Kader Attia - Reason’s Oxymorons

January 13March 4, 2017 

Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York


Lehmann Maupin is pleased to announce its second solo exhibition for Kader Attia. This will be the New York debut of Attia’s multimedia video installation, Reason’s Oxymorons (2015), which premiered at the 13th Biennale de Lyon in 2015. Reason’s Oxymorons is a video library comprised of 18 interviews presented within a modular cubicle environment. The interviews feature European and African ethnographers, psychiatric and philosophical practitioners, and theorists discussing topics grouped under titles including “Genocide,” “Totem and Fetish,” “Reason and Politics,” and “Trance.”


Attia is recognized for his rigorous research-based practice that he translates through a wide variety of media including photography, sculpture, installation, and video. His work examines the wide-ranging effects of colonialism and the repercussions of Western hegemony on non-Western cultures. Attia grew up in both Paris and Algeria in the decade following the dissolution of French Algeria in 1962. His experience of living within two different cultures has deeply influenced his oeuvre and his commitment to the investigation of historical narratives, the development of culture, and the construction of communal and individual identity in the postcolonial era.


In Reason’s Oxymorons, Attia examines the complexities of the human condition and the varying psychiatric practices that have developed throughout Europe and Africa. The artist identifies different approaches to mental health treatment and emotional wellbeing and the various ways it is perceived in Western and non-Western cultures. This work provides crucial insight into the effect of colonialism and the forcible merging of disparate cultures. It is particularly relevant when considering the current crisis of refugees who experience psychological trauma as they assimilate into European societies. The sterile, office-like environment of the installation alludes to the dehumanization that is the result of this type of assimilation and also effectively creates an atmosphere of claustrophobia and discomfort that comes with dealing with any type of trauma or mental health issue.

Attia’s longstanding analysis of the themes of psychological and corporeal repair is essential to his practice. He is interested in the ambivalence that surrounds the act or process of repair as it is envisioned in drastically opposing ways by contemporary Western culture and non-Western traditionalists practicing today. In Western society, there is an unspoken ideology of flawlessness where any physical injury or deformity is “fixed” with plastic surgery or other extreme interventions; applied to emotional wounds, this approach can result in suppression. In non-Western cultures, there is often a celebration of flaws or deliberate and ritual acts of scarification and physical modification. Reason’s Oxymorons exposes this interesting dichotomy and reveals the varying ways trauma and psychological repair are defined in differing cultures. Attia strongly believes it is necessary to openly address and make visible these internalized wounds in order for humanity to truly progress and evolve.


Attia was awarded the Prix Marcel Duchamp in October 2016; in conjunction with the award his work will be on view at Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris through January 30, 2017. On January 21, 2017, he will open a solo exhibition of newly commissioned work at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL. Also in January 2017, Attia will open a project he was appointed to curate for the 13th Sharjah Biennial in Dakar, Senegal. In April 2017, Attia will open a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney.


Reason's Oxymorons, 2015, 18 films and installation of cubicles, duration: variable, 13 to 25 minutes. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong

About the artist

Kader Attia (b. 1970, Dugny, France; lives and works in Berlin and Paris) received degrees from Ecole Supérieure des Arts Appliqués ‘Duperré,’ Paris, France in 1993, Escola de Artes Aplicades ‘La Massana,’ Barcelona, Spain in 1994, and Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, France in 1998. Solo exhibitions of his work have been organized at the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, Germany(2016); Musée Cantonal des Beaux Arts, Lausanne, Switzerland (2015); KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2013); Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2012); The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA (2007); and Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon, France (2006). Select group exhibitions featuring his work include Foreign Gods: Fascination Africa and Oceania, Leopold Museum, Vienna (2016); But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2016); Picasso in Contemporary Art, Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, Germany (2015); The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell Revisited, The Smithsonian Museum of African Art, Washington, DC, Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art, GA, and Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, Germany (2014-2015); Here and Elsewhere, New Museum, New York (2014); Performing Histories, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2012); Contested Terrains, Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom (2011); and multiple biennial exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale (2003 and 2011); Lyon Biennial (2005); dOCUMENTA, Kassel, Germany (2012); and Marrakech Biennial (2014 and 2016). His work is in numerous international public and private collections, including Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; Jumex Collection, Mexico; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Tate Gallery, London.



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