“Il était une fois le Danemark: Le Danemark a-t-il une histoire”..?
With this question, Georges Adéagbo points exactly at what is at stake in his installation for An Age of Our Own Making. In the local history museum in Holbaek, Adéagbo found a few objects and narratives to which he could relate personally, e.g. the skeleton of a dog, which reminded him of his family dog in his native Benin, but also things that narrated, though not very directly, the colonial history of Denmark.
With this information and impressions, Adéagbo went back to Benin, where he lives, and asked local craftsmen to paint and carve certain figures. Captain Jens Jacob Eschels 1757 – 1842 and Heinrich Schimmelmann 1724 – 1782, both historical figures that played an important role in Danish colonialisation of the West Indies and in trade between the Caribbean and Europe, are just two of the many people that feature in Adéagbo's installation. The installation also includes books and other manuscripts, as well as proverbs, poems and flags. Does Denmark have a history? A colonial history? Georges Adéagbo’s installation, though full of historical truths, is more a complexification of what history can be.
Georges Adéagbo's work is based on a research principle reminiscent of archaeological research practices. By juxtaposing found objects like books, vinyl records or other objects from second-hand bookshops or flee markets together with self written essays, letters, poems or anecdotes and commissioned paintings or sculptures done by craftsmen, Adéagbo creates site specific installations. By so doing, Adéagbo excavates into the histories, cultures, sciences and philosophies of the spaces, cities or nations he is asked to exhibit in.
Adéagbo’s artistic practice thematises the varying epistemology of objects in relation to the cultural background and context of the objects and the viewer. Born in 1942 in Cotonou (Benin), Adéagbo studied law in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and Rouen (France). His work has been exhibited extensively in museums and biennials across the world e.g. Venice Biennale, Documenta 11, Museum Ludwig in Cologne, São Paolo Biennial, Johannesburg Biennial, MoMA PS1 in New York, the Serpentine Gallery in London, and Palais de Tokyo in Paris. His works are found in major collections like Philadelphia Museum of Art, Toyota City Museum and KIASMA Helsinki.
Georges Adéagbo’s exhibitions are supported and co-curated by Stephan Köhler (Cultural Forum South-North Hamburg-Cotonou).