by Hervé Youmbi
24 June 2010
point blank gallery
The Drill Hall
Plein + Twist Street
Entrance on Plein, safe parking on the square
Totems, a multimedia installation by Cameroonian artist Hervé Youmbi, considers the impact of late capitalism on the contemporary African art world. In the 1990s, artists from Africa joined the global rush to enter the North’s grand “temples of art” – the cluster of celebrated museums, galleries, auction houses, festival and fairs in and around which the high stakes, big bucks power game of art plays out. The hype that accompanies this headlong rush has turned these spaces into full-out objects of lust for artists from the so-called “developing world”, many of whom will never be invited to show their work there. Totems casts a critical gaze on this state of affairs, exposing clichés intrinsic to the global art market: clichés that brand industrialised nations as paradises in the imaginaries of artists whose own countries offer them little in the way of recognition or support and, Youmbi says, often relegate their work to second-rate status.
“Totems” is a two-pronged critique. It interrogates the aesthetic and monetary values and the criteria for recognition imposed by the art world’s “first world” hubs. At the same time, it queries the choices made by artists hailing from “developing” countries, challenging them to think differently about the very nature of validation. Now as at the height of the colonial period, power – economic, political, social, cultural – remains resolutely in the hands of the Northern “centre”. Under the circumstances, Youmbi argues, looking to the North from the South is a fraught project: the mix of longing and anger that it causes for so many is unproductive. This is true for artists as for others. From artists, however, it should call forth a particular type of response, he says. New types of criteria and new kinds of spaces are needed: new ways and new reasons to decide why something is (or isn’t) valid. These ways and reasons need to emerge outside the self-appointed centre, at the hands of creators willing to develop novel ways of thinking about art – wherever it comes from.
Hervé Youmbi (b. 1973) lives and works in Douala, Cameroon. He is a founding member of Cercle Kapsiki, a 5-man arts collective established in 1998. The K factory, the collective’s home, based in the New Bell district of Douala, is a flexible, experimental space open to a wide range of collaborations, dedicated to effecting radical change in a country whose government shows little interest in contemporary arts education or practice.
Join us for a one day big international art show with the Bag Factory artists in residence
Ruben Abels (Netherlands), Iris Vetter (Netherlands) and Pamela Phatsimu Sunstrum (USA/Botswana)
opening 30 June
Closes: 01 July 2010