Contemporary African Art: where did we come from, where are we going?

Panel discussion with Chris Dercon, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung and Simon Njami

Thursday, 23rd October 2014, 6.30 pm

Deutsche Bank KunstHalle | Unter den Linden 13/15 | 10117 Berlin

© Meschac Gaba

In relation to the exhibition of Meschac Gaba's Museum of Contemporary African Art (1997-2005), the conversation will explore the antecendents, present conditions and views on the future of contemporary art from Africa. Chris Dercon, director of Tate Modern will introduce to the topic and moderate the panel with Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, founder and artistic director of SAVVY Contemporary and Savvy Journal, as well as curator of the research and exhibition project "Giving Contours To Shadows" (2014), and Simon Njami, writer and curator of numerous exhibitions of African contemporary art such as “African Remix” (2004–2007), he was also co-curator of the first African pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale and he recently curated the exhibition “The Divine Comedy” that will be on view soon at SCAD/Savannah after the first presentation at MMK Frankfurt.

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The Metabolism of the Social Brain

Symposium curated by Elena Agudio, Dorothee Albrecht, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, Matteo Pasquinelli and Eylem Sengezer

25th & 26th October 2014

Akademie der Künste | Hanseatenweg 10 | 10557 Berlin

PART 1: Saturday 25th October 2014, 7-10 pm

One of the most seminal propositions in the field of psychiatry in the last half-century was Arthur Kleinman's Depression, Somatization and the New Cross-cultural Psychiatry published in 1977 [1]. Unlike most psychiatric practices at the time, Kleinman made a strong case for the recognition of cultural differences, plurality and a case against the exportation or super-imposition of psychiatric theories onto other cultures - a practice that was very common within the colonial context. Crass examples like the case of the French psychiatrist Antoine Porot, head of the Algiers School of psychiatry and notorious for his racist justification of the French colonial structure and the implementation of these prejudices in psychiatric practice, as discussed and criticized by Frantz Fanon in The Wretched of the Earth could stand as an epitome of such practices at the time. Kleinman's engagement towards and questioning of the universality of psychodynamic models and psychiatric constructs and on the influence of ethnographic and anthropological research on psychiatric epidemiology in his ‘new cross-cultural psychiatry’ and his models of culture-oriented somatization have become a tool for many practitioners today.

The struggle within the field of psychology in the 70s, and still today, to come to terms with the fact that Western epistemological models cannot be translated one-to-one to non-Western contexts could be characterized as a post-colonial mashing up, as it was the case with other disciplines like literature and history. Other disciplines, especially in medical and natural sciences, biotechnology, bioethics and neuroscientific technologies have been more reluctant to engage in such post-colonial reflections especially with the former colonies as a point of departure.

In the framework of the nGbK exhibition project The Ultimate Capital is the Sun – Metabolism in Contemporary Art, politics, philosophy and science, with this symposium the curators take up the challenge to instigate a reflection on scientific research beyond Eurocentric rationalization, exploring contemporary concepts and forms of cross-cultural psychiatry and issues of appropriation within a transdisciplinary constellation of artists, post-colonial theorists, and ethnopsychologists.
The panel will be an effort to deliberate on the different trajectories through which psychopathologies, related to postcolonial societies or expressed by non-Western peoples in Western societies, could be understood. From the vantage point of Merleau-Ponty's concept of the bodily experience and embodiment in general, phenomenology as a performative tool, and taking from Wilhelm Stekel’s concept of somatization, i.e. the conversion of mental symptoms like depression or anxieties into physical bodily symptoms, the varying possibilities of somatic expressivity will be put under a spotlight of transcultural psychology and will address neuro-phenomenological practises in the understanding of mental illness. As psychiatrist Thomas Fuchs underlined: “a phenomenology of embodiment may be combined with enactive approaches to cognitive neuroscience in order to overcome ?Western? dualist concepts of the mind as an inner realm of representations that mirror the outside world. Phenomenological and ecological concepts of embodiment should also be conjoined to enable a new, advanced understanding of mental illness”. [2]

As the exhibition project The Ultimate Capital is the Sun, the symposium will focus on the idea and the artistic “strategy” of Anthropophagy [3] as a metabolic and digestive process.

For this to be realised the symposium will aim at exploring the philosophical notions of scientia, ‘bios’ and personhood within some non-Western societies - e.g. in Akan or Yoruba philosophies - and at cogitating on how societies with a colonial legacy and peoples with a post-colonial heritage metabolise and transform such concepts like neurosciences, genetic enhancement, bioethics, into their cultural understandings, philosophical frames and technological practices.

[1] Kleinman AM (January 1977). "Depression, somatization and the "new cross-cultural psychiatry"". Soc Sci Med 11 (1): 3–10
[2] Thomas Fuchs and Jann E. Schlimme, Embodiment and psychopathology: a phenomenological perspective in “Current Opinion in Psychiatry”, 2009, 22:570–575
[3] see Brazilian “Antropofagia Cultural” modernist movement

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Amplified Souls :: Gilles Aubry

Book Launch and Live Performance

Saturday, 1st November 2014, 5pm

SAVVY Contemporary | Richardstr. 20 | 12043 Berlin-Neukölln

On the occasion of the launch of his book “The Amplification of Soul” on the 1st November 2014 (All Saints’ Day!), Gilles Aubry will present a performance of improvisation with recordings documenting a spiritual deliverance service recorded in 2011 in Kinshasa, DRC. During collective praying sessions involving speaking-in-tongues and a massive sound-system, the church members oppose evil spirits causing various existential problems. The sound, powerful and over-distorted, attests both on their supernatural powers and their capacity for soul amplification. By extension, the performance also questions the devotion of noise music fans, addressing existing cultural boundaries between taste, faith and perception.

In his publication, Aubry presents elements from his sonic research within Christian charismatic churches in Kinshasa. He explores the noise aesthetics of religious sound practices involving audio amplification, feedback, distortion and recording technologies. His documentation includes spiritual services, predications, sound-checks, rehearsals, a church video archive, film-soundtracks, as well as the preparation of an evangelization campaign in the city center. While focusing on material aspects of sounds Aubry finds signs which attest of the complex relationships between Christian faith, traditional beliefs, neo-colonial representations and urban politics in Central Africa. At the same time, he suggests correspondences with ”first-world” noise music aesthetics.

The CD contains a 34' excerpt of a spiritual deliverance service including collective prayers, predication and speaking-in-tongues, recorded at the Libambu Ministry Church in Kinshasa. The track The Amplification of Souls is a 30' audio-essay in which various sound sources have been combined together according to a material-based form of cultural interpretation.

The book comprises an interview with Aubry, an essay by musicologist and cultural anthropologist Johannes Ismaiel-Wendt, along with text fragments and photos from Aubry's research in Kinshasa.

Gilles Aubry is a Swiss sound artist living in Berlin. He uses location recordings, sound archives, music and interviews to create live performances, sound installations and 'movies without pictures'. Informed by researches on cultural, material and historical aspects of sound production and reception, his works address the politics of the audible.
In 2011, Aubry has been a guest artist of the Global Prayers project. His installations Pluie de Feu and The Laman Encounter have been presented at NGBK Gallery in Berlin and Camera Austria in Graz in 2011, and as a performance at the House of World Cultures (HKW) in Berlin in 2012. His work Notes via a Soundscape of Bollywood, based on a sonic research about the Mumbai film industry, was presented as an installation at the House of electronic Arts in Basel in 2013 and premiered as a movie at FID Marseille in 2014. His latest work and who sees the mystery documents a research with Zouheir Atbane on the return in Morocco of the Paul Bowles Moroccan music collection and was presented at Marrakech Biennale 2014.
Aubry is also a member of Berlin-based experimental noise band MONNO and has released several solo records on labels such as Winds Measure, Cronica Electronica, Gruenrekorder and Absinth Records.

The Amplification of Souls, Book/CD (Ed. Gilles Aubry & Kathrin Wildner), 2014, adocs publishing, Hamburg/Germany, metroZones, ISBN: 978-3-943253-09-2.

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Video Installation by

Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll and Jesse Weaver Shipley

6th – 9th November 2014

Opening: Thursday, 6th November 2014, 7pm

SAVVY Contemporary | Richardstr. 20 | 12043 Berlin-Neukölln

"Investigated" is a multichannel video installation about the uncertainty of information and its interpretation. It follows the story of two information gathers, liars, and data thieves who have disappeared and the narrator is trying to find out what happened to them. It is told from the point of view of the investigator trying to track them down. The project mixes genres, blending documentary, surveillance, narrative, and experimental styles. It is a forensic report on disappeared persons. It is unclear who the investigated are, what they are doing, what they are planning, and who they work for. They are artists or spies or scholars or journalists but they seem to traffic in information and media in some manner. They work hard to confound interpretation and obscure the meaning of their actions. The investigator struggles to understand the media trail of these fugitives, the potential confusion between research, politics, art, and spying, and how to understand intent. The footage explores how information circulates, what it is used for, and how it is interpreted.

With contributions by Mensa Ansah of the FOKN Bois, Gustav Duesing, Claire Loussouarn, Niq Mhlongo, Michal Murawski, Wietske Maas, Alex Flynn, Melanie Wigg, Alex McLean, and Toby Matthiesen.

Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll is currently in Berlin as a Humboldt Fellow. Her performances, films and installations have most recently been shown in the Extracity Kunsthaal Antwerp, Institute of Contemporary Art London, National Museum of Australia, Marrakech Biennale, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin. For more information see:

Jesse Weaver Shipley is a filmmaker, scholar, and writer. He is the author of the books "Living the Hiplife" (Duke University Press 2013) and "Trickster Theatre" (Indiana University Press 2015). His films and video installations include "Living the Hiplife", "Black Star", "High Tea", and "Is It Sweet"?