Today’s artwork is a work of contemporary installation art from a French and Algerian artist. The subject matter is strong and sensitive, so you may consider diving into the content of this work with your older students.
Remember, this post describes an artwork created by an artist not my own personal feelings or politics. I don’t like to censor the artwork I choose for this site. I want to choose works that provoke and make you think and feel, because that is what art is all about.
Please click here to see more images of this art installation. I couldn’t find a photo that had the right license to show large and with good quality on the blog.
Choosing a country for this artwork is a little bit tricky. We live in such a global world, that the lines are not as clearcut as they once were. The artist, Kader Attia, was born in France, was raised in both Algeria and Paris, and now lives and works in Berlin. Not to mention his art has been shown all over the world from the Democratic Republic of Congo to San Antonio, TX. Coming from two very different cultures gives Kadir Attia a unique perspective on the word. His art explores the connections and influences from and between different places in our modern world. 
When viewing this artwork in an exhibit (it has been displayed in many places), you come in from behind and see many large forms made of aluminum foil. As you walk around and keep looking, you would start to notice that the forms look like women, covered head to toe like a Middle Eastern woman, kneeling in prayer in straight rows as if in the women’s section of a mosque. As you keep walking around to the other side of the installation, you discover than the aluminum women are facless, hollow, and black inside. Aluminum foil is a fragile and lightweight material.
“At once sinister and allusive, on its broadest interpretation the work addresses fundamentalist Islam’s treatment of women. But because the artist is from Algeria, another far more specific reference may be intended – the fate of the female schoolteachers and doctors murdered by Islamists during the Algerian Civil War in the 1990s.” [2, Dorment]
Installation Art Discussion Questions
- How did the artist want you to experience this piece? How does making the artwork big change the feeling of the piece?
- How does this artwork mark you feel? How might different people from different places feel differently about this artwork?
- What do you think the artist was trying to say with this artwork?
- What questions do you have for the artist?
- What questions do you have for the women represented in the piece?
Installation Art Learning Activities
This is a powerful work of art that makes you look at and think about the world in different ways. Here are some ideas to study this artwork further.
- You could have students journal about the artwork to help them understand it and their thoughts about it better.
- You could include this artwork when studying women’s right around the world.
- You could also have students think of a social issue that is important to them and design an art installation that helps people see the issue in different ways. You don’t have to create the installation. The act of creating the design and the idea is beneficial enough.
- You could study other works of art for an installation art lesson (see links below) and discuss how artists use space and people’s movement through the space to add meaning to artworks. (This installation art lesson plan from the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago is the same idea with a different artist.)
Installation Art Lesson Resources and Citations
- 34 Examples of Installation Art – Despite this article’s really annoying title and introductory paragraph (caution–a bit of bad language in the first line)
- Top Ten Most Stunning Art Installations of 2013
- Make a Statement Installation Art Lesson Plan – using art to think about social issues in new ways
- What Is Art? Considering and Creating Artistic Works – an installation art lesson than discusses how art is no longer just painting or sculpture
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