- Artist Kader Attia
- Title Rochers Carrés
- Date 2008
- Medium C-prints
- Dimensions 78.5 x 98.5 cm
In Algiers, near the Bab el Oued neighborhood, there is a beach that young people nickname 'Rochers Carrés'. Constructed by the administration of Algerian President Houari Boumediene, it looks like a breakwater beach that is made out of huge concrete blocks, whose sides can be up to three or four metres, and faces the sea. Until the age of sixteen, Kader Attia spent his summer vacations in Bab el Oued, one of Algiers’ poor neighbourhoods, where young people go to hangout, smoke, fish and sometimes prostitute themselves. Above all, they spend hours, sitting on the blocks, watching, as if hypnotised by boats going back and forth between Algeria and Europe.
This beach is the ultimate boundary that separates them from this continent but above all from their dreams about a better life. This massive and strange construction imprisons them in their cruel reality, as it is also the case in French banlieues (shanty towns), where many immigrants end up. As time goes by, Attia finds it ironic to have grown up in the middle of concrete buildings of Parisian banlieues, and to have frequently spent his summer vacations playing on this beach’s blocks, also made out of concrete.
The architecture of this beach and the way it has been created recalls the urbanism of Parisian banlieues. Do these young people, who scrutinise the horizon hoping to find an answer to their misery, know what kind of environment they will end up in when they will have accomplished the journey through the Mediterranean Sea? The boundary embodied by this beach is not only physical; it is also psychological. Nevertheless, as years go by, Attia realises that some similarities exist on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea. The hard existence of these young Algerian people remind him of that experienced by young people in the French banlieues: the same lack of hope in the future, same sexual misery, same frustration, same lack of social acknowledgement, same feeling of failure and same suffering.
This series was shown in the Sharjah Art Foundation organised exhibition Disorientation II: The Rise and Fall of Arab Cities which was shown at Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi in 2009.