In a small village close to Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso, arts and culture take center stage as contributors to the growth of a country and its younger generation. Initiated as an idea in 2009 by the German artist and theater director Christoph Schlingensief (1960-2010), the international art project Operndorf Afrika provides a platform for cultural encounters, workshops and collaborations. Schlingensief envisaged the initiative as a meeting place where people from different backgrounds are able to work as artists and exchange views. Over the last few years, that seed has grown from mere abstract plans into a full-fledged community that includes sustainable homes, education, health care as well as a bedrock for the area to evolve its singular artistic expression and set an example the world over. Operndorf is essentially a center where ideas can be cultivated as people from across the globe merge in one location. Here art paves the way to a thriving community, cross-cultural dialogue and much-needed postcolonial discourses building up a new image of Africa.
“The Operndorf is a project that arouses hope – hope that there can be a relationship between Europe and Africa, which is based on reciprocity and not on dominance. Hope that culture can contribute to the development of children and the development of a country.” — Horst Köhler, former Federal President of Germany
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.
In 2017, the Swiss Design Competition celebrates its 100th edition. Since then, the promotion has pursued two objectives: on the one hand, direct economic support, which gives designers a boost from prototype to production that pays into the quality and the reputation of Swiss design. On the other hand, it allows an indirect freedom, financially and temporarily, that enables the designers to create new and extraordinary solutions to be worked out and tested. In the exhibition Swiss Design Awards, around 50 works from designers in the fields of graphic design, photography, fashion and textile, products, scenography and mediation are presented to a broad public.
Running parallel to Art Basel, the annual Swiss Art Awards exhibition, organized and conceived by the Federal Office of Culture since 1899, provides a representative overview and unique insight into contemporary art and architecture in Switzerland. It shows the works of the artists that have been invited to the second round of the Swiss Competition for Art and Architecture, and aims to encourage the cultural movers and shakers originating from Switzerland. A definitive index for art professionals and art lovers alike.
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.
clockwise from top: Star Apartments, Los Angeles. Michael Maltzan Architecture, Los Angeles, 2014 © Gabor Ekecs // Le Corbusier, Unité d‘Habitation // Moriyama House, Tokyo. Office of Ryue Nishizawa, Tokyo, 2005 © Dean Kaufman // Swmming pool in the basement of Sargfabrik, Wien BKK-2, Vienna, 1992–96 © Hertha Hurnaus // Songpa Micro-Housing, Seoul, 2014 Jinhee Park/SsD, New York/Seoul. © SsD
Housing is scarce – that much has become evident in the last few years. As real estate prices in big cities continue to skyrocket, conventional ideas of housing development prove unable to meet demands. The reaction to these challenges has been a silent revolution in contemporary architecture towards collective building and living. Using models, films, and walk-in displays, Vitra Design Museum’s exhibition Together! The New Architecture of the Collective addresses this global phenomenon by presenting a broad array of collective projects from Europe, Asia, and the United States. An overview of historical precedents for the current wave of collectives demonstrates that the idea has been a recurring theme in the history of architecture, from the reformist ideas of the nineteenth century to the hippies and squatters of the twentieth, who touted the slogan “Make love, not lofts”.
Jan-Peter E.R. Sonntags SYNTH im Tieranatomischen Theater
Built in 1790, the Tieranatomisches Theater (Veterinary Anatomy Theatre) is the oldest still-existing academic building in Berlin. Since 2013, the Hermann von Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik has used the venue as an experimental exhibition space. Based on research and teaching at the Humboldt-Universität, the programming is dedicated to an interdisciplinary investigation of material cultures of knowledge, and to new practices in displaying them.
SYNTH, an installation on the phantasm of sound and music synthesis by the artist, composer and researcher Jan-Peter E.R. Sonntag, is one such investigation. Shown and heard throughout the Theater’s seven rooms, technical and aesthetic objects connect the 19th century’s physiology to Neue Musik, media theory of the 20th century, and contemporary experimental music. For Sonntag, sound art is spacial art, a form that addresses the percipient’s whole body. Space itself becomes corporeal as well: turning the classical anatomy theater into a Rausch-Körper (“body of noise”), the artist composed the three-act chamber opera SINUS especially for the venue’s unique architecture. There will be held a number of discussions, workshops and events regarding the exhibited objects and instruments. All the while, Sonntag’s radio opera RUNDFUNK AETERNA – a work commissioned by Documenta 14 – will be broadcasted worldwide. Sonntag developed his own special circuits for RUNDFUNK AETERNA, and, in the tradition of Marinetti, Arnheim and Brecht, investigates the radio and (radio wave) as a form.
Refuting the idea of linear time, the 10th-century Arab thinkers of Kalam theorised the radical freedom of every single ‘now’. For the sake of God’s creative freedom, they demanded the dissociation of the present moment from the chains of cause and effect, and their ancient theories of ‘cut-up’ give rise to Fragments From Our Beautiful Future. Contemporary Interventions in The Bumiller Collection #3. The exhibition presents the work of Jerusalem-born Steve Labella and Berlin-based Rebecca Raue in a constellation with ancient chess pieces and Persian mirrors from the Bumiller Collection, dating from the 11th to the 17th century. In his series 38 Days of Re-Collection, Sabella imprints black & white photographs upon colored shards of paint, peeled off the walls of houses in the Old City of Jerusalem. Resembling ancient artifacts, the fifteen fragments present a unique archive of personal and collective memory, of home and displacement. Raue’s Kalila wa Dimna series uses acryl and mixed media to intervene in 18th-century illuminated manuscripts printed on aluminum composite panels. A dense layer of commentary is created on the colourful illustrations, and the artist develops a visual language that draws inspiration from the Lettrist appeal of the underlying Arabic texts.
top work by Steve Sabella / bottom works by Rebecca Raue
Images by Anders Sune Berg
“Darkness dissolves form and is the void out of which all things arise.
Therefore, unlearning can be a positive force of progress.” – Kirstine Roepstorff
Developed by visual artist Kirstine Roepstorff for the Danish Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia — 57th International Art Exhibition, the project influenza. theatre of glowing darkness challenges viewers to embrace darkness as a positive force of healing, transformation, and empowerment. The exhibition explores the metamorphosis that occurs between the destruction of the known and the embrace of the new. The title influenza contains dual meaning: in Italian it means “to influence,” in English it’s a common viral disease. If flu—as metaphor for the 21st century condition—is spread through social contact, its antidote may also be found in its own logic of person-to-person transmission: each individual’s ability to make affective choices, the grassroots power to influence change. It’s conceived as both symptom and cure. influenza consists of an immersive spatial theatre experience and a structural intervention in the pavilion and surrounding gardens. The large-scale installation uses light projections, glass, sound and a recorded dialogue between three disembodied protagonists: Dark River, Midwife, and Seed, to explore darkness as a condition of reconciliation.