz Library Kader Attia LibGuide.

Related Events for Kader Attia

Opening Day: Kader Attia

Saturday, January 21, 2:00pm

Join us for the opening of a newly commissioned installation by internationally renowned artist Kader Attia, informed by his research in the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies and interviews with Northwestern faculty across disciplines. Curators Kathleen Bickford Berzock and Janet Dees will give context to the project, followed by a conversation between Attia and Caroline Bledsoe and Peter Locke, faculty members in anthropology and global health studies. The conversation will be moderated by art history PhD candidate Antawan Byrd.


The Artist in the Archive: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Kader Attia in the Herskovits Library

Thursday, March 2, 5:00pm

Northwestern University Library

As a foundation for producing his new commission for the Block, artist Kader Attia mined the holdings of Northwestern’s renowned Melville Herskovits Library of African Studies. The renowned library’s scope is as wide and diverse as the continent of Africa itself. Join Herskovits Library curator Esmeralda Kale for a look at objects in the library’s collection that formed part of Attia’s research. Members of AfriSem, a consortium of graduate students focused on African Studies, will explore intertwined areas of Attia’s research—architecture, pshychopathology, and prosthetics—taking materials from the Library as a point of departure.

Read More About Kader Attia

Manthia Diawara, "All the Difference in the World: the Art of Kader Attia," Artforum (February 2014)

Hannah Gregory, "Archival Impulse: An Interview with Kader Attia," Apollo (April 10, 2015)

Nazanin Lankarani, "French-Algerian artist Explores Identity and Repair," New York Times (June 11, 2013)


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