Swiss artist and researcher Aurélien Gamboni returns to Kinshasa for the 2nd YANGO Biennale to present the project “COOP KIN (L’escamoteur à Kinshasa)” created with Congolese sound artist Blaise Musaka, in collaboration with Michael Disanka and Christiana Tabaro of Collectif d’Art-d’Art.
The project is inspired by “parlementaires debout” or street spin doctors and explores the circulation of narratives and appropriation of social imaginaries. In Kinshasa, newspapers are laid out on the sidewalk and often raise intense debates on the interpretation of daily news. “Parlementaires debout” (standing parliamentarians) turn the street corner into an open-air parliament to rally public attention and favour for political parties.
During a research trip in November 2021, Aurélien and Blaise collected numerous testimonies on the different forms of manipulation experienced by people in Kinshasa. The artists referred to the character of “the Conjurer,” the street magician that features in the 16th century painting by Hieronymus Bosch, to inspire conversations during the collecting of local stories. From politicians to journalists, from parlementaires debout to new prophets, the project set out to ask: Who is manipulating our attention and for what purpose? Who is claiming to represent “the voice of the people”? What forms of “conjuring” are being played out in Kinshasa, and what defensive strategies can be developed against it?
From these collected testimonies, 48 original posters have been printed on newsprint as a series of very personal “newspapers” conveying a diversity of voices and points of view. Presented both in the exhibition space and in the street, the installation of posters turns into an experimental theatre scene with a performance conceptualised by Michael Disanka and Christiana Tabaro that echoes the street debates organised by parlementaires debout and engages the public in these new scenarios.
BACKGROUND TO THE COLLABORTION
In 2017, Swiss artist Aurélien Gamboni carried out a first investigation in DRC for the Lubumbashi Biennial, collecting local stories echoing with the figure of “the Conjurer” from Bosch’s painting. He was accompanied by the Lubumbashi artist Blaise Musaka, working for his part on the importance of rumour in Congolese society. They decided to continue their collaboration in 2021 / 2022, by opening a new chapter of this investigation together in Kinshasa, in the context of the Yango Biennale. During the research trip they met artists and stage directors Michael Disanka and Christiana Tabaro, founding members of collective d’Art-d’Art and eminent representatives of Kinshasa’s dynamic theatre scene. All four then decided to join forces to imagine the new installation and performance: “COOP KIN”.
The project has additional support from the City of Geneva and the City of Meyrin.
[Cover image caption: Aurélien Gamboni, Mundele Ye Uyu, installation view, exhibition Paperwork, Zurich, 2020. Photo: Marco Fedele di Catrano]