Elvira Dyangani Ose

Ritual as Institution

Series: New Canonical Histories
Date: Thursday 2 May 2019
Time: 18:30
Venue: AA Barrel Vault
Running time: 69 mins

Building on some of the concerns explored at the symposium, Experience as Institution – Part 1: Artist Collectives and Cultural Platforms in Africa, which took place at Tate Modern in 2013, this talk takes Senegalese artist collective Laboratoire Agit-Art’s modus operandi, as a starting point to examine from a theoretical standpoint the birth and status of collective contemporary art practices in Africa. The session explores few case studies, featuring artists, artist collectives and organisations that engage with socio-political questions occurring beyond the time and space of the art experience. Most of these initiatives take on those issues exploring aspects of performance and ritual, establishing the fundamental 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 Negritude 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 artist 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.


Elvira Dyangani Ose is Director of The Showroom, London. She is affiliated to the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths and Fondazione Prada’s Thought Council. Previously, she was Senior Curator of Creative Time, Curator of the eighth edition of the Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art and Curator of International Art at Tate Modern, where she currently serves as member of its Advisory Council. 



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