This unique symposium takes the modus operandi of Senegalese artist collective Laboratoire Agit-Art, particularly its explorations of performance, as a starting point to examine contemporary art practices in Africa

Experience as Institution: Artist collectives and cultural platforms in Africa – Part 1

Introduction by Catherine Wood

This unique symposium takes the modus operandi of Senegalese artist collective Laboratoire Agit-Art, particularly its explorations of performance, as a starting point to examine contemporary art practices in Africa. It looks specifically at artists and organisations that engage with socio-political issues through performance art and music and poses the questions: could an art experience be considered an institution? What is the legacy of an experience which deliberately refuses the conventions of art-making in order to engage with a more critical social dialogue?

Experience as Institution: Artist collectives and cultural platforms in Africa – Part 2

Elizabeth Harney

Elizabeth Harney is Associate Professor in the Department of Art, University of Toronto, where she teaches modern and contemporary African and diasporic arts. She is the author of In Senghor’s Shadow: Art, Politics, and the Avant-Garde in Senegal, 1960–1995 (Duke 2004).

Experience as Institution: Artist collectives and cultural platforms in Africa – Part 3

Simon Njami

Simon Njami is a lecturer, art critic and novelist based in France. He is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Revue Noire.

Experience as Institution: Artist collectives and cultural platforms in Africa – Part 4

Clementine Deliss

Clémentine Deliss is director of the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Deliss’s interests include bridging mechanisms between artists working in different parts of the world and curatorial modalities beyond exhibition. She has edited the journal Metronome and curated the ground-breaking exhibition Seven Stories about Modern Art in Africa at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, in 1995.

Experience as Institution: Artist collectives and cultural platforms in Africa – Part 5

Q&A session with Elizabeth Harney, Clementine Deliss and Simon Njami

Experience as Institution: Artist collectives and cultural platforms in Africa – Part 6

Introduction to the afternoon session by Catherine Wood

Experience as Institution: Artist collectives and cultural platforms in Africa – Part 7

Elvira Dyangani Ose

Elvira Dyangani Ose is an art and architecture historian, currently completing a PhD in History of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell University, New York. She is as well Artistic Director of Rencontres Picha. Biennale de Lubumbashi 2012/2013, the third edition of the Biennale.

Experience as Institution: Artist collectives and cultural platforms in Africa – Part 8

Jan Goossens

Jan Goossens is artistic director of KVS, Royal Flemish Theatre, Brussels, which aims to make an artistic contribution to the intercultural city of the future. KVS activities in Africa include supporting artists and organising the Kinshasa-based performing arts festival, Connexion Kin, founded in 2005.

Experience as Institution: Artist collectives and cultural platforms in Africa – Part 9

Neo Muyanga

Neo Muyanga is a composer, librettist, musician and founder of the Pan-African Space Station, a music platform on the internet and in venues across the African world, streaming cutting edge music live online 24/7. His operetta, The Flower of Shembe, premiered to critical acclaim in South Africa in 2012. Muyanga tours widely as a solo and ensemble performer.

Experience as Institution: Artist collectives and cultural platforms in Africa – Part 10

Q&A session with Elvira Dyangani Ose, Jan Goossens and Neo Muyanga

The symposium looks specifically at artists and organisations that engage with socio-political issues through performance art and music and poses the questions: could an art experience be considered an institution? What is the legacy of an experience which deliberately refuses the conventions of art-making in order to engage with a more critical social dialogue?

Founded in 1974 in Dakar, Senegal, the artist collective Laboratoire Agit-Art aimed to agitate existing institutional frameworks, to question the tenets of Leopold Sedar Sengor’s Négritude and to encourage artists to adopt critical approaches toward their practices. At that time, Dakar was a place where political consciousness was actively being articulated, and artists’ collectives such as Laboratoire Agit-Art went beyond aesthetic experience to critically promote the development of cultural and artistic endeavours.

The goal of artists participating in the Laboratoire was to blur the disciplinary boundaries and to propose the experience of a ‘total art’ that was powerfully influenced by vernacular cultures and languages. The artists’ studio was a place in which the making of objects was a continuation of the performances and conversations taking place there. It represented a microcosm of the wider political shifts in its radical rearrangement of aesthetic and social relations.

This symposium uses Laboratoire Agit-Art as a case study to reflect on the current presence of cultural platforms and artist collectives in Africa. Such collectives use performance, visual art, music and art stage within public space in attempts to engage with socio-political concerns affecting their immediate environment. Clémentine Deliss presents documentation of over ten years of working as curator with Laboratoire Agit-art and artist El Hadji Sy, and Simon Njami introduces us to the artistic and political world of artist Issa Samb. Elizabeth Harney and Souleymane Bachir Diagne explore Senegalese modernism and Negritude as a philosophical term and as a national cultural policy and the symposium also provides an introduction to the Kinshasa based performing arts platform KVS and experimental digital music channel Pan-African Space Station.