Kader Attia

French-Algerian artist taking on colonialism and its legacies

‘“Why are you working on colonialism?”, I remember some curators asking me. “These African countries have their independence, it’s over.”’ Attia was decolonising art long before decolonisation colonised art’s discourse, and he delivers his politics with subtle humour and aesthetic aplomb. Take, for example, the poster for Attia’s survey show this year at the Hayward Gallery, which featured his 2013 work Measure and Control, a taxidermy cheetah next to an African mask: it came, he says, from a desire to demonstrate ‘the obsession of the Western modern mind to organise the universe’. Nor does that interest only play out in his shows – speaking of which, he also had solos this year at Lehmann Maupin in New York and, on the other coast, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive – but also through La Colonie, his artspace in an outer Parisian suburb whose programme has ranged, of late, from a film screening by Palestinian artist Khaled Jarra to open portfolio reviews.