Artist Kader Attia was just awarded the prestigious Prix Marcel Duchamp for 2016. The Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Association pour la Diffusion Internationale de l’Art Français chose Attia over three other nominees: Yto Barrada, Ulla von Brandenburg and Barthélémy Toguo.
Born in France, and raised between France and Algeria, Attia has long been exploring the legacy of colonialism in non-Western societies, reflecting the widely differing cultures of the countries in which he spent his childhood. His artwork includes sculpture, installation, photography, performance and video, made with ever-changing materials and on a varied scale. For example, in 2009, he recreated the Algerian city of Ghardaïa in an installation made entirely from cooked couscous. While celebrating the influence that Ghardaïa has had on Modernist architecture, the installation also attempted to understand whether the city was important for its rich history or for its association with Western architecture.
More recently, Attia’s work has focused on the concept of repair, while examining the tensions that exist between emotional and physical dualities. This theme is evident in “Réfléchir la Mémoire (Reflecting on Memory),” a sculpture and video installation showing until January 30, 2017, at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The work takes at its core the “phantom limb,” the sensation that a lost or amputated limb is still attached to the body, as it draws parallels between this psychological condition and the harrowing historical memories of genocide, colonialism and slavery, passed down from one generation to the next.
The annual Marcel Duchamp Prize, founded in 2000, honors one French artist or artist living in France who is best representative of his or her generation. While only the winner receives the $38,000 monetary prize, for the first time this year, all nominees were offered space to exhibit their work at the Centre Pompidou. Previous winners have included Thomas Hirschhorn (2001), Laurent Grasso (2008), Cyprien Gaillard (2010) and Melik Ohanian (2015).