Dak’Art 2008 took place in Senegal from May 9 to June 9. The Biennale examined the theme of ‘Mirror’ and aimed to explore the multifaceted realities and the crucial issues facing the continent and those living in it on one hand, and its Diaspora on the other.

It included 35 artists from 17 African countries and the Diaspora. In addition 13 other creatives from 11 African countries were presented under the heading of Design.

Many of the reviews following the Biennale commented on its increasing institutionalization:

“The state gives high priority to art. No longer to the degree it did under the first President of freshly decolonized Senegal, but still demonstratively. In his day, Leopold Sédar Senghor, the Paris-educated intellectual, poet, and philosopher of “negritude”, had devoted 25 percent of the government budget to promoting culture. It is no longer possible to speak of such economic priority, but current President Abdoulaye Wade did not pass up the opportunity to personally open what is now the 8th Dak’Art biennial.”

This opens the possibility of holding up a different kind of mirror: reflecting on DakArt in relation to Laboratoire Agit-Art, the radical Dakar-based art collective established in the 1970s who directed their multi-media actions against the formalism of the Ecolé de Dakar.

The Chronicle re-evokes the Laboratoire’s aesthetic of the social to critique the “socialization of the aesthetic” at Dak’Art.

More on Laboratoire Agit-Art:

An interdisciplinary group of artists, writers, filmmakers, performance artists, and musicians, the Laboratoire’s 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, political and social ideas rather than aesthetic.

Audience participation was of paramount importance to the group’s work, which privileged communicative acts over the embodied object. Neither utopian nor self-referential, Laboratoire grounded its actions in the immediate sociopolitical situation.

Also see

Dak’Art 8 website

Where, What, Who, When: A Few Notes on “African“ Conceptualism
Okwui Enwezor

In Senghor’s shadow: art, politics, and the avant-garde in Senegal, 1960-1995
By Elizabeth Harney


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