“Issa Samb is considered a total artist. His practice ranges from acting, for both theatre and cinema, to writing (poetry, essays, novels), installing, performing, painting and sculpting… yet his work is unclassifiable.” Curator Koyo Kouoh.
Iniva is pleased to present the first UK solo exhibition of artist Issa Samb at Rivington Place this summer, curated by Koyo Kouoh, Artistic Director of Raw Material Company based in Dakar.
The exhibition features a new installation referencing the changing environment of Samb’s atelier as well as showing archival materials and films made during his unique collaboration with French artist / director Jean Michel Bruyère.
Born in Dakar in 1945, Samb founded the Laboratoire Agit’Art with a group including filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambety, painter El Hadj Sy, and playwright Youssoufa Dione in 1974. From its inception, the Laboratoire was a revolutionary and subversive artist collective that brought together many creative disciplines from painting to performance.
Samb actively worked on the deconstruction of Leopold Sedar Senghor’s (the cultural theorist and first president of Senegal) aesthetics and views of Senegal’s artistic production that promoted a naive and fetishized idea of African symbols, decoration and beauty. With his actions, Samb has developed a recognisable approach of provocation, collective action and improvisation that is rooted in modes of contemporary art and theatre, the role of the artist in the society, and the interactivity of traditional African performance. This comes together in sculptural form at the courtyard of his atelier in the Rue de Jules Ferry in Dakar, where found and transformed objects and materials including threads, fabrics, clothing, branches, stones and other ephemera are installed around a tree. A total artwork, this dynamic arrangement provides an entry point into the spirit of Issa Samb as an artist as well as the Laboratoire Agit’Art as a collective.
From the Ethics of Acting to the Empire Without Signs
The gallery installation at Rivington Place will include materials and works shipped from Senegal as well as found elements collected in London’s street markets. Central to the exhibition will be fragments of the artist’s writings and footages and videos as well as short films from the oeuvre of French director Jean Michel Bruyère in which Samb plays the role of an actor at the service of Bruyère’s durational performance-installations. An archival display of material will also position Samb’s work in relation to his engagement with Laboratoire Agit’Art and to Senegalese art and politics.
Samb’s work will show at Rivington Place as part of the Practice International project, an initiative of Casco (Utrecht), Iaspis (Stockholm), and Iniva, three European arts organisations that are concerned with internationalism, collaborating with non-European institutions such as the Raw Material Company (Dakar). The project aims to reflect on our positions as artists, curators and institutions, working with agents of social change and questioning our institutional habits.