Press Releases : 2013/10

OCA's Verksted #15: `WORD! WORD? WORD! Issa Samb and the Undecipherable Form'

Published 2013/10/28


WORD! WORD? WORD! Issa Samb and the Undecipherable Form

An anthology published by

Office for Contemporary Art Norway and
Sternberg Press, in cooperation with Raw Material Company

Edited by Koyo Kouoh

The Office for Contemporary Art Norway announces the publication of the anthology WORD! WORD? WORD! Issa Samb and the Undecipherable Form in October 2013. The publication is a comprehensive monograph on the work of seminal Senegalese artist Issa Samb, aka Joe Ouakam.

The book collects, for the first time within a single publication, emblematic works made by the artist over the past twenty-five years. These include paintings, drawings, sculptures, assemblages and installations as well as essays, plays, sketches, notes and poems. The publication contains critical essays by independent curator and novelist Simon Njami and art historian Sylvette Maurin, as well as a conversation between the artist and the publication’s editor Koyo Kouoh, to cover a span of five decades of artistic practice and engagement.

According to Koyo Kouoh, WORD! WORD? WORD! Issa Samb and the Undecipherable Form ‘is of the utmost importance in the history of contemporary art in Africa, being the first monograph dedicated to Samb’s individual work. His contribution to the Laboratoire Agit’Art and his independent artistic practice, removed from national and nationalist conventions, remains nevertheless largely underestimated’. ‘Samb’s radical aesthetics and multifaceted approach including assemblage, installation, sculpture, performance, poetry, art criticism, painting and theatre makes for a galactic body of work combining forms of expression of the African artistic traditions with direct political action’.

The anthology WORD! WORD? WORD! Issa Samb and the Undecipherable Form also aims to bring to light Issa Samb’s work as an author and to make available to an English-language context a collection of his writings, which constitute a central part of his overall production. Poto-Poto Blues, a collection of poems and The Locusts, a play, among many other texts, are translated into English for the first time, appearing alongside a selection of previously unpublished manuscripts.

WORD! WORD? WORD! Issa Samb and the Undecipherable Form is a publication of the ongoing Office for Con­temporary Art Norway’s Verksted series.

The anthology follows 'WORD! WORD? WORD! Issa Samb and the Undecipherable Form’, the first solo exhibition in Europe by Issa Samb, organised and presented at OCA from 4 May to 23 June 2013 and on view at Raw Material Company in Dakar from 29 October 2013 to 4 January 2014.

The book and exhibition are made possible by O3-funds as designated to OCA by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Issa Samb was born in 1945 in Senegal and lives in Dakar. In 1974 he founded, together with a group of artists, writers, film-makers, performance artists and musicians, the Laboratoire Agit’Art, whose aim was to transform the nature of artistic practice from a formalist, object-bound sensibility to practices based on experimentation and agitation, process rather than product, ephemerality rather than permanence. With a focus on the contingent character of actions, the Laboratoire was informed by a critique of institutional power. Samb also co-founded the Gallery TENQ – Village des Arts in Dakar. He is the author of numerous plays, poems and essays. A retrospective of his work was held at the National Art Gallery, Dakar in 2010. His work has been included in exhibitions such as dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, Germany (2012), the Biennale de l’Art Africain Contemporain, Dak’Art, Dakar (2008) and ‘Seven Stories of Modern Art in Africa’, Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (1995).

Koyo Kouoh is an exhibition maker and cultural producer working within the realms of building art institutions and artistic mediation. She is the founder and artistic director of Raw Material Company, a center for art, knowledge and society in Dakar, Senegal. Besides a sustained theoretical and exhibition programme at Raw Material Company, she maintains a dynamic international curatorial activity. Her discoursive programmes, exhibitions and publications have included contemporary artists, thinkers, photographers, writers, activists, non-artists, designers, collectors, politicians, architects, curators and chefs. Kouoh has served as curatorial advisor for dOCUMENTA (13) (Kassel, 2012) and documenta 12 (Kassel, 2007). Her most recent projects include Condition Report on Building Art Institutions in Africa (Hatje Cantz, 2013), 'Hollandaise: A journey into an iconic fabric’, Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam and Raw Material Company (2013), ‘Chronicle of a Revolt: Photographs of a Season of Protest’, Raw Material Company and Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin, 2012).

The book WORD! WORD? WORD! Issa Samb and the Undecipherable Form is supported by O3–funds as underwritten by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for enhancing collaboration in the contemporary art field with art professionals in countries designated by the MFA. The purpose of the O3–funds as allocated to OCA is to contribute to the development of the work of artists, independent cultural producers and organisations located in designated countries. This includes but is not limited to 'professional research visits by cultural producers, artists, and curators', 'short-term residencies for cultural producers and artists', 'seminars, conferences, art projects, workshops that focus on the further development of professional exchange and networking between and among countries', and 'project development on an international scale'.