Kader Attia, “Untitled” (Couscous), 2009
Spaces of Remembrance
Kader Attia, Mircea Cantor, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster,
Cyprien Gaillard, Anri Sala, Tatiana Trouvé
7 July–9 September 2012
Memories can be sweet or painful. Sometimes we indulge in them, sometimes they are deceptive, and sometimes they take leave of us. There are memories we do not want to lose at any price and others we try to avoid as much as possible. A certain smell is often sufficient to bring a whole chapter of one’s life to mind, whether we want it to or not.
Our relationship to the past is characterised by the knowledge of the insurmountable distance to it. Only memory is capable of bringing the past into the light of the present; it is a procedure, however, that does not take place without interpretation and selection and hence is per se constructed and fragmentary. It furthermore contains an almost melancholy component: the experience that the memory references must first be completed in order to reach our consciousness—memory always presupposes a loss. And yet memory is not only retrospective; it also offers an opportunity to gaze forward: we employ memories to confirm the present, as an impetus of renewal or to question our own standpoint. Memory serves self-assurance, it endows identity.
In Kader Attia’s (born 1970, Seine-Saint-Denis) floor sculpture Untitled (Couscous) from 2009 as well, food is equally the carrier of memory for a specific geographical region. The gold-coloured grain is heaped to form a slightly hilly landscape that is interspersed with gaps. These evoke associations to the obliteration or disappearance of entire cities and peoples. The areas that have been left empty appear like tracks in the sand of history.