November 2021 & January 2022 — Visual Arts
For the 2nd YANGO Biennale in Kinshasa, Geneva based artist and researcher Aurélien Gamboni has conceptualised a collaborative intervention to investigate local testimonies about the circulation of narratives and the appropriation of the public goods and imaginaries. l’Escamoteur à Kinshasa (The Conjurer in Kinshasa) develops on from a previous investigation Aurélien carried out for the Lubumbashi Biennale in 2017. The project takes as its starting point the enigmatic figure of the “Conjurer”, as portrayed by the 16th century painter Hieronymus Bosch.
The painting depicts one of the oldest forms of street con games practiced with cups and a ball. Aurélien adopts the figure of the Conjurer as a metaphor through which to explore the ways in which objects, and attention, is captured, diverted and translated into value in different contexts. In Kinshasa, “parlementaires debout”, that can be considered “street spin doctors”, are a common fixture across the city. Standing around newspapers laid out on the street, their role is to spark public debate about headlines, steering the debates to favour their political affiliation. Aurélien is interested in this performative use of public space and how these “conjurer” figures or partisan-citizen influencers scrip information to form political opinions.
The project will involve two phases: a research trip in November 2021 followed by a production phase in January 2022 ahead of the opening of the YANGO Biennale.
Sound artist Blaise Pelos Musaka (who collaborated in the 2017 iteration of the project) will accompany Aurélien to Kinshasa for the research trip. They will interview “parlementaires debout”, journalists, artist and the general public to collect local testimonies and narratives that will constitute the base material for the development of the future installation and the scripting of the performances during the biennale. During the research trip Aurélien will also connect with local performers, inviting them to engage with and reinterpret the character of the Conjurer and the role of the “parlementaires debout” into a collaborative performance.
This project is also supported by City of Geneva, City of Meyrin and Bureau Wallonie-Bruxelles in Kinshasa.
Aurélien Gamboni (*Lausanne 1979) develops a practice of critical field investigation, leading to multiple forms of installations, texts and lecture-performances. His practice relies on particular mediator objects – images or narratives– operating as conceptual tools, and allowing to gather new collectives around shared concerns. The painting The Conjurer by Hieronymus Bosch, Edgar Allan Poe’s short story «A descent into the maelström», and the grave of Swiss pioneer feminist writer Alice Rivaz, have each led to a series of long-term inquiries on the economy / ecology of attention, the cosmopolitics of nature and the exploration of transitional becomings. In particular, his ongoing collaboration with anthropologist and writer Sandrine Teixido, based on Poe’s maelström, initiated a wide collection of narratives from the South of Brazil to the North of Norway, as well as in the Great Lakes region (USA-Canada), regarding issues of adaptation to environmental threats. Aurélien Gamboni participated to the 9th Mercosul Biennial in Porto Alegre (2013), the 5th Lubumbashi Biennial (2017) and the Bex & Arts Triennial (2020), and was also exhibited in institutions such as the SculptureCenter in Long Island city, NY (2008), Tanya Leighton Gallery in Berlin (2009), Museo MAGA in Gallarate (2015), Museu de Arte Contemporânea in Niteró (2016) and Centre de la Photographie in Geneva (2017). He co-curated the independent art space Forde (2006-2008), and contributed to the SNF research project The Anthropocene Atlas of Geneva (2016-2018) at Geneva University of Art and Design (HEAD), where he currently teaches. Among other distinctions, he received a Swiss Art Award in both 2011 and 2016.