Prix Marcel Duchamp
group exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France, until 20 February 2017.
Kader Attia is the winner of this year's prestigious Prix Marcel Duchamp and his proposal, along with those of the three shortlisted artists, is exhibited in the Centre Pompidou. This marks the first time that the four nominees share a group exhibition in the museum. Previously, the artists' proposals were showcased at the Grand Palais during the FIAC, France's international contemporary art fair. Worth €35,000 and founded in 2000, the Prix Marcel Duchamp is organised by the Association for the International Diffusion of French Art and is France's most important art award. The winner's work joins the collection of the Centre Pompidou.
Attia, a 45-year-old French artist with Algerian origins, competed with Yto Barrada, Ulla Von Brandenburg and Barthélémy Toguo. Like Attia, they have foreign heritage and are in their forties. Barrada was born in France but has Moroccan origins. Von Brandenburg is German and Toguo is from Cameroon but both are based in Paris. At a time of rising nationalism amid a migrant crisis, the jury's choice is politically inclusive. The exhibition highlights their common interests in current affairs, anthropology and ritual.
Based in Berlin, Attia makes deeply political work that reflects on history, war and colonialism. In the words of Serge Lasvignes, president of the Centre Pompidou, he has “the capacity to grasp the vibrations of a world in mutation”. His one-hour long film, 'Réfléchir la Mémoire', interweaves interviews with psychoanalysts and amputees about the “phantom limb” phenomenon relating to the sensation that an amputated limb is still attached to the body.
Attia also includes interviews with academics speaking about slavery, metaphorically linking the struggle of identity of descendants of slaves with that of amputees. Although the film has a fairly documentary style, Attia incorporates a strong, aesthetic component. His sequences of amputees with a mirror against the middle of their body refers to the belief that visualising the phantom limb might help them psychologically. The film stills recall the importance that photography played at the beginning of Attia's career.
Toguo's vibrant installation – a red wall covered in drawings and 18 monumental, ceramic vases decorated with drawings of flowers, self-portraits, bats and monkeys – belies its seriousness. It is titled 'Overcome the Virus' and some of the vases, produced in Jingdezhen, China, feature drawings that represent the AIDS and Ebola viruses. Laid out on a table are enlarged 3D scans of HIV-infected cells taken from microscopic images from the Institut Pasteur in Paris.