Kader Attia, on the Culture of Fear and the Construction of Evil

Kader Attia Artist

Kader Attia Artist

Kader Attia, Dé-construire/Ré-inventer, 2012 and  Inspiration/ Conversation, 2010

Kader Attia (Berlin) on the Culture of Fear and the Construction of Evil, with guest Lotte Arndt (writer and journalist, Paris) and Ana Teixeira Pinto (writer, Lisbon).

How has the once idealized figure of the “wild man” (promoted by authors such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who proclaimed that “man is naturally good, society corrupts him”) turned into an evil counterpart of the Western colonial gaze through the agenda of the newspaper presses of the early 20th century?

With the ownership of the American continent, the Renaissance marked the beginning of modern colonialism. European’s encounters with American Indians prompted heated theological debates, such as the infamous Valladolid Controversy (Spain, 1550–1551), which questioned whether the indigenous beings had a soul. Their practice of human sacrifice, seen as an act of evil, de facto deprived native peoples of the status of free men.

A booming newspaper industry of the nineteenth century was the privileged stage from which to question the relationship between the West and non-Western cultures. Newspapers’ visual representations of the latter were dominated by a depiction of the menacing figure of the “wild man,” a dark and brutal alter ego of the modern Western male. Represented as a beast or monster, the wild man became the center of pro-colonial propaganda and its civilizing mission. Such representations were the source of a popular visual propaganda, disseminated throughout the Western press, and served to shape nationalist, Eurocentric worldviews that perpetuate today. Now, this fallacious hegemony is finally being reassessed in the West, creating a genealogy of how such representations can provide an important step to further challenging the views of the West towards extra-occidental cultures.

The Culture of Fear: A Construction of Evil is presented as part of The World Turned Inside Out over the course of the summer. It is the first installment of Attia’s ongoing project, which will culminate with its final presentation in The Crime Was Almost Perfect, a group exhibition curated by Cristina Ricupero at Witte de With Rotterdam in January 2014.