"L'Abécédaire de Georges Adéagbo: la civilisation parlant et faisant voir la culture"..! is the second solo exhibition by Georges Adéagbo at Galerie Barbara Wien. In this project, comprising of several assemblages and installations, Adéagbo develops a personal encyclopaedia of things and impressions he has collected throughout his research in Berlin and Benin, and sets them centre stage with his written comments. Adéagbo's installations are both a cross-section of our time with its diverging geopolitical interests, as well as an evidence of the mediating function of cultures, which Adéagbo makes visible through his cultural transfer.In Benin, he has translated what he found in Berlin into images and reliefs; from there, he brings sculptures and masks which enter into conversation with Western artefacts. At the same time, as the title suggests, the new assemblage is a reflection on the artist's own practice of collecting and questioning.
Adéagbo often compares his installations to a courtroom, in which many witnesses testify to the facts of a case, and the observer ultimately makes their own judgement or simply leaves what at first seem to be contradictory ones standing. Above all, Adéagbo sees writing systems as building blocks of cultures, almost as a kind of DNA, whose modification can have fatal consequences. He also alludes to control and manipulation through language; he formulates this in a textual part of the work:
'Since the name of all the persons, of all the animals, can be found and recognised in the 26 letters, what would become of the person, the animal, if one of the 26 letters were to disappear or be erased? (...) Paul and Pierre, who are akin, as can be seen by the P, the 16th letter, did Paul, who seeks the death of Pierre by deleting the letter P, know that he would also precipitate his own death?¹'
According to Adéagbo, some letters obtained privileges when they were created:
'Alfa, the wise, who gifted life to the 26 letters, chose the small i, which is the ninth letter, to put something on it, to give it a hat as the only one out of the 26 letters. Those who can make themselves small, will become big, and those who love to make themselves big, will become small. Do you see the capital I with a hat'¦?²'
Source of inspiration for the title, which was chosen together with gallerist Barbara Wien, is the famous L'Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze–a series of interviews conducted by Claire Parnet broadcast on French television in 1988/89. It is no coincidence that precisely this philosopher, together with Félix Guattari, transferred the image of the rhizome from botany into the discourse surrounding cultural processes without hierarchy, without centre, beginning or end.³ This image, together with their concept of 'the logic of the and'⁴, assists in the understanding of Adéagbo's practice as open systems.
Adéagbo's rhizomatic networks question the conventional aesthetic of completed works, and thus also the myth of the icon of individual paintings or sculptures acclaimed by the art market. He challenges the viewer to open up to an accumulative aesthetic of ever-growing and changing.⁵ Therefore, Adéagbo's Abécédaire is not restricted to the limited family of alphabet letters, rather is the beginning of a collection of exempla, stretching to infinity. (Text by Stephan Köhler)
¹ "Le nom de toutes les personnes, de tous les animaux, pour se trouver et se voir dans les 26 lettres de lui l'alfa qui est le savant, que deviendrait la personne, l'animal, si une lettre dans les 26 lettres, arrive à s'éclipser pour s'éffacer..? S'assemblent les individus qui se ressemblent Paul, Pierre vu dans P la 16ème lettre, Paul cherchant la mort de Pierre [en éffacent la lettre P] savait-il que c'est la mort de lui-meme, Paul, qu'il cherchait..?"
² "L'Alfa, qui est le savant pour donner vie à 26 lettres, pour venir prendre la lettre i miniscule, qui est le la 9ème lettre de lui l'Alfa qui est le savant, et la coiffer, lui faire porter chapeau dans les 26 lettres auxquelles lui l'Alfa qui est le savant, avait donné vie: qui sait se faire petit, deviendrait grand, et qui aime se faire grand, deviendrait petit..!"
³ Gilles Deleuze - Félix Guattari 1977: Rhizome. Translated from French by Dagmar Berger. Merve Verlag Berlin.
⁴ Gilles Deleuze - Félix Guattari (1986 ): A Thousand Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press. P. 25.
⁵ See Dana Rush on "unfinished aesthetics" in: Vodun in Coastal Benin. Unfinished, Open-Ended, Global. Nashville. 2013 Nashville, Tennessee. P.30.
Georges Adéagbo was born in 1942 in Cotonou (Republic of Benin). He lives and works in Cotonou and Hamburg. After studying law in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and Rouen (France), Adéagbo returned to Benin at the end of the 60s. By the time he was discovered in 1993 by a European curator by accident, he made daily complex installations in his yard without calling himself an artist. In 1994 he was invited to his first exhibition. From then on, he implements his site-specific installations with a team of craftsmen in Benin. In 1999, he participated in the Venice Biennale and was the first artist from Africa to be given an award for his installation at the Campo Arsenale. Since at least 2002, when he presented an In-Situ-Installation as part of documenta 11, curated by Okwui Enwezor in Kassel, Adéagbo has become one of the most renowned artists of Africa. The work from Kassel was later included in a modified form into the collection of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne. His works can be found in other major collections, i.e. Centre Pompidou, Paris; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Toyota City Museum; KIASMA Helsinki; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester; and Sammlung zeitgenössischer Kunst der Bundesrepublik Deutschland.
Adéagbo's exhibitions are supported and co-curated by Stephan Köhler (Kulturforum South-North Hamburg-Cotonou).
From June 24 to October 26, 2020, a major part of Adéagbo's installation "Les artistes et l'écriture"..! will be presented in the exhibition Global(e) Résistance at the Centre Pompidou in Paris that have newly included this installation from 2014 in their museum's collection. Accompanying the exhibition Global(e) Résistance, a catalogue will be published.
Press release courtesy Barbara Wien.
Georges Adéagbom, L'Abécédaire de Georges Adéagbo: la civilisation parlant et faisant voir la culture