Inventing the Word: The Artist as Citizen

Inventing the Word: The Artist as Citizen

Biennale Bénin

Meschac Gaba, “MAVA,” 2010. Performance (procession) in Cotonou. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Florent Tomede.

October 16, 2012

Biennale Bénin 2012.
Inventing the Word: The Artist as Citizen

November 8, 2012–January 13, 2013

Opening: November 8, 6pm

Centre Kora, Cotonou

Artistic Director: Abdellah Karroum
Associate Curator for Special Projects: Didier Houénoudé
Associate Curators for Research and Encounters: Olivier Marboeuf, Anne Szefer Karlsen,
and Claire Tancons
in collaboration with the Curatorial Delegation

Inventing the World: The Artist as Citizen takes public initiatives that have occurred in Benin in recent years such as Meschac Gaba’s Musée de l’Art et de la Vie Active (MAVA) and Zinkpè’s Boulev’art as a starting point to interrogate the notion of the artist as citizen both as an aesthetic idea and an ethical project. Biennale Bénin 2012will present new commissions and existing works by 36 artists as part of the international exhibition and feature nearly a hundred additional artists in the Special Projects, Encounters and Workshops.

International Exhibition
The main venue for the international exhibition is Centre Kora, a former commercial center in Cotonou. Other venues include l’Institut Français, Venue X, Venue Y, Venue B. Artists include: Adel Abdessemed, Ebtisam Abdulaziz, Georges Adéagbo, Sofia Aguiar, Malala Andrialavidrazana, Owusu Ankomah, Edwige Aplogan, Aston, Azankpo, Ismaïl Bahri, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Gabriella Ciancimino, Soly Cissé, Tomás Colaço, Nestor Da, Badr El Hammami, Meschac Gaba, Pélagie Gbaguidi, Dor Guez, Camille Henrot, Invisible Borders (Emeka Okereke), Toril Johannessen, Syl.Pâris.Kouton, Adrian Missika, Otobong Nkanga, Hermann Pitz, Gérard Quenum, Karim Rafi, Younès Rahmoun, Raqs Media Collective, Tchif, Jean-Paul Thibeau, Cyprien Tokoudagba, Vincent+Feria, Zinkpè.

Special Projects
Curated by Didier Houénoudé

Special Projects produced by Beninese art organizations take place in Cotonou, Abomey, Porto-Novo and Ouidah across a variety of sites and under different formats and include Meschac Gaba‘s Residence Library from his Museum of Art and Active Life (MAVA); a retrospective exhibition of Cyprien Tokoudagba and a collective exhibition of works by Barthélemy Toguo, Freddy Tsimba, Lionel Ducos organized by Unik – Lieu de Création Contemporaine; a workshop for emerging art writers, journalists and filmmakers organized by Africadoc Bénin; a photographic workshop led by photographers Eric Ahonou, Charles Placide Tossou, and Clovis Agbahoungba to interpret canonical Western paintings; arts workshop including Marius Dansou, Sébastien Boko, Sophie Négrier and Nathanaël Vodouhè organized by Vakpo; a public program about the creation of contemporary art spaces in Africa organized by Espace Tchif among other programs.

#1 Recovering an Art School – Centre Songhaï, Porto-Novo November 4 – 7
Curated by Anne Szefer Karlsen

A three-day seminar to consider how the role of the artist teacher creates an educational space against the background of discussions initiated by the National University of Benin about the format for a future formal art school. Participants include Joseph Adandé, Professor in Art History, Université d’Abomey-Calavi; Dóra Hegyi, Director, and organizer of Free School for Art Theory and Practice, Budapest; Baba Keita, Director, Ecole du Patrimoine Africain; Arne Skaug Olsen, artist and teacher, Norway; Claire Pentecost, Professor of Photography, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; and Jean-Paul Thibeau, professor, Ecole Supérieure d’Art d’Aix en Provence.

#2 Case Studies for a Genealogy of Performance Art in Benin and Beyond – Unik – Lieu de Création Contemporaine, Abomey, November 10
Curated by Claire Tancons

A discussion about the under-examined topic of performance in contemporary African art practice taking recent works by Beninese artists and BB12 participants Edwige Aplogan, Meschac Gaba, Tchif and Zinkpè as case studies against the background of Abomey’s first Fête des Richesses in thirty years, once an annual public celebration of the former Dahomey Kingdom. Along with the artists and Gabin Djimassé, Fondation Zinsou Scientific Adviser, researcher and historian, Joseph Adandé, Professor in Art History, Université d’Abomey-Calavi and Romuald Tchibozo, Professor of Art History at Université Abomey-Calavi.

#3 The Artist Studio and Urban Space: Geography, History, InterventionCentre Kora, Cotonou, December 2012 – January 2013
Curated by Olivier Marboeuf

A series of discussions about the changing function of the artist studio from site of artistic production to site of knowledge exchange in urban space with BB12 artists Adel Abdessemed, Meschac Gaba and Raqs Media Collective along with Viktoria Schmidt-Linsenhoff (CePog, Germany), Kerstin Schankweiler (FU, Berlin) and participants from Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociale, Paris et Université Abomey-Calavi.

A co-publication of Silvana Editoriale and Fondation Zinsou, the bilingual French-English catalogue will include texts by the BB12 curatorial team and commissioned essays, illustrations of the artists’ works, archival images from Benin, documentation from the biennial-making process, etc.

Four journals will be published by different members of the Curatorial Delegation in collaboration with invited contributors. The November 2012 issue will be published in partnership with Le Quotidien de l’Art.

With a studio at Centre Kora and a mobile studio covering BB12′s other venues and staffed with BB12 curators and journalists from partner radios including France Culture and Radio Tokpa, R22-Bénin / RBB will broadcast a wide variety of programs.


About Biennale Bénin
Biennale Bénin was initiated by the Beninese Ministry of Culture along with Institut Français and Beninese arts organizations in 2010 following the 50th Anniversary of the Independences of Benin and other African countries. Biennale Bénin 2012, the second edition of the Benin biennial, is organized by Le Consortium which includes Unik–Lieu de création contemporaine and Espace Tchif among other Beninese arts organizations and sponsored by the Beninese Ministry of Culture, Institut Français, the European Union, Fondation Zinsou, the Brazilian Embassy, Office of Contemporary Art and Fundación Almayuda.

General contact: info [​at​]

International press contact: Catherine Philippot, cathphilippot [​at​]


Biennale Bénin 2012. Inventing the Word: The Artist as Citizen
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