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Meschac Gaba, Biografie

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*Born 1961 in Benin. Lives and works in Amsterdam

Born in Benin (Cotonou 1961), and a resident since 1995 of Amsterdam, where he keeps his studio, Meschac Gaba internationally come to the forefront after his participation at Documenta 11 and his selection by such institutions as the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the Witte de With in Rotterdam, S.M.A.K. in Gent, the Stedelijk in Amsterdam, Taipei′s Fine Arts Museum, and Vancouver′s Art Gallery, the Bildmuseet in Umea.
Bound up in the critical redefinition of the new relationships between economic power, migratory fluxes, and local cultures, Meschac Gaba has won critical acclaim and a larger interest among a wider public because of one, huge and ambitious work: a challenging project, complex and fragmented, diluted in time and gradually fulfilling itself through different venues and exhibits.
Marcel Broodthaers famously completed in 1975 his Muse′e d′Art Moderne; similarly, Amsterdam′s Rijksakademie was chosen in 1997 for the first opening of Meschac Gaba′s Museum of Contemporary African Art, in which the artist acted as ′fictional′ curator and rising celebrity, presenting his first section, (Salle Esquisse, or Draft Room). New sections would follow in numerous other museums and galleries: Museum Architecture, Game Room, Wedding Room, Museum Shop, Museum Restaurant, Summer Collection, Music Room, Museum Library, Humanistic Space.
This evolutionary and gradual museum would have forced the artist, in the next six years, to constantly change his own role and function, refashioning himself as enterpreneur, collector, master of ceremonies, cook, fashion designer, librarian and musician playing on a nomadic stage, acting in a virtual and yet real environment, varying locations and therefore his own identity; or, at times, keeping a section unchanged, and yet altering it, never actually showing the same work. A museum without walls, intermittent and flexible, able to migrate from one space to another: at the same time, a utopian model and a critical project.
But what Meschac Gaba exhibits in every section of the device of the museum is nothing other than his own autobiography, shown as an interior of a contemporary diorama, with its living contexts, spaces of public gathering and places of relational space. It′s an extension consistent with the model of the ′natural world′ collected in ethographic museums or in the cabinet de curiosite′ of the past, but, at the same time, a radical criticism of the power of western culture. The existence that Gaba presents mines every cliche′ of the exotic, of presumed and alternative primitivism - it doesn′t claim any myth of belonging - rather it explores a series of practices of adaptation, tactics of fragmented appropriation, ordinariness and mimetics that can′t have any background except that of the hegemony of the ′Other′′, of the West. What it gives form to is, in essence, an intermediary space, an incidental terrain on which, and only on which, it is possible to construct an alternative social theory on the global-political order.

www.interreview.org/04/gaba.html→
(c) linda herzog, 'birmingham istanbul zürich', 2005
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