Nadia Kaabi-Linke was born Tunis, Tunisia, in 1978, and raised in Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. She graduated from the University of Fine Arts, Tunis, in 1999, and earned a Ph.D. at Université Paris-Sorbonne, in 2008. Growing up between Tunis, Kyiv, and Dubai, and now residing in Berlin, Kaabi-Linke has a personal history of migration across cultures and borders that has greatly influenced her work. Her works give physical presence to that which tends to remain invisible, be it people, structures, or the geopolitical forces that shape them.
Using a variety of materials and methods, Kaabi-Linke often works in-situ on projects that relate directly to their exhibition sites. She has rendered visible the bodily traces of people waiting at Berlin bus shelters and subway stations, the scars of domestic violence victims in London, and paint chips scraped from city walls throughout North Africa and Europe. Between 2011 and 2014, she realised Meinstein, a permanent public artwork in Berlin that reflects processes of ethnic segregation. For her recent installation, “Walk the Line” (2015), volunteers wrapped two poles with thread the length of the Texas-Mexico border until it formed a dense wall. Flying Carpets (2011), which was shown at the Venice Biennale that year, gives physical shape to the immigrant merchants of Venice who often display their wares on sheets that they can be quickly swept up upon the arrival of authorities. Mapping the movements of the vendors and their blankets on a single bridge, Kaabi-Linke recreated the forms in steel, aluminum, and thread, suspending them above the viewer.
Border crossings of many kinds—European and North African, Islamic and Christian, East and West Berlin—have often served as the impetus for Kaabi-Linke’s endeavors. In No (2012), for example, a two-channel video work commissioned by the Liverpool Biennial, she reflects on the absurd difficulties of her own application as a Tunisian for entry into the United Kingdom in order to deliver a lecture, with a pair of disembodied lips reciting the accusatory questions found on British visa application forms as a crowd of churchgoers opposes the voice of authority in unison.
Kaabi-Linke has had solo exhibitions at Centro de Arte Moderna José de Azevedo Perdigão, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon (2014); The Mosaic Rooms, London (2014); Dallas Contemporary, Texas (2015); and Kunstmuseum Bonn (2017). Her work has been included in group exhibitions at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2011); Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York (2012); Musée National de Carthage, Tunisia (2012); Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Zamek Ujazdowski, Zamek Ujazdowski, Warsaw (2013); Nam June Paik Art Center, Seoul (2013); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013); Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark (2014), and Marta Herford, Museum für Kunst, Design und Architektur, Herford, Germany (2016); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2016); Langen Foundation, Düsseldorf, Germany (2018). She participated in the Sharjah Biennial, United Arab Emirates (2009); Alexandria Biennial for Mediterranean Countries (2009); Venice Biennale (2011); Liverpool Biennial (2012), and Kochi-Muziris Biennial, Kerala, India (2012), Karachi Biennial (2017) and Lahore Biennial (2018) in Pakistan. Kaabi-Linke lives and works in Berlin, Germany, and Kyiv, Ukraine.