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DOI 10.1215/10757163-2009-007 © 2010 by Nka Publications Journal of Contemporary African Art• 26• Spring 2010 70 • Nka Kader Attia, detail of Rochers carrés, 2009. Photographic series, 80 x 100 cm. Courtesy Galerie Christian Nagel, Berlin and Cologne Durand Nka • 71 Régis Durand Kader Attia in Conversation with Journal of Contemporary African Art• 26• Spring 2010 72 • Nka Régis Durand: You are currently working on the pieces that will be shown in your exhibition at the Centro Huarte de Arte Contemporáneo (Navarra). When we last met, you mentioned your idea of presenting four different pieces, three of them completely new. Can you tell me about these projects? I am particularly interested in the genesis of these different works: how did you get the ideas, and what need do they meet for you? Also, there’s the way you approach a new project, as regards both its specific features and its relation to earlier pieces. Kader Attia: I find it difficult to isolate the process or, strictly speaking, genesis of a new work. It always seems to emerge from a thought process that extends over time; something suddenly takes shape. The work can be compared to the trace of the thought that extends both before and after it. Sometimes it almost surprises me, so before I make up my mind, I leave it to one side so I can come back to it and see it afresh, because often, with distance I can read this trace more objectively. The critical spirit then comes into play, and if it turns out to be lacking in weight, meaning, legitimacy, relevance, or exactness, then it’s back to the void. The works I am planning to show in this exhibition in Huarte are as follows. First of all, there is this shantytown made with sheet iron and plastic. I spent a long time observing what was used for the roofs of these makeshift dwellings . The components are the same all over the world: tires, corrugated iron in curved waves then at right angles, pieces of old plywood, plastic sheets to keep the rain out, and huge satellite dishes. This installation will show a shantytown seen from above: the roofs will spread over a considerable area, but always on the ground. They will not be any higher than thirty or fifty centimeters from the ground. And I want visitors to be able to walk over them. The other installation I thought of, a first version of which was shown in Seattle in the winter of 2008 under the title Rochers carrés (Square Rocks), was a series of blocks four meters high and two meters wide, made of panels of Sheetrock covered with recycled gray paper. . . . These blocks all sloped at an angle of forty-five or sixty degrees. They will thus suggest urban architecture in the process of collapsing. Finally, I have chosen a piece that I talk about later, made with oil drums and titled Black and White (2008). As I see it, this piece is more relevant in relation to this exhibition, which I conceive of as an opera in four acts about our world in the past, now, and in the future. There will also be a video and a series of sculptures that I am making with empty plastic bags. These are fragile plastic bags that still show the trace of what they have contained. RD: I’d like to start by talking about the piece you call Kasbah, an installation evoking a shantytown seen from above. Does this piece grow out of specific memories of travels in Africa or elsewhere? What is it that interests you about this kind of architecture, and why indeed give a view from above? KA: Yes, the work is not unrelated to favelas and other shantytowns I’ve seen when traveling. I was lucky enough to spend two and a half years living in Congo-Brazzaville, and then to know Congo-Kinshasa. I’ve also spent quite a lot of time in Venezuela and Algeria. I’ve also seen shantytowns around airports, which sometimes don’t always look like what they are. This installation will be a formal...


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