April 23, 2013 - Office for Contemporary Art Norway - Issa Samb
April 23, 2013

Issa Samb

Issa Samb, La Cour (The Yard), 2013. Installation view, Issa Samb’s home studio in Dakar, Senegal. Photo: OCA / Asle Olsen.


Issa Samb and the Undecipherable Form

4 May–23 June 2013

Opening: Friday 3 May, 19h
Press preview: Friday 3 May, 12h

Office for Contemporary Art Norway
Nedre Gate 7
0551 Oslo, Norway
Hours: Wednesday–Sunday 12–16h, Thursday 12–18h

info [​at​] oca.no


Curated by Koyo Kouoh

The Office for Contemporary Art Norway is presenting WORD! WORD? WORD! Issa Samb and the Undecipherable Form, the first solo exhibition in Europe by the seminal Senegalese artist Issa Samb. The exhibition brings together a selection of emblematic works made by Samb over the past 25 years, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, assemblages and installations, as well as objects, artworks made by others and diverse materials he has amassed in his studio in Dakar’s rue Jules Ferry. They will be accompanied by performative actions presented during the opening days—all these elements coming together to reflect Samb’s vast galaxy of interconnected universes, in which everyday signs are transformed into altars to personal obsessions.

In 1974, along with filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambety and a group of artists, writers, musicians, actors and filmmakers, Samb founded the Laboratoire Agit’Art. Its multi-disciplinary actions were directed against the formalism of the École de Dakar, an object-bound movement developed at the National Art School of Dakar and shaped by Léopold Sédar Senghor’s philosophy of négritude. Aiming to depart from this conception into experimentation and agitation, ephemerality rather than permanence, and political and social ideas rather than aesthetic notions, the Laboratoire Agit’Art developed a distinct ‘aesthetic of the social.’ Audience participation was paramount to the group’s work, as was the privileging of communicative acts over the physical object. Neither utopian nor self-referential, it grounded its actions in the immediate sociopolitical situation. Today many of the early members have passed away, but the group’s spirit persists, materialised in all of Samb’s work.

From the time of the creation of the Laboratoire Agit’Art, Issa Samb has produced a graspable, yet cryptic and evanescent, body of work. It is a body of work that, despite its avant-garde nature, is firmly rooted in African traditions of artistic multiplicity and simultaneity of forms and actions, where the spoken word and performative actions are highly regarded. And in keeping with Samb’s readings of Marxist philosophy and aesthetics, many of his sculptural assemblages take the paradigm of revolutionary movements as their subject matter, suggesting the possibility that the energy of the visual arts can be harnessed in support of the struggles of the weak and disadvantaged.

WORD! WORD? WORD!, curated by Koyo Kouoh, brings to Europe a selection of works focusing on Samb’s multifaceted individual production, in a performative installation that references Samb’s home studio in Dakar, referred to as La Cour, or “The Yard.” The display will create a fluid system of exchange between the objects, the artist and the audience.

The exhibition is organised in collaboration with Raw Material Company in Dakar, where it will travel in late 2013. A monographic publication on the work of Issa Samb will be published in conjunction with the opening in Dakar. This exhibition project follows Samb’s participation in OCA’s International Studio Programme in 2012, and a series of lectures that since October 2012 OCA has dedicated to the négritude movement and its influence on art, culture and politics in Africa, with speakers Salah Hassan, Manthia Diawara and Souleymane Bachir Diagne.

This exhibition and wider programme is made possible by 03 funds from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

About the artist
Issa Samb was born in 1945 in Senegal and lives in Dakar. In 1974 he founded, together with a group of artists, writers, filmmakers, performance artists and musicians, the Laboratoire Agit’Art, whose aim was to transform the nature of artistic practice from a formalist, object-bound sensibility to practices based on experimentation and agitation, process rather than product, ephemerality rather than permanence. With a focus on the contingent character of actions, the Laboratoire was informed by a critique of institutional power. Samb also co-founded the Gallery TENQ – Village des Arts in Dakar. He is the author of numerous plays, poems and essays. A retrospective of his work was held at the National Art Gallery, Dakar in 2010. His work has been included in exhibitions such as dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, Germany (2012), the Biennale de l’Art Africain Contemporain, Dak’Art, Dakar (2008) and Seven Stories about Modern Art in Africa, Whitechapel Gallery, London (1995).

For more information, please contact OCA’s Information Manager, Tara I. Hassel.


Office for Contemporary Art Norway presents Issa Samb
Office for Contemporary Art Norway
Share - Issa Samb
  • Share
Click to subscribe to e-flux and be the first to receive the latest news on international exhibitions and all e-flux related announcements
Subscribe to e-flux
Be the first to receive the latest news on international exhibitions and all e-flux related announcements.
Subscribe to architecture
Explore the most recent content from e-flux architecture and urbanism
Subscribe to e-flux programs
Keep up-to-date on all upcoming talks, screenings, and exhibitions at e-flux in New York