A profound love for words and images shape Pascale Obolo’s world and artistic output. Hailing from Cameroon and raised in Paris, this prolific creative works between publishing, journalism and cinematography. Bureau N met with her in Basel during the I Never Read art book fair where she’s the first exhibitor to represent independent publishers from Africa. As the founder of the African Art Book Fair and the contemporary art journal AFRIKADAA, Obolo seeks to foster artistic voices from Africa, offering them increased visibility and a platform for widespread discourse.
Pascale Obolo with one of her colleagues
When did you establish the African Art Book Fair?
It’s a very young project. We started in 2016 at the Dakar Biennale, but before that we founded AFRIKADAA, an art journal created by a collective of artists, art critics and book lovers. The idea is to present each issue’s content in an actual exhibition space. We want to have a platform where we can show the artists we collaborate with whether they are from different parts of Africa or the diaspora. Most national museums are not interested in showcasing this kind of artists, they go for safer choices. So the journal acts as a sort of laboratory and a curatorial exercise. Also, we invite various writers from around the world to contribute, and thus the result is a great mix of academic writing, clearly journalistic pieces, and experimental texts.
How did your collaboration with I Never Read come about?
INR is the one who found me and initially we were thinking of joining forces during the Art Paris fair but unfortunately we didn’t manage to get financial backing. Then later on, we picked up the discussion again and they invited me to talk about the projects I’ve been involved in and introduce them to indie publishers from Africa — a completely unknown scene to them. It’s the first time that an African publisher is exhibited at the fair, so that’s very interesting.
What kind of books did you bring with you this time for the fair?
We selected three books (award-winning artist Marc Johnson with lacune féconde, books by artist Sammy Baloji from Galerie Imane Farès and others) and as well as the upcoming issue of AFRIKADAA, which will be out in September 2017. We publish three issues per year plus one special edition. Last year we collaborated with the Centre Pompidou for their group show “Museum On/Off”. The museum gave us a carte blanche to propose ways on how to reinvent the museum in the future. I suggested a fictional museum including artists that I knew the Centre Pompidou had never exhibited before. We decided to do an extension of what we did there and create “paper museum” of sorts for the special issue.
How many publishers did the African Art Book Fair have first?
Not that many, maybe 25. From different places in Africa. We also invited three artists from South Africa who use the book as their artistic medium.
What would a potential collaboration between the African Art Book Fair and I Never Read look like next year?
We actually have plenty of ideas. For the next edition of the fair in Dakar in May 2018, we’re thinking of doing an exchange with Basel and mixing publishers from the north with publishers from the south. It will be more of an artistic project and we’ll question the role and existence of fairs in the contemporary world. Why are there so many nowadays? And what purpose do they serve, especially for independent initiatives.
Aiming to foster the notable art publishing community worldwide, the annual I Never Read, Art Book Fair is back in Basel for the sixth time. What started as a platform for experimental publishing and printed matter straddling the line between art object and reading material, has now become an integral part of the renowned Art Basel week. More than 130 publishers, authors, artists and designers from more than twenty countries will present their art and artist books, catalogues, monographs, rare editions, magazines and zines from the fields of art, photography, graphic design and architecture. This time around, fair-goers will have the opportunity to also see projects from Latin America and Africa: from works by publishers specializing in risographs, independent books by Latin American artists, and conceptual editions all the way to niche magazines turning the spotlight to African photography and small local publishers. Like every year, the fair will be accompanied by a radio station hosting talks about zine culture and the world of publishing within the arts.
book cover and Marcel Broodthaers with camel in front of Palais des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles © Maria Gilissen
“Museums should be invisible. With an imaginary museum you can do whatever you want.” –
What does the term anti-art encompass? It’s shaped by an array of concepts that reject prior definitions of art and question the art system and how it functions. “The Anti-Museum“, an extensive anthology by Mathieu Copeland and Balthazar Lovay, addresses the idea of anti-art through numerous contributions by renowned artists and writers. From interviews and historical reprints to manifestos and commissioned essays, the 794-page encyclopaedic tome presents the first comprehensive exploration of the radical and paradoxical concept that is the ‘anti-museum’ – a term so present in art history and yet one that has never been the object of detailed investigation. The museum has always been a target for criticism, whether it comes from artists, thinkers, curators, or even the public. Dedicated to all forms of “anti” such as Anti-Art, Anti-Technology, Anti-Design and Anti-Philosophy, the publication features numerous texts from the 60s until today – including newly commissioned as well as never-before-translated pieces – to define the idea of anti-art in a broad sense, evoking attempts to disrupt rules and customs in artistic disciplines.
Photos: Robert Rieger
The Grill Royal family has teamed up with artist Rirkrit Tiravanija and chef Dalad Kambhu for their latest restaurant, Kin Dee. Here, contemporary Thai cuisine is served family style – dishes such as whole fried fish or beef stew are plated to share among several people. Lemongrass, kaffir lime, wild ginger, galangal, curcuma, coriander or red chili are essential ingredients. However, whenever possible, the chef and her international team substitute imported products with regional ones from her network of local suppliers. This leads to a modern interpretation of Thai food without sacrificing flavor: sweet apple in place of mango, yellow turnip in place of Asian sweet potato, or pickled kohlrabi in place of papaya. Located in Schöneberg, Kin Dee inherits the former space of the restaurant Edd’s. Out of respect for its history, only small changes and refurbishments have been made to the space. One new addition, though, is the artwork that hangs in the dining room: some of these pieces were created by co-owner Tiravanija, and other were made by artist friends.
Placed on a high pedestal at the heart of Frankfurt Alt-Sachsenhausen’s new bar Bonechina is a night-blue, porcelain elephant. Coincidentally, it is also your bartender: tonic water splashes from its mouth. Guests are invited to mix their own drinks, gathering around the sculpture to fill their cups, choose between a sandalwood or Vetiver aromatic ice cube, possibly exchange some names and stories. Developed by the Lindenberg Group, Bonechina is less of a bar than what a bar may dream of. Absent are the bartenders (though two hosts are present to prepare drinks if desired), and gone are the counter, the stools. With a visual concept designed by Studio Aberja, the whole interior glimmers across ceramic tiles called Frankfurter Fliese, diamond-cut and painted in the same shade of blue as the elephant-fountain. The blue continues onto the curtains and upholstery, and above the light limbs of pear-wood furniture, aromatic diffusers let out puffs of yuzu and bergamot throughout the evening. With all of this housed inside a baroque building from the wooden-shingled 18th century, the 20 lucky guests for a night at Bonechina may start to think they’re dreaming too.
Photos: Steve Herud
Taysir Batniji, Watchtowers, West Bank (2008) Courtesy the artist & Sfeir-Semler Gallery Hamburg/Beirut, Sammlung Zimmermann, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016 / Akam Shex Hadi, Untitled, Courtesy the artist & Ruya Foundation for Contemporary Culture in Iraq / Richard Mosse Come Out (1966) XXXI (Triple Beam Dreams) (2012), Privatsammlung SVLP © Richard Mosse
“A man who wants to lose his self, discovers indeed, the possibilities of human existence, which are infinite, as infinite as is creation. But the recovering of a new personality is as difficult – and as hopeless – as a new creation of the world.” – Hannah Arendt, We Refugees, 1943
Akademie der Künste in Berlin presents Uncertain States, a major group exhibition and multimedia programme of events running until January 15, 2017. Current and historic states of oppression, human migration and cultural dislocation are addressed within a dynamic framework, which has already drawn widespread critical acclaim in Germany. The extensive exhibition programme is a timely exploration of the significance of memory and narrative, within eras of political, social and cultural transformation. Across art, archival ephemera, film, music, performance, talks, pop-up events and practical workshops, the show engages with migrants, thinkers, politicians, writers, artists and activists from across the world, as they confront today’s realities of forced displacement, cultural loss and mass emigration. A historical element of Uncertain States features objects sourced from the Akademie der Künste’s archives of artist émigrés, including cultural icons such as Walter Benjamin, Valeska Gert, Heinrich Mann and Kurt Tucholsky. Their artifacts, rich in memory and cultural identity, form a vibrant narrative when paired with artworks by modern-day artists. In addition to the group exhibition, a rich programme of events seeks to contextualize global political perspectives on migration and identity, within an artistic framework. Talks and panels will debate the topics of migration from the Middle East in particular, addressing themes such as reactionary xenophobia and Islamophobia. Under the banner of “Thinking Space” (Denkraum) a programme of concerts, readings, theatrical performances and symposia, tackle numerous questions surrounding these topics with original and challenging approaches.
On the occasion of the 15th International Architecture exhibition in Venice, the Goethe-Institut organised the program Performing Architecture comprising five projects that are closely connected to this year’s exhibition in the German Pavilion. Merging architecture, choreography and the performing arts, the series of events seeks to address a set of pressing questions. How does a multicultural society change a city? How do people with diverse cultural, religious, social and political backgrounds encounter one another, and how can they all make an adopted city their shared home? The focal point of this year’s programme is the project “The Veddel Embassy: Representing Germany”. The temporary embassy will bring the migratory, multicultural reality of the Hamburg district of Veddel to Venice to offer a space for discourse and cultural exchange. What used to be the departure point for German emigrants in the past, is now an arrival quarter. All migration movements of the last 70 years have passed through the area of Veddel; immigrants from over sixty different countries have been living here for generations in peaceful coexistence, forming a new society. Around 60 inhabitants of the small island in the river Elbe will come to Venice for a week and invite everyone to become part of an enriching process. The Veddel Embassy will turn into a place of enlightening encounters. Delving into the reality of life on Veddel conveys an idea of what the future holds for Germany as an immigration country. In Venice, the residents present their projects, ideas, ideals, and their home in order to form a substantial discussion with both the international guests of the Biennale as well as with the multicultural citizens of Venice.
Entwerfen ist das Gegenteil von Unterwerfen. Entwerfen. Unterwerfen. Alles, was gestaltet ist, unterwirft uns unter seine Bedingungen. Gleichzeitig befreit uns das Gestaltete aus dem Zustand der Unterwerfung, der Unterworfenheit. Design schafft Freiheit, Design ermöglicht Handlungen, die zuvor nicht möglich oder nicht denkbar waren. Indem es dies tut, begrenzt es aber auch den Möglichkeitsraum, weil es neue Bedingungen schafft. Alles, was gestaltet ist, entwirft und unterwirft. Design ist von dieser sich bedingenden und ausschließenden Gegensätzlichkeit grundlegend geprägt. Diese dem Design inhärente Dichotomie ist nicht nur eine gestalterische, sondern eine politische. Sie bedingt Freiheit und Unfreiheit, Macht und Ohnmacht, Unterdrückung und Widerstand. Sie ist das politische Wesen von Design.
Das Buch erscheint am 29.10.2016 bei edition suhrkamp.
Supporting pioneering ideas is at the core of Forecast, an international platform that calls on creative minds from diverse fields to submit their proposals and collaborate with six highly esteemed mentors. Now in its second edition, Forecast encourages public discussions on the ideas of the future and offers fertile ground for the growth of outstanding projects. Thus, a shared space to come together and exchange views is created, within which synergetic efforts bring forth innovation. The platform and its accompanying festival transcend the boundaries of disciplines to provide insight into creative production processes, and make room for the questions that are on the minds of the next generation of trailblazers. Until 30 November, creative minds from anywhere in the world working in various disciplines are urged to submit their proposals for consideration. Thirty finalists will discuss their ideas and present them to the public at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) during the Forecast Forum in March 2017. At the end of the forum, the six mentors will each select one concept, which they will accompany to fruition. Finally, the outcome of these collaborations will be presented during October 2017, at the Forecast Festival at the HKW.