In 2009, he built Untitled (Ghardaïa), a replica of the namesake ancient Algerian city made entirely of couscous. The work pulls the viewer into the complex exchange between the North African aesthetic heritage and its colonizers. At MoMA, in 2012, Attia exhibited Open Your Eyes (2010), a double-sided projection of archival images culled from mainly western museums. The juxtaposition of repaired artifacts and brutally wounded soldiers prompted uncharted pairings of anguish within the context of institutional critique.
Oftentimes, Attia rewards the viewer with knowledge, though it’s masked by graphic imagery, be it deformed body parts, amputated limbs, or simply broken glasses. Through imagery that represents the irreversible reality of a breakage, he unveils potential avenues of redemption and salvation. And though it’s often a hard pill to swallow, experiencing a work by Attia immediately transforms the viewer, leaving them with lingering curiosity for more.
The silence in Ghost is an homage to the whispering of Muslim prayers and the social politics of performing the prayer ritual en masse in a western space. The viewer’s encounter, however, is briskly poetic, completed by a full walk throughout the otherworldly installation. “When the individual body is connected to a collective action, it produces a form of vibration—the physical and performative aspects of silence,” Attia noted.