Winter 2007 | Gallery

Remaking the World: The Cartography of Hamdi Attia


The artist’s desire to understand his world and to represent it, to offer it as a living place, a place that is at once nowhere and completely unique, is a fundamental part of the artist’s project, of his way of being in the world.

Hamdi Attia is a careful observer of media and representation, seeing in them tools for the sharing of both information and propaganda. The artist speaks, in his own poetic language, to the relativity of political situations and the values of civilizations. The artist-actor takes the raw material of the researcher, the journalist, the geographer, the linguist, and even “The Artist” to play with and against conventional structures and preconceptions.

I first met Hamdi Attia on Wall Street in New York in 2006. He led me to Ground Zero, the spot where the world entered a new historical era on “9/11.” The most striking thing about this story, aside from the obvious horror of the drama, is the relativity of History. The fact that History was made by unknowns who, as accomplices to messianic, fundamentalist Islamist extremists, destroyed themselves in the process of relaying to the world an image of despair, of the failure of words and constructive action. Unknowns who, like the prophets, call for sacrifice and the destruction of material goods and “miscreants”…

I have never invested so much time seeking the fundamental order in a work of art in order to write about it. For this work is truly about an unknown world. I stopped searching for a specific place, a meeting point. I wander in my own thoughts much as one does in an imaginary world. The place that is nowhere is not marked; its experience remains physically inaccessible. I no longer seek to understand; instead, I let this image of a world seize me, as if it were a door leading to the center of the world. It becomes essential to move quickly and without stopping—to break down the systems of representing the world and invent a new one, more “just,” more “logical,” and more free.

To imagine a world, to locate oneself in that world, and to offer freely to others its signposts—this is to share an existential vision.

The imaginary extension of the Map Project could lead the artist to imagine an introduction: the artist might imagine, on the one hand, cities and countries, streets within the cities, houses and other geographies, and on the other hand a wider universe within which this “world milieu” might be situated. But we do not know what kind of creatures might inhabit this fantastic world. Could another humanity emerge, after a rapid shifting of the continents, to recreate a new world?

This world is not yet “The World,” but neither is it pure imagination, as it has been visually “realized.” The design of this original world exists in a pure state before being inhabited by encounters with living beings.

The map of the world, its realization, is the space in which the combat between humankind and nature is waged, but it is more importantly an experimental tool of power. The map of the world is the ultimate symbol of the domination of earthly territory. In times of war, generals gather around a map in order to “calculate” and study the strategies and movements necessary to dominate the enemy and occupy the earth. Humankind loves the earth.

In order to create a human bond, a wise nomad, confronted by the great wariness of the people in the territories he passed through, said: “I do not love the earth. I have come for the people who live here.”



Abdellah Karroum is an independent curator, art writer, and director of L’appartement 22 in Rabat, Morocco.

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