A monumental installation representing a group of Muslim women kneeling in prayer, Ghost synthesizes the abject and divine, portraying life-sized figures as vacant chador's devoid of individuality or spirit. Bound by swathes of aluminum foil, their individually sculpted forms come together in a vast, shimmering field of alien, futuristic forms. Ghost raises questions about modern ideologies in relation to individual identities by exploring the metaphysical distances between artist, object, and viewer. At once sinister and allusive, these empty bodies unite to create a powerful, mystical presence despite the fragility of their construction and the temporal connotations of their medium. Casting the first figure from his mother, Attia realised that it was the void left by her absence that gave the work its profound meaning. Rendering the women's ritual meditation as simultaneously seductive and hollow, Attia's Ghost evokes a contemplation of the vulnerability of the human condition as well as the ceremonies that bind us together. One of an edition of only three, Ghost marks a seminal moment in Attia's development as a political artist and has been exhibited in several group shows across Europe, including at Fruits of Passion at the Centre Georges Pompidou earlier this year.
Born into an Algerian family in a Parisian suburb, Attia uses his own multicultural identity as the starting point from which to question European attitudes to immigrants, particularly those of Islamic faith. Working across photography, film, sculpture and installation, Attia's work is characterised by a meticulous attention to detail and its searing insight into the conflicts that have arisen in the wake of French colonialism. Often employing unstable mediums that create an unsettling discord between their visceral appeal and their controversial content, his work suggests alternative histories or understandings of the world. Seeing himself as a researcher burying deep into history, much of Attia's work is archaeological and based on archival sources. Bringing together aesthetics and ethics in an interrogation of the complex relations between East and West, Attia invites us to consider theimmigrants and outcasts that populate the outer circles of our cities and societies.
Now living and working in Berlin, Attia has gained international recognition by participating the 50th Venice Biennale (2003), Art Basel Miami (2004) and the Lyon Biennale (2005), the Havana Biennale (2009) and the Sydney Biennale (2010). It was at the Lyon Biennale that Attia created one of his most famous works, Flying Rats, featuring seed-filled sacks shaped like children being devoured by a flock of pigeons. Challenging ideologies of perfection and beauty, morals and aesthetics, his recent piece, The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures at dOCUMENTA 13, was based on the French-Algerian war.