ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art, 09|17|2011 – 02|05|2012
Meschac Gaba
* 1961 in Cotonou (BJ), lives and works in Rotterdam (NL) and Cotonou

Musée de l’Art de la Vie Active
, 2010/2011

Meschac Gaba became known above all for his Museum of Contemporary African Art (1996–2002). In this work, arranged in several stages, the artist examined the art world’s mechanisms of exclusion and inclusion with respect to African art.
In Musée de l’Art et de la Vie Active, recently produced for the exhibition The Global Contemporary, the artist builds on his previous Tresses series. For performing the work he fashioned thirty wigs of synthetic hair referring to figures of global history by means of representing universally intelligible symbols, among others, Martin Luther King, Kwame Nkrumah, Jeanne d’Arc, Fela Kuti, Pierre and Marie Curie, and King Guézo of Dahomey. By placing Western icons alongside important figures of African history, Gaba calls attention to the need for a truly global history.
At the same time, the artist investigates the root causes of the lack of an African museum tradition (as analog to the museum tradition established and defined in the West). By declaring Cotonou, one of Benin’s cities, a museum, and by traversing it with his idiosyncratic parades, he draws attention towards the urban space and its inhabitants’ strategies of survival and improvisation. In so doing, he enquires into alternative models, and into the tasks and local interpretations of the museum: “The micro-macro economy represents the survival of the inhabitants of this city day after day. They need to create to be able to survive. In the city of Cotonou, you can see installations everywhere – it is like an open-air museum.” (AM)

Continuative part of the work is a second, ca. 2-hour performance across the city of Karlsruhe. September 17, 2011, 11 a.m., starting point: in front of ZKM main entrance.


Musée de l’Art de la Vie Active
, 2010/2011
Performance and mixed-media installation
30 wigs (braided artificial hair and wire supports), 2 videos (performances in Cotonou and Karlsruhe)