Details & Cataloguing

Boundless: Dubai


Kader Attia
white neon, cable and transformers
49 by 480 by 3cm.; 19 1/4 by 190 by 1 1/8 in.
Executed in 2010, this work is number 1 from an edition of 3, plus 2 artist's proof. 
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Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna
Private Collection (Acquired directly from the above in 2011)
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2016 


Busan, Busan Museum of Art, Busan Biennale; Living in Evolution, 2010 (another edition exhibited)
Zurich, Kuntshaus Zurich, Europe: The Future of History, 2015 (another edition exhibited) 

Catalogue Note

Kader Attia is one of the most highly acclaimed Arab artists working today, tackling issues of post-colonialism, transnationalism and identity. He was recognised in a solo show at the Middleheim Museum in Antwerp in 2014 and featured in the 2016 exhibition at the Guggenheim, New York, But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa. Attia’s often monumental work draws attention to the current political conditions of the Middle East with a sense of urgency and gravity. The artist's various installations and sculptural forms seem to serve as sites of cultural repair and reflection, as varied in subject matter as they are in media.

The artist was born in 1970 in Dugny, France, and spent his childhood in both France and Algeria. His relationship with national identity was one where he felt ‘in between’, being sensitive to the rich, complex histories of both regions. His work is conceived in relation to ideas of cultural and political transference. The present work, a hypnotic neon piece titled, Demo(n)cracy (2010), is a particularly striking example. 

Demo(n)cracy was executed at the tipping point of the Arab Spring, one of the most significant, democratising movements in recent political history. Attia uses white neon light to spell out the word ‘DEMOCRACY’, with an unlit letter ‘N’ in the middle. The insertion of the additional letter is etymologically potent, perverting the power of the demos and instead positing a force for evil and corruption. The composition of the work also formally references the interstitial space that Attia inhabits, both in terms of political ideology and geo-cultural identification. The work is a powerful challenge to the traditional West-East relation; and questions the validity of Western political interventions in the Middle East. The voice of the author is felt keenly through these bright letters, whose luminosity aptly reaches beyond the physical limits of the work.

Attia’s minimalist approach to Demo(n)cracy is informed by the flamboyant, neon assemblages of his predecessors, Dan Flavin and Tracy Emin, yet his monotonous palette and overtly political message adds a more sober dimension to an ordinarily playful medium. The ostensible discrepancy between medium and message in the present work is intentionally provocative, inviting the viewer to form their own opinion about the political declaration at hand.

Boundless: Dubai