Making Pain Visible. Kader Attia’s Exploration of Colonial Pain in Ethnographic Collections

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European museums – and perhaps museums more broadly as well – are institutions that are both part of larger societal structures of experience economy and the idea of the good life – and at the same time can and do work with the unpleasant and discomforting. That is, the things we do not expect the things and stories that queer and twist our perception of society, make us uneasy. The main focus of this paper is the entanglement between colonial history, contemporary art practices and ethnographic collections, asking: How can colonial pain be made visible and tangible in ethnographic collections by way of contemporary artistic engagements with the materials?
The paper will explore these questions through works of French-Algerian artist Kader Attia, who often works with ethnographic collections and objects in his practice. In works such as "Dispossessions" (2013) and "The Repair" (2012), Attia suggests how aesthetic and affective connections can be made between historic colonialism; it’s physical and emotional pain, and contemporary times. With a starting point in works by Attia, this paper argues that aesthetic practices can open and readdress the affects of ethnographic objects and collections – something that might otherwise remain “hidden” in these objects (to some). The paper thus asks: How can works by artists such as Attia make pain visible in ethnographic collections? What kinds of pain is it? And how might we think differently about museums in general if they are conceived of as places of discomfort and pain, rather than places of happiness?
Periode3 jun. 2018
BegivenhedstitelRAI Conference 2018: Art, Materiality and Representation
ArrangørRAI, the BM’s Department for Africa, Oceania and the Americas, and the Department of Anthropology at SOAS
SponsorerThe British Museum (BM), SOAS University of London
PlaceringLondon, StorbritannienVis på kort