In Talking Mirrors we present four artists, who have in common that they reverse in their artistic practice the normative way of looking and being looked at. We focused on the Rep. of Benin, as we have been following for over ten years the development of artists of different generations, distinct formation and strategies and their interactions in Benin and abroad. Usually, mirrors have a passive role of precisely showing what is in front of them, without alteration. A mirror that speaks is revolting against that role, and breaks the taboo of having to be silent. A talking mirror questions who is in control of knowledge production and information diffusion. In that sense, each artist in the exhibition gives value to what is regarded as irrelevant or considered as not any more useful and gives a voice to those who are usually condemned to be silent or forced into roles, that they did not choose.
Adeagbo’s parcours is the embodiment of our metaphor Talking Mirror, since he developed his practice in twenty years of isolation in the courtyard of his family compound. Not considering himself as artist, he made assemblages with his writings and things found in the streets to discuss if and how we humans can choose between different options to lead our lives. Because of his “non-productive” activity, he was marginalized by his family and neighbors, and regarded as insane, until discovered in 1994 by a traveling curator and invited to his first shows. With his spirit of resilience and persistence as guidance, we invited Eliane Aïsso, Ishola Akpo, and Thierry Oussou to contribute works that shed light on topics that are conventionally locked in the shadow.
Only the complexity of perspectives–confronting familiar and other people’s points of views–can generate new forms of interconnec- tion and enable social change and collective togetherness. With this idea in mind, the exhibition »Talking Mirrors« at M.Bassy is amended by three further, divergent artistic positions from Adéagbo’s home country Benin to enter into a dialogue about the visibility and invisibility of (post)colonial reality in public urban space. Thus, his installative assemblage conceived for the main room at M.Bassy is joined by photo and video works of the contemporary artists and film makers Eliane Aïsso, Ishola Akpo and Thierry Oussou.
The exhibition is organized and curated by Stephan Köhler/Kulturforum Süd- Nord e. V. in cooperation with M.Bassy e. V. The exhibition is supported by the Behörde für Kultur und Medien Hamburg and ifa, Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen.
Georges Adéagbo (*1942 in Benin, then Dahomey)
Adéagbo considers his work as archaeology: From his perspective as an African ethnologist, he studies the customs of each place at which he exhibits, and casts these as glaring clichés– a parallel to the way his own culture is often misrepresented. He collects pieces of evidence that represent for him the energies and forces that format a person, a city or an entire society. Therefore, his creative practice is based on arranging and juxtaposing objets trouvés gathered during his daily walks throughout European and African worlds: Lost clothing, discarded furniture, decorations, house hold items. In bookshops and flea-markets he acquires elements that fit a narration he works on. Cultural transfer is the backbone of his practice – images taken on a research trip are transformed according to his instructions by artisans in Benin into image-text combinations that resemble emblems. Photos of monuments in western cities are transformed into relief panels and sculptures. When Adéagbo exhibits them at their origin, those hybrids confuse and stimulate the visitors – they look familiar and foreign at the same time and open up new perspectives on one’s own cultures.
The artist ensues a syncretic visual language, allowing pledges of different times, spaces and cultures to equally coexist dissolving a sovereign perspective. Adéagbo decolonizes in a subtle way by questioning the ubiquity of Western rationalism and resisting the superficial classification of events and things by a multiplicity of narrative threads. In approaching the complexity of seeing, perception and understanding of our social environment, Adéagbo is a pioneer of postcolonial discourse in Hamburg. Examples as the lately triggered discussion about the future of the city’s Bismarck-monument make clear that we have to give voice and visibility to historically marginalized positions of the local Black and POC communities in order to guarantee an adequate interaction with our colonial legacy.
Adéagbo avoids overly obvious interpretations of his work: ambiguity and entrapment are integral to his strategy of provocation. The artist also deliberately avoids those elements and facets expected of "African" artists – in some cases even presenting these expectations in a satirical light. Adéagbo's works key into the process of coming to terms with the colonial era, explore the imperialistic claims of Western powers in mainland Africa, and pose questions about traces of colonialism still visible in European cities.
Adéagbo’s works can be found for example in the following collections: Centre Pompidou-Paris, Museum Ludwig Cologne, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, Toyota City Museum, KIASMA Helsinki, Moderna Museum Stockholm and the Contemporary Art Collection
of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Eliane Aïsso (*1989) is a visual artist of Benin working with different media as textiles, sculptures and photography. She also lives and works in France. She studied i.a. art history and archaeology participating since then in numerous international exhibitions, interdisciplinary artist residencies and workshops. She exhibited in Hamburg in 2020 as part of the show »Reversed Exploration« at Kunstklinik Eppendorf.
Ishola Akpo (*1983) is a photographer and multi-media artist living and working in Cononou. In 2013 he was honoured with the »Visa pour la creation« by the Institut Français in Paris and and accompanying exhibition at Institut Français in Cotonou. In 2014 he participated at the art fair »1:54« in Morocco. In 2015 the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris acquired his series of works »Les mariés de notre époque« for its collection. His oeuvre was also shown at Weltkulturen Museum Frankfurt, at »Fotonoviembre« on Tenerife, at »Nuit blanche de Port-au-Prince«, at »Lagosphotos Festival« and at »Afreaka Festival« in Brazil. He completed several artist residencies, i.a. at Montresso Foundation in Morocco and at Zinsou Foundation in Benin.
The artist Thierry Oussou (*1988) lives and works in Berlin. His artistic practice is a form of “social archaeology“ encompassing painting, drawing, video and installation works as well as performances. He investigates the relationships between contemporary art and ethnographic objects questioning authenticity, visibility and memory in regard of our cultural heritage, especially of his country of origin Benin. He participated at Berlin Biennale presenting a project engaging with the restitution of African artefacts, followed by a solo show at Tiwani Contemporary in London.
Opening 11.09.2021, 19.00 – All artists will be present ( The event is fully booked)
Please reserve at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Proof of a negative corona test, immunization or recovery is required to attend the opening.
Schlüterstraße 80, 20146 Hamburg
Opening hours: Thu – Sun, 2–6pm via pre-registration:
The current situation around COVID-19 requires a new way of interaction during your exhibition visit. Therefore, we ask you, for your own protection as well as that of your fellow men and our employees, to always act responsibly and to strictly observe the following protective and hygienic measures
The exhibition is supported by the Behörde für Kultur und Medien Hamburg and ifa, Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen.