Kader Attia

Kader Attia (b. 1970, France) lives and works in Berlin and Algiers. He grew up in Algeria and the suburbs of Paris, and uses this experience to reflect on the aesthetics and ethics of different cultures. Attia takes a poetic and symbolic approach to explore the repercussions of Western modern cultural hegemony, the colonialization of traditional non-Western cultures, and identity politics. Recent solo shows include: Injuries are Here, Musée Cantonal des Beaux Arts, Lausanne (2015); Contre Nature, Beirut Art Center; Continuum of Repair: The Light of Jacob’s Ladder, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2014); and Repair: 5 Acts, KW, Berlin (2013). He has participated in the Dakar Biennale (2014); dOCUMENTA(13), Kassel; Performing Histories (1), Museum of Modern Art, New York (2012); and Contested Terrains, Tate Modern, London (2010)

Los de arriba y los de abajo, 2015
Installation, variable dimensions

Courtesy of the artist.

Kader Attia’s new installation, Los de arriba y los de abajo (The ones above and the ones below), is inspired by the city of Hebron in the West Bank. Because of its association with Abraham and the Tombs of the Patriarchs, it is worshiped by Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike and is the second-holiest city in Judaism after Jerusalem. Despite being located on Palestinian territory, many Jews have settled there and formed the habit of throwing their garbage through their apartment windows onto the street, where only shops owned by Muslims are located. The authorities have thus built huge grids, which enact de facto a physical separation in the public space between those of above and those of underneath, embodying a universal symbol of segregation. The Muslim people are now trapped under garbage, going through the streets almost like rats.

When psychiatrist and philosopher Franz Fanon used to interview his patients at the psychiatric hospital in Algiers during the colonial period, he noticed that their dreams were always body-related. One dreamed of escaping, the other of swimming, another of climbing a wall, a last of running after the autobus. These were called “muscle dreams” – dreams of struggling against a physical oppression, frustration, humiliation, dispossession. Living underneath garbage is not only a strong sign of everyday humiliation and segregation, but also a psychoanalytical process creating a deep physical border between clean vs. dirty and leading to the crucial need of Repair.


Los de arriba y los de abajo (2015), Installation view Röda Sten Konsthall, GIBCA 2015. Photo: Hendrik Zeitler