Inventing the World at the Biennale Bénin

Posted filed underAfrica, Bénin, Contemporary Art, Shows.

Biennale Bénin
Yes, Bénin is a country and Inventing the World: The Artist as Citizen at the Biennale Bénin takes public initiatives that have occurred in Benin in recent years such as Meschac Gaba’s Musée de l’Art et de la Vie Active and Zinkpè’s Boulev’art as a starting point to interrogate the notion of the artist as citizen both as an aesthetic idea and an ethical project.

Wikipedia: “Benin, officially the Republic of Benin, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Togo to the west, by Nigeria to the east and by Burkina Faso and Niger to the north.”

Inventing the World: The Artist as Citizen (at the Biennale Bénin 2012 until 13 January)
Idea, Context:
Large-scale exhibitions and biennales have been both historically important spaces for intellectuals and moments of celebration for communities, as with the Festival mondial des arts nègres (World Festival for Black Arts, Dakar, 1966), the Festival panafricain (Panafrican Festival, Algiers, 1969), and the Johannesburg Biennale (1995). The function of these gatherings also extends to taking ideological and artistic positions, as seen in the Havana Biennale and the Yokohama Triennale. These meetings have always been conceived in collaboration with intellectuals and in close proximity to the political and sociological. Above all, they translate the spirit of artistic projects that are enmeshed in the city where they take place. By observing the expressive forms of the contemporary era, on the African continent and elsewhere, and that of the “Generation 00” in the transition to the 21st century, the Biennale Bénin 2012 interrogates the notion of the artist as citizen in its active, social, and aesthetic dimensions. Art’s vocabulary is inscribed in a multiple temporality, between a nomadic imaginary and real presences in the world, between invention and action. It is this correspondence between creative universes and exterior encounters that the work’s sense is formulated, from an aesthetic idea to an ethical proposal.In turn, collective memory, fashioned from historical facts and ethical values, becomes a shared heritage that extends well beyond commercially cultivated borders. For a long time, artists working in Benin have been implicated in society by producing artworks and by creating concrete interventions. In dialogue with the cultural scene of Benin, the international exhibition, Inventing the World: The Artist as Citizen, brings together existing artworks and new projects produced for the exhibition. Whereas the new productions respond directly to the question of the “artist as citizen,” the existing artworks selected by the Curatorial Delegation interrogate the context of the exhibition and broader international artistic tendencies in order consider both how they are formulated by the artists and the terms of their presentation.The cartography of an exhibition is defined by the spaces of action where artists-citizens intervene and is completed by the correspondence of the artworks with the spaces from which they have emerged. Meschac Gaba’s Musée d’Art de la Vie Active, MAVA (Museum of Art for the Active Life) is an emblematic example included in Inventing the World: The Artist as Citizen.

A. K.

More at the Biennale Benin

Artists listing :
Sofia AGUIAR et Tomas COLAÇO
Ismaïl BAHRI
Frédéric Bruly BOUABRÉ
Nestor DA
Meschac GABA
Camille HENROT
C. Florent NAGOBA
Yoshinari NISHIO
Otobong NKANGA
Hermann PITZ
Karim RAFI
Raqs Media Collective
Barthélemy TOGUO

Image: Les Ombres, Gérard Quenum, crédits Chloë Champion

-> Artisttik Africa / Chaîne de Artisttikafrica – l’information culturelle africaine en continu – Youtube Channel

Benin Connexion – dérive Connectée – Cotonou/W-Africa

The video covers in 14 minutes the nearly 5 hour city exploration of Cotonou/W-Africa which took place on Nov 11th at the Benin Biennale 2012. Cotonou has faced an incredible development and turned from a coastal village quickly into a capital city, prosperous and abounding. The city rapidly exceeded the borders established by the colonial power and the occidental way of understanding a city. Therefore new experimental ways of capturing Cotonou need to be explored to bring different insight into this place of rapid change and transition.

Organized by Benin Connexion and dérive – Society for Urban Research, dérive Connectée tried to connect the cities of Cotonou and Vienna by walking simultaneously on routes that met on certain points like places, bridges or crossings. The walk in Cotonou started and ended at Kora, the festival center of Benin Biennale 2012, a former shopping center in the Ganhi city district of Cotonou. Due to the simultaneous drifts in Benin and Vienna, the artistic discovery did not only connect cities and thoughts through virtual reality but also in real life by connecting the people taking part in both cities.

Using the Ushahidi platform Benin Connection and dérive – Society for Urban Research expanded the ongoing project “laboratoire dérive” into the social web, bringing it first to a test at the Biennale Benin 2012 and thereby proposing a modest way of thinking the city, its discovery and its documentation differently. One of the aims of laboratoire dérive 2.0 was to stimulate exchange and communication and help to put Benin more prominently on the internet map. Similar projects and exchanges after the Benin Biennale are in planning.

More information on the project:

Exhibiting the Benin Bronzes – The Arts Past & Present

“The Benin Bronzes are a collection of more than 3000 brass plaques from the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin (located in present day Nigeria). They were seized by a British force in the Punitive Expedition of 1897 and given to the British Foreign Office. Around 200 of these were then passed on to the British Museum in London, while the remainder were divided among a variety of collections, with the majority being purchased by Felix von Luschan on behalf of the Königliches Museum für Völkerkunde in Berlin (the present-day Ethnological Museum). In 1936, Oba Akenzua II began the movement to return the art now known in modern discourse as the ‘Benin Bronzes’.” (Wikipedia)