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Vincent Meessen: ‘In the western world, we still think that we created everything’
Eleven artists come together to reflect on colonialism and its aftermath in a complex, multimedia, collaborative exhibition, which pulls apart the notions of origin and authorship
Studio International spoke to artist Vincent Meessen (b1971) and curator Katerina Gregos about the ideas behind the exhibition and the role of the spectator, exposed to the “sharing of a collective intelligence”, and invited to become “a character in the show”.
The exhibition in the Belgian Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale offers a complex exploration of the consequences of political, historical, cultural and artistic entanglements between Europe and Africa during the time of colonial modernity and its aftermath. It is a project that connects not only with history but also with the present situation, since, as Gregos reminds us: “Amnesia is a very, very dangerous thing.”
Not wanting to perpetuate the 19th-century “nation-state” model, still used by so many of the national pavilions in Venice, Meessen has stepped back from the limelight and invited 10 further artists – from four continents – to show alongside him, challenging the notion of exclusive authorship. This idea is further reinforced by the borrowing of the exhibition’s title, Personne et les Autres, from a lost play by the Belgian art critic André Frankin. “This title is a metaphor for the position of the artist, within the context of a national representation,” clarifies Gregos.
The centrepiece of the exhibition is a new audiovisual work by Meessen, which revisits the role of the largely unknown Congolese intellectuals within the Situationist International movement. Meessen worked with the author of an unpublished Congolese protest song from May 1968, reinterpreting the text in the form of a rumba.
Personne et les Autres: Vincent Meessen and Guests
Curated by Katerina Gregos
Belgian Pavilion, Giardini di Castello, 30122 Venice
9 May – 22 November 2015
Interview by ANNA McNAY
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY