The following article written by art historian Yvette Greslé presents a very detailed, beautifully written and carefully considered critique of Brett Bailey’s ‘Exhibit B’ project – which also (in turn) cites curator and academic Okwui Enwezor’s well-informed words of wisdom: “Despite the sincerity of the artists who have brazenly maintained a relationship in their work with the black body, there is a certain over-determination that accompanies their gestures. They seem to neglect the fact that the black form is as much a grotesque bearer of traumatised experiences as it is the abject vessel of race as a point of differentiation. More than alerting us to how the stereotype fixes its objects of desire in that freeze-frame of realism, as prior knowledge, the work of these artists exacerbates the stereotype by replaying it, perhaps unconsciously, as if it had always been factual.”…
I was pleased to show solidarity with a small but vociferous group of anti-racist arts activists who turned out in central London to call for a boycott of Brett Bailey’s ‘Exhibit B – Human Zoo’ installation project today.
Followers of this blog who’ve already read my earlier post about the Barbican Centre’s endorsement of this controversial ‘live performance’ initiative will know that I am currently one of more than 19,700 signatories (and counting!) to a petition calling for it to be boycotted during its London run, from 23rd – 27th September 2014.
Black Portraitures II: Imaging the Black Body and Re-Staging Histories (Florence, Italy, 28-31 May 2015) is the sixth in a series of highly successful conferences staged by New York University (NYU) in collaboration with Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research.
“This conference will bring together artists and scholars from an assortment of disciplines and practices… and will offer comparative perspectives on the historical and contemporary role played by photography, art, film, literature, and music in referencing the image of the black body in the West. In this context, “Black Portraitures II: Imaging the Black Body and Re-staging Histories,” will explore the impulses, ideas, and techniques undergirding the production of self-representation and desire, and the exchange of the gaze from the 19th century to the present day in fashion, film, art, and the archives.
Geographers are increasingly contributing to understanding the multiple functions museums serve, much like their colleagues in history, anthropology, and museum studies. In her 2010 article “Museum Geography: Exploring Museums, Collections and Museum Practice in the UK” Hilary Geoghegan writes,
“Museums and collections offer geographers exciting sites and subjects for research and teaching… [and] that it is now time to consider museum geography more closely” (p. 1472).
“It is a site of dreams, where dreams encounter each other and become a single body. However, on the level of our own experience of that urban environment, once one plunges into the life of the city and participates in it, it inevitably diversifies and becomes multiple.”
– Extract from an interview with Vincent Lombume Kalimasi (February, 2004). Source: Kinshasa: Tales of the Invisible City (2004: 260)
When Congolese writer Vincent Lombume Kalimasi said these words more than a decade ago he was celebrating the creative vibrancy of city life with specific reference to his place of birth, Kinshasa – a ‘site of dreams’ that has grown in significance over several decades to become one of the most important centres for contemporary visual arts on the African continent, as regularly illustrated in the futuristic cityscapes of Congolese sculptor and installationist Bodys Isek Kingelez.
My awareness and appreciation of Kinshasa’s importance as a hub for creativity and innovation was initially sparked as a result of travelling to Paris in the summer of 2005 to see Simon Njami’s survey exhibition of contemporary African art – Africa Remix. L’art contemporain d’un continent (Centre Georges Pompidou, 2005) – where I noticed that more than 10% of the artists displaying work in Paris at that time had connections (either by birth, family or residence) to the DRC’s capital city.
The most high-profile of the Kinois men and women selected by Njami to present work at the Pompidou that year included the afore-mentioned Bodys Isek Kingelez (shown left), pop artist Chéri Samba (see here) and his fellow visual satirist Joseph Kinkonda (known internationally as Chéri-Cherin).
In addition to these established figures, some emerging new talents from a more recent generation of Kinshasa-born contemporary artists were also given an opportunity to make their mark on this global stage – specifically, the conceptual artist Francis Pume (shown below) and the video installationist, photographer and performance artist Michèle Magema (shown right).