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  • How Kader Attia’s J’accuse examines the art of repair


How Kader Attia’s J’accuse examines the art of repair

Kader Attia’s Berlinische Galerie exhibition, 'J'accuse' tries to build an understanding of restitution that goes beyond repatriation of objects stolen during the colonial era.

Photo: Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery Toronto / Toni Hafkenscheid

The opening of Kader Attia’s latest exhibition J’accuse could not be more perfectly timed. After Mati Diop’s Dahomey won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale in February, restitution is now firmly back in the headlines. If you are unfamiliar with the impassioned French-Algerian artist, you may know him as the curator of the last Berlin Biennale in 2022. Although that event never lived up to expectation, it did much to communicate a hugely important theme running through the artist’s work: the idea of art as repair. In his 2020 installation, The Object’s Interlacing, Attia talked with a number of experts about the restitution of African cultural artefacts that were brutally looted and sold into Western ownership during the colonial era.

He explores how art can be used as a means of healing a world beset by injuries inherited from the past, such as slavery and more contemporary forms of imperialist oppression. This point is emphatically addressed in the installation J’accuse, which features a series of grotesque busts depicting French servicemen injured in World War I. Those busts were actually made in Algeria, an intriguing inversion on colonial exchanges and a potent reminder that it was not just a war between European countries but one that involved vast swathes of the world, through the mobilisation of Western imperialist manpower.

  • J’accuse opens April 27th at Berlinische Galerie, get more information here.