Ten artists, two curators and one art critic from Kinshasa, Lubumbashi and the Congolese diaspora were supposed to have travelled to Erlangen in June 2020 to take part in the exhibition “Popular Images” at the International Comic Salon Erlangen. Since the Comic-Salon and all travels were cancelled due to the Corona pandemic, the exhibition has been postponed to the next International Comic-Salon in 2022. The project has been redeveloped to serve as a digital platform for experimental artistic and cultural exchange until then.
The conceptual approach of the project attaches great importance to highlighting and presenting the individual artistic position and working methods of the invited artists. Their geographic origin and cultural influences are often reflected in the artistic productions in technical, aesthetic and narrative terms. This was decisive for the selection and resulting collectivisation of the invited artists. In a field of tension between the individual and the collective, this project will attempt, by means of individual multimedia contributions, to develop innovative and relatable perspectives, approaches and narratives for the most international audience possible.
This project attempts to promote a multi-layered and open discourse that combines art theoretical attributes such as artistic intention, material, pictorial means and narratives as well as many other aspects of artistic creation. Therefore, the focus is on individual diversity, different points of view and the artistic aspect of comics in general. The aim is to establish a connection between contemporary art and contemporary comics and to highlight the interfaces between art and comics – with the aim of emphasising artistic aspects of the works presented.
Consequently, not only classical, graphic forms of comics will be shown, but especially their multimedia variations as implemented in painting, animation and caricature. This is intended to contribute not least to the discourse on “High Art” and “Low Art”, which aims to reflect the differences in value attributions in the art system as well as the interpretive power of various social systems, which can ultimately lead to a reflection on the historical and contemporary constructions of power, domination and their hierarchies.
It is reasonable to present these media accompanied with a critical artistic position that deals with postcolonial structures in contemporary art and cultural reception. Until now, Congolese art in general, especially considering the popularity of painting and comics in Europe, has often only been received from a sociological and ethnological point of view: “African visual art is often underestimated and seen as an artifact without artistic value because it cannot be classified in the classification systems of Western art.” (Jean Kamba, art critic)
According to this perspective, African artistic work is perceived as a representative medium to demonstrate a country, a society, a social system – and is less questioned as an artistic medium on levels of analysis of culture-specific techniques, processes and meaning, as for example, art from Germany is interpreted by the sciences in Germany. This is due, not least to the fact that societies in Europe are imbued with the conviction that they are the origin of civilizational development and humanistic thinking, and consequently it is widely assumed that they have decisive sovereignty of interpretation over all events in the world. This project aims to constructively confront such ideologies, both with scientific and artistic arguments.
The project title “Popular Images” refers to the selected artists’ orientation towards an image production that aims to make social discourses accessible to a broad public and is accordingly popular in orientation. The term and concept of the popular refers here to a specific type of image production: this “popular” working method is characterized by special collaborative processes, which as an artistic strategy aims at a direct exchange between audience and artist and at the same time at working together on an artistic work. Thus, for example, pictures painted in Kinshasa, printed comics, or large-scale wall graffiti in urban spaces are presented by the artists in order to be discussed and commented on directly by a random audience. The artists react to these comments in their next artistic production, which in turn is further developed in direct exchange between the audience and the artists.
In the context of this project, the comic strip is therefore a discursive medium, which in its popularity arises from the needs of the population itself, restaging knowledge and ways of thinking, and in whose reflection and further development everyone participates. The image content plays with contemporary realities, forces and reflects society, and questions behavioral patterns, traditional role distributions and political actions. The pictures and comics are communication media that initiate social processes and at the same time collect stories and document historical events. This strategy of collective knowledge production is to be applied in this project, to contribute to a decolonised collaboration which, contrary to the evaluation scheme of European art historiography, is to enable differentiated perspectives on art, artwork and artists* in the sense of an epistemological pluralization. In this global age and according to scientific findings, the logic of unambiguous truth dispositives and identity constructions are difficult to maintain. Thus, all participating artists are integrated into local contexts, which in turn are influenced by global contexts, all of which are merged into one another in the production of art.
Authors / Curators: Mukenge/Schellhammer
Editor: Stefan Becker
Adviser: Marian Kaiser, Jean Kamba