Kader Attia, Flying Rats, 2005, 150 real, live pigeons peck at 40 children sculpted from bird seed in a wood and mesh cage, Lyon Biennale, 2005.

Kader Attia, Looking for the Emptiness that Gives Meaning to Things

Kader Attia, Ghost, 2007. Courtesy of the artist, galerie Christian Nagel and private collection.


Institute of Contemporary Art Boston
100 Northern Avenue
Momentum 9: Kader Attia
November 14, 2007-March 2, 2008

The ninth exhibition in the Momentum series features French artist Kader Attia. Momentum examines new developments in contemporary art, inviting emerging artists from the U.S. and around the world to create new work for the ICA.

Attia, who has worked in photography, video, sculpture, drawings, and installation, creates a new piece while living in Boston over a six-week period this fall, working with students at Massachusetts College of Art.

Attia's work for the ICA draws inspiration from the Chinese philosophy, "Man creates things, but emptiness gives them meaning." Using simple materials, the artist creates an immersive installation to evoke themes of childhood, absence, and community.

A series of beds or cots fill the Momentum gallery, each topped with a foam mattress bearing the imprint of an absent body.

Attia's work deploys humor, politics, pop culture, and personal history in ways that are both formally sophisticated and richly metaphorical. His slide show, The Landing Strip, based on Algerian transsexuals and transvestites living in Paris, was shown at the 2003 Venice Biennale.

In 2004 he transformed Kamel Mennour Gallery in Paris into an exclusive fashion boutique, Hallal, purveyor of Islamic-branded fashion. For the Lyon Biennale in 2005 he fashioned Flying Rats, an indoor, caged playground where the children were sculpted from birdseed.

They shared the playground with 150 doves, which gradually pecked them into oblivion. Most recently, for the 2006 Art Basel, he created the installation Infinities, which featured gigantic drill bits penetrating a mirrored room from above.

"Kader Attia's vision is forceful and imaginative," says Jill Medvedow, Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art. "He has emerged over the past ten years as one of the most compelling young voices in European art, and we are thrilled to present his work to U.S. audiences."

"Kader Attia's work is acutely resonant," says Chief Curator Nicholas Baume. "He approaches lighting-rod issues and explores the complex global culture in works of art that are conceptually layered, poetic, and urgent."

Kader Attia was born in 1970 in Dugny, a suburb of Paris, to parents of Algerian origin. He studied art in Paris and Barcelona before spending two years doing national civil service in the Congo.

He has shown extensively in Europe, including solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Lyon, and Le Magasin, Grenoble. Attia's project for the Momentum series will be his first solo exhibition in the United States.

Momentum 9: Kader Attia is supported by Group Momentum: Janice and Mickey Cartin, Rebecca and Martin Eisenberg, Corinne and Tim Ferguson, Sue and Nat Jeppson, Carol and Sol LeWitt, and Marlene and David Persky.

Kader Attia, Square Dreams, 2007.