Rochers carrés

Kader Attia

Date : 2008

Medium : Photography

Size : 55,5 x 80,5 each

9 photographs printed on satin paper

The photographic series "Rochers carrés" (Square rocks) explores the relationship between the concrete of the local buildings in the area of Paris where the artist lives and a beach in Algiers where he spent his childhood. This beach is covered in enormous blocks of concrete, known as the "rochers carrés" (square rocks) by the local population, and its architecture resembles the town plans of Paris drawn up by Baron Haussmann. The square rocks attract the town's young inhabitants, as a last barrier separating them from Europe and therefore from their dreams of a better life. Kader Attia has therefore drawn parallels between the two sides of the Mediterranean, the difficult existence of young Algerians reminding him of the struggles of young people in his part of France. In both places, young people express the same lack of hope for a better future and the same feelings of failure and suffering.

The guide

“Rochers carrés” (square rocks): now that’s an ambiguous title. Although “rocks” evokes a natural landscape, “square” in contrast introduces an artificial, annoying note.
”Square” refers to a geometrical form that by definition goes against the very concept of nature. It suggests obedient shapes and, metaphorically, subjection to rigid thinking.

For Kader Attia, a French artist with Algerian roots, the square rocks are a memory from childhood, the nickname of a seaside jetty, a popular place for a stroll where the people of Algiers like to gather.
But more than nostalgia, with this piece Attia has created a forcefully political and social work of art. This jetty is also the primary place where Algerian youth come to confront the Mediterranean and dream of what is on the other side: Europe. And hope. No matter what medium he is using, the artist deals with themes of heartbreak, day-to-day frustrations and uprooting.

It is not simply nature that man wants to subdue with this jetty, but society itself. Like urban encroachment on the sea, the jetty is the border made manifest, a metaphor for an obstacle or the impossibility of looking to the future.

Look at these landscapes. You can’t see the horizon amidst this chaos of blocks. The sea can only be glimpsed with difficulty. A silhouette or shadow escapes and draws our gaze toward the city: “Algiers the White.”

And here we are again on these square rocks, an homage to the architectural utopias of Le Corbusier or Fernand Pouillon.