Scientific theories aside, the question of the origin of the universe remains a permanent subject of fascination as well as a philosophical abyss. In our current phase of human conceptual possibility, we call the point of origin of time, space and matter the Big Bang. Kader Attia proposes a very poetic, visually vivid representation of this cosmological model. He uses a falsely naïve, childlike visual vocabulary to compose a piece with two meanings: at first glance, we are charmed by a monumental sculpture that is like a gigantic mirror ball. When it rotates in the half-light it fills the exhibition space with shards of light that project the viewer into a strange perceptual state, both hypnotic and floating.
However, this work is anything but light and decorative. The installation generates a physical sense of tension, perhaps because of the imposing size of this globe hanging by a heavy chain. Moreover, its stars and crescents, familiar to us, notably, from Israeli and Arabo-Islamic nation flags, endow the cosmic evocation with a historical dimension. Freighted with symbols that are political, cultural and religious, this Big Bang echoes contemporary conflicts. First presented at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme in Paris, it is symptomatic of the artist’s concern to use visual language to make us think about our world, and to evoke its zones of friction.
Working in a similar vein to artists such as Mona Hatoum and Alighiero e Boetti, Kader Attia plays with signs of cultural identity and identification, with the codes of instituted communities, at the same time radically transforming the context of their interpretation: on the scale of the stars, geopolitical differences seem blessedly insignificant. The artist thus seems to be counselling the wisdom of thinking about what we have in common, rather than our differences.
Translated by Charles Penwarden