Accepted Paper:

Making Pain Visible: Artist Kader Attia's Exploration of Colonial Pain in Ethnographic Collections  


Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen (Statens Museum for Kunst)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses how works by French-Algerian artist Kader Attia (b. 1970) can make colonial pain visible and tangible in ethnographic collections.

Paper long abstract:

European museums are institutions that in a complex way 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 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 and ethnographic collections, asking: How can colonial pain be made visible and tangible in ethnographic collections?

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 Dispossession (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 be used to open towards the affect of ethnographic objects and collections - something that might otherwise remain "hidden" in these objects. 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?

Panel P032
Museum Affordances: Collections, Interventions, Exhibitions