1. symposium
      29 November 2013

      Experience as Institution – Part 1: Artist collectives and cultural platforms in Africa

      Laboratoires Agit-Art
      Tate Modern, London
    2. This unique symposium takes the modus operandi of Senegalese artist collective Laboratoire Agit-Art, particularly its explorations of performance, as a starting point to examine contemporary art practices in Africa. It looks specifically at artists and organisations that engage with socio-political issues through performance art and music and poses the questions: could an art experience be considered an institution? What is the legacy of an experience which deliberately refuses the conventions of art-making in order to engage with a more critical social dialogue?

      The symposium takes place on Friday 29 November 2013 at the Tate Modern in London. It will be followed by a symposium on the practices of Laboratoire Agit-Art organized by If I Can't Dance in Amsterdam, in Spring 2014.

      1. Plehanov 7, les cendres de Pierre Lods, 19 January 1990, Théâtre de Verdure du Centre Culturel, Dakar Reproduced with kind permission of the Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Collection Axt/Sy.

    3. Founded in 1974 in Dakar, Senegal, the artist collective Laboratoire Agit-Art aimed to agitate existing institutional frameworks, to question the tenets of Leopold Sedar Sengor’s Négritude and to encourage artists to adopt critical approaches toward their practices. At that time, Dakar was a place where political consciousness was actively being articulated, and artists’ collectives such as Laboratoire Agit-Art went beyond aesthetic experience to critically promote the development of cultural and artistic endeavours.

      The goal of artists participating in the Laboratoire was to blur the disciplinary boundaries and to propose the experience of a ‘total art’ that was powerfully influenced by vernacular cultures and languages. The artists’ studio was a place in which the making of objects was a continuation of the performances and conversations taking place there. It represented a microcosm of the wider political shifts in its radical rearrangement of aesthetic and social relations.

      This symposium uses Laboratoire Agit-Art as a case study to reflect on the current presence of cultural platforms and artist collectives in Africa. Such collectives use performance, visual art, music and art stage within public space in attempts to engage with socio-political concerns affecting their immediate environment. Clémentine Deliss presents documentation of over ten years of working as curator with Laboratoire Agit-art and El Hadji Sy. Elizabeth Harney and Souleymane Bachir Diagne explore Senegalese modernism and Negritude as a philosophical term and as a national cultural policy and the symposium will also provide an introduction to the Kinshasa based performing arts platform KVS and experimental digital music channel Pan-African Space Station.

      This symposium is curated by Elvira Dyangani Ose, Curator International Art, Tate Modern, Supported by Guaranty Trust Bank, and Catherine Wood, Curator Contemporary Art and Performance, Tate Modern, in collaboration with Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

      It is commissioned and produced as part of Corpus, new collaborative network for commissioning performance-related work co-founded by If I Can’t Dance, Amsterdam, Playground (STUK & M), Leuven and Tate Modern, London (as part of BMW Tate Live). With the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union.
      If I Can't Dance,
      I Don't Want to Be Part of
      Your Revolution