Kader Attia : Les Racines poussent aussi dans le Béton

"The current architecture [...] drops the palates. Here is a sign of the times »said Le Corbusier. If he saw the future in collective and affordable housing, Kader Attia made this principle a spectacular exhibition to discover the MAC VAL Vitry-sur-Seine (94). Between politics and poetry, the visual artist questions the effects of postcolonialism and the place of this culture in French history, through large suburban ensembles. Uplifting.

Paris. Its paved avenues, lined with Haussmann buildings, luxury shops, bakeries and gourmet restaurants. " The City of Lights " ; "The city of love" ... Periphrases do not fail to define our beloved capital. Yet Paris is also its periphery, its colonial and migratory past, its culture and its social mix. Aspects rarely appreciated in the national narrative, which are nevertheless an integral part of the memory of our country, that the visual artist Kader Attia, winner of the Marcel Duchamp prize in 2016, wanted to expose in the incredible space of 1 300 square meters of the MAC VAL, Museum of Contemporary Art of the Val de Seine. One way to bring part of the population beyond the device to discover the work of the rising star of the discipline.

"We hear about Paris abroad with pictures of postcards. Never has suburban architecture been part of this French dialectic. The visitor, the tourist, only imagines Paris through these images and finally does not even see foreigners or colonial history. Even when they are at Gare du Nord, they do not see the sub-Saharans, the North Africans. " Kader Attia, contemporary artist

French, of Algerian origin, having grown up between Garges-Lès-Gonesse / Sarcelles (95) and Bab El Oued (Algeria), Kader Attia perfectly embodies this postcolonial generation, settled in massive social housing complexes, which spontaneously developed there its own codes and culture. A generation that is still struggling to find a place in post-war France.


"This denial of the periphery in the great French national narrative is also the denial of a whole subculture. This is the denial of hiphop, literature, activism, olfactory culture, memory, etc. which exists and continues, but which is killed. Only, we can not lock up ideas. " Kader Attia, contemporary artist

Indeed, we can not lock up ideas. Especially not those of the artist 47 years who delivers here a monumental exhibition designed in the manner of an opera in three acts. It begins on a dark corridor whose walls adorned with collages represent the soul of the periphery: large ensembles, clothing styles, ethnic influences ... The whole is articulated around the figure of Jean Gabin, monument of the French cinema which has shot no less than 8 films in the Paris suburbs, in the Val d'Oise, thus staging the broad facades of social housing in Sarcelles in Pepe le Moko (1937) or Melody basement (1963), and not the usual Eiffel Tower and Sacred Heart. This space concludes with a ground installation: a semolina disc representing the plan of the city of Ghardaia (Algeria) that would have fascinated and inspired Le Corbusier for the Radiant City of Marseille (13).

The more we advance in the place, the more the link with the social architecture becomes less and less obvious and serves to express social problems, to disalienate the populations. Wooden beams with cracks "repaired" by Kader Attia where the wounds remain apparent; a replica of the New York skyline made from fridges of different sizes, embellished with small mirrors; security gates lacerated and destroyed with stones; a work diffusing a nostalgic smell of clove; photographs on the question of gender, sexuality and the concept of couples; video installations with various social topics, such as the Théo case or the oil market as a substitute for triangular trade, etc. In short, devious means to make people think. The art of Kader Attia is not contemplative: at every step, every work that we discover, a question arises.

To end the event: an epilogue as simple as it is complex. A photographic diptych confronting a photograph of a well in Ghardaia, whose hydraulic system is now "made in China", and a Volkswagen site in East Germany where, in fact, the roots also grow in the concrete.

A powerful and committed immersive journey more than necessary.

Roots also grow in concrete, from April 14 to 16 September 2018 at MAC VAL (94).

To learn more, visit the site of Kader Attia

Photographs: MAC VAL

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