22 September – 05 November 2005
A specially commissioned installation by Romuald Hazoumè, to end the October Gallery’s africa05 season.
This autumn, Beninese artist Romuald Hazoumè transformed the October Gallery’s space with ARTicle 14, a combination of found-object installation, video, sound and vast panoramic photographs. African constitutions are often supposed to contain a hypothetical ‘fourteenth’ and final article, which is popularly believed to say that ‘given all the rights mentioned above – you better manage by yourself’ – hence débrouilles-toi, toi- même, or “look out for yourself because no one else will.’ Both a critical reference to state corruption, and a popular manifesto for individual resistance against the state. Inspired by a concern to reflect the realities faced daily by the people of Africa, Hazoumè here continues his long-running artistic dialogue about the historical and socio-political issues affecting African societies.
In the central installation, Hazoumè takes a market vendor’s cart that would once have carried Coca Cola, beer, plastic toys, fizzy pop, jugs, footballs, brushes, razors and pans, and satirically ‘consumes’, digests, and reinvents it, leaving behind a post-consumer husk. Where once hung newly manufactured products, waiting for trade and consumption, we now find empty shells and spent materials – the debris of capitalist exchange. Collected by assistants, volunteers and school children London, the materials that constitute the installation represent a point of contact in time and space, between the artist and the people of the local environment, and between two different but interconnected material worlds. Through them we are reminded of a ubiquitous socio-economic relationship that is at once both particular and universal.
The exchange of commodities has for centuries defined the point of contact between Africa and Europe. The beginnings of an African market for European manufactured goods stem back to the early years of the Atlantic ‘triangular trade’, when guns, alcohol and textiles were touted along the West African coast by Europeans seeking to acquire slaves and raw materials. Many argue that this heralded the roots of an unequal system of exchange that continues to this day. Hazoumè’s work highlights how these persistent historical patterns of trade and exploitation are still played out today through continued slavery, poverty and greed. By alerting us to the social history of the objects that surround us, Hazoumè reassigns them their place within political and historical realities.
This is the artist’s first solo show in the United Kingdom.
Romuald Hazoumè was born in 1962 in Porto-Novo, in the Benin Republic, and now lives in Cotonou and works in Porto-Novo. In the mid 1980s, he began sculptural experiments with the plastic jerry cans dangerously used to transport fuel around Benin. The resulting series of works received widespread acclaim, and has featured in numerous international exhibitions, from the Saatchi Gallery’s ‘Out of Africa’ to, most recently, the Menil Collection in Texas and ‘Africa Remix’ at the Hayward Gallery, London, Centre Pompidou, Paris and Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2006).
23 September 2005, 6.30pm
What role does the past life of an object play in the way we understand it today?
How can memory and place be contained in, or communicated through, materials, across continents?
Is all art recycling, in some sense of the word?
An evening of talks and discussion about the importance of recycled, ready-made and found-object media in contemporary art practice in Africa and Europe. With writers, practitioners and curators from Africa and Europe, including:- Romuald Hazoumè, the featured artist, in conversation about his new project, ARTicle 14.
Dilomprizulike, also known as the self-styled 'Junkman From Afrika' and for his Junkyward Museum of Awkward Things situated in Lagos. Drawing materials from the piles of used surplus clothes found on the streets of African cities, he fashions installations and performances that look at what he describes as 'the alienated situation of the African in his own society.'
Oliver Sumner, Head of Education at Camden Arts Centre, speaks about Ethiopian artist Assefa Gebrekidan's recent residency. Combining light, heat and sound elements, Assefa takes found materials, often plastic containers reminiscent of water carriers in Ethiopian markets, and transforms them into intensely coloured and vibrant abstract constructions, referring in part to the stained glass of the Orthodox church and also to the shapes of missiles from the ongoing war in Ethiopia.
Dr. Nicholas Saunders' research interests include a study of recycling in the Trench Art of the First World War. He is currently Reader in Material Culture, at University College, London.
Ending with drinks and canapés in the presence of the artists, and a special screening of a new film about the bottle-top cloths of sculptor El Anatsui.