Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 5 August 2020

French-Algerian artist Kader Attia to close Paris art hub due to Covid-19 crisis

Founded in 2016, La Colonie struggled with a funding deficit following closures in March

Cultural space La Colonie in Paris. Courtesy Alix Hugonnier
Cultural space La Colonie in Paris. Courtesy Alix Hugonnier

La Colonie, an interdisciplinary space in Paris founded by French-Algerian artist Kader Attia, will close permanently due to lack of funding amid the coronavirus crisis.

I think that the pandemic has been very hard on everyone, especially the cultural sector, and more particularly artists and independent art spaces

Kader Attia

Among the numerous casualties caused by the pandemic, arts and culture organisations rank high on the list, particularly those that are independently run. La Colonie’s programming was primarily funded with the earnings from its ground-floor bar and cafe. When closures were implemented in mid-March, the flow of income dried up, and the space has been unable to recover.

“I think that the pandemic has been very hard on everyone, especially the cultural sector, and more particularly artists and independent art spaces,” Attia said, noting that he felt the French government’s measures towards protecting cultural institutions has been “deeply insufficient”.

“In my opinion it comes from the fact that governments in general have no idea of what it means to be an artist. Also, since independent artists and art spaces are not gathered in unions, it makes them even more vulnerable,” he added.

Artist Kader Attia. Camille Millerand
Artist Kader Attia. Courtesy Camille Millerand

Founded in 2016, Attia’s institute was launched to explore decolonial theory and to put a spotlight on marginalised artists. Its programming included readings, lectures and workshops that mapped the legacy of colonialism and racism in today’s world.

It is an extension of the artist’s work, which investigates the interwoven histories of East and West and how this impacts the relationship between the two. Attia’s work, which ranges from installation and video to photography and sculpture, has been collected by UAE institutions such as the Barjeel Art Foundation and Sharjah Art Foundation, as well as showcased at Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai.

A number of La Colonie’s lectures challenged western narratives on history and reflected on contemporary issues, from talks on the relationship between colonialism and National Socialism or Nazism, to considering the rise of fascism in Europe and the US. Other topics featured included feminism, gender and ecology.

Event at La Colonie in October 2019 marking the 70th anniversary of pan-African magazine Presence Africaine. Alix Hugonnier
Event at La Colonie in October 2019 marking the 70th anniversary of pan-African magazine, 'Presence Africaine'. Alix Hugonnier

For Attia, these discussions are part of tackling social and political discord.

“Beyond religious and political divisions, our contemporary societies have reached an unprecedented level of fragmentation that only the development of spaces for dialogue, meetings and confrontations, will push back [against],” he explained, adding that “La Colonie was an experience of de-fragmentation, of de-compartmentalisation, of reparations in which everyone was welcome.”

Though its physical space is set to close, the artist is hoping to continue La Colonie’s initiatives. Currently, it is searching for a new and smaller space in Paris or its surrounding suburbs in order to continue its events, exhibitions and film screenings.

“It is important that a network of similar independent spaces flourishes everywhere to create social bonding in the real,” Attia said, adding that La Colonie is tied to both physical and material space and will “keep living no matter what”.

Updated: July 27, 2020 04:03 PM

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