As video and film art emerges as an increasingly relevant aspect of contemporary African art, two video rooms — one is curated by the cultural consultant and independent exhibition curator Marie-Ann Yemsi —, pay particular attention to animated and experimental films, which invite their guests to stay and rest for a while. Creating a seemingly safe atmosphere within the huge hall of the Grand Palais, 11 young African artists are taking the visitors on an unknown trip through Landscapes of the Body, depicting different aspects and movements of human bodies, which are the fundamental subject of the artists’ questioning and means of expressing their art. The short films confront the public with social and political issues, focusing on perceptions of race and culture. These critical terms are even distinctively staged by the space itself as entering the black boxes floods the dark space with white rays of light for a fleeting moment and creates an additional subtle interaction.
With To Move Mountains (2016) Mohau Modisakeng sets a strong focus on the problematic and violent topic of apartheid. His scenes evoke a subliminal but still very powerful impression of the awkward cultural relationship our society is still facing today. The video is literally pulling the audience into the intense world of Modisakeng’s video art until one becomes part of the fading and thrilling effects the artist is playing with. Most striking is the thought-provoking game of black and white, which is undeniably related to race and skin colour. This underlying criticism is further provoked by Moussa Sarr in his caustic 1 minute video J’accuse (2012). Activating unpleasant stereotypes of racial, sexual and social prejudices, this sudden interruption of till then unhasty scenes fills the black box with a strange and uncomfortable feeling of guilt. But one escapes this exertion immediately in the following work by Julien Creuzet Head to head, hidden head, Light (2017), discovering amazing African views accompanied by poetical and vocal acts. Another impressive work is realised by Katia Kameli. Untitled (2011), as the title already indicates is as well the silent and slogan-less protest march it is dedicated to. On the one hand, it concerns concrete social issues of women in Arab countries but leaves the beholder in uncertainty at the same time.
The second video space is a tribute to Leila Alaoui, a most promising French-Moroccan commercial photographer and video artist of her generation. She was killed in a terrorist attack in Burkina Faso last year. In honor of her work, Galleria Continua and Wild Project Gallery are displaying the three-screen video Crossings (2013), an experience of sub-Saharan migrants on a perilous trip trying to escape their world.
Expressing their creativity and demands with various different types of modern video technology the artists take the beholder on a breathtaking experience of African culture which enchants one’s imagination but simultaneously confront them with a nowadays increasing relevance of racial stereotypes as our society is facing changing and insecure times. Times which are now more than ever likely to be of significant African influence now and hereafter.