CHAPTER 2. Mapping the Dak’Art Biennale in Dakar
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57 As the longest running forum in Africa dedicated to exhibiting the work of contemporary artists from the continent and its Diaspora, the Dak’Art Biennale is vitaltoDakar’sartscene,itscity,andanincreasinglypopulatedgloballandscape of biennales.1 In this chapter, I map the Biennale spatially to reveal its embedment in Dakar; and I map it historically and discursively to illustrate its engagement with the processes of art world globalization. The Dak’Art Biennale has grown out of Dakar’s art world culture and the exhibition practices explicated in chapter 1; at the same time, it is very much a product of the city’s histories, possibilities , and connections. The reverse is also true: Dak’Art shapes Dakar’s art world city in both symbolic and actual terms. Not only does the event capitalize on and intensify the city’s internationalization, it also contributes to art world globalization by projecting the contemporary arts of Africa into global circuits of knowledge production.2 In this chapter’s analysis I address three interwoven themes. The first is Dak’Art’s structure and topography, where I focus especially on the institutional , artistic, and social spaces associated with the two categories of exhibitions comprising the Biennale, termed the “in sites” and the “off sites.” My contention is that the off sites are crucial to making Dak’Art a collectively mobilized urban project. The second line of analysis deals with Dak’Art as a contact zone chapter 2 Art World City 58 in which the local, international, continental, and global are articulated and visualized as much as they are negotiated.3 As a contact zone, the Biennale contributes to the processes of Dakar’s art worlding. It brings art world figures and their propositions, assumptions, and expectations into conversation with each other while also facilitating connections between Dakar and other art world platforms. The chapter’s final theme is Dak’Art’s entanglement in a complex landscape of knowledge-producing frameworks about contemporary art from Africa. I consider how these various frameworks—whether local, Pan-African, international, or global—encounter and challenge each other in the Biennale’s discursive space. Dak’Art’s In and Off Sites The Dak’Art Biennale is enmeshed in Dakar topographically, socially, and discursively . For one month every two years, artistic activities associated with the Biennale pervade Dakar and make the event markedly visible in neighborhoods across the city. Brightly colored flags and banners signal the exhibitions, and visually appealing billboards advertise the event, impressing the Biennale’s presence on residents and visitors alike. The Dak’Art program map, which visitors receive upon registration, is also a telling visual document. Not only does this map picture the extent to which Dak’Art stakes a claim to Dakar’s topography, it also represents the Biennale as a collective urban project. The sites constellating the map indicate that artistic initiatives emerge from the city’s social and visual spaces. As an image of this collective urban project, the map identifies the Biennale’s in and off sites. These categories are distinguished by who funds and organizes them as well as by their relationship to the city’s institutional and social spaces. The in-site exhibitions are organized by individuals invited by Senegal’s Ministry of Culture, under whose administration Dak’Art operates.4 They are held in buildings associated with the Senegalese government, many of which are located in downtown Dakar or adjacent neighborhoods. These include the Ancien Palais de Justice, the Centre International du Commerce Extérieur du Sénégal Figure 2.1. Map of downtown Dakar indicating Dak’Art’s in and off sites, 2014. Map by Christian Faur based on information provided by Dak’Art, Ministry of Culture, Dakar, Senegal. Mapping the Dak'Art Biennale in Dakar 59 (CICES), the Galerie Nationale d’Art, the Maison des Anciens Combattants, the Maison de la Culture Douta Seck, the Musée Théodore Monod, and the Village de la Biennale . The putative cornerstone of the in-site exhibitions and the Biennale more broadly is the juried Exposition Internationale (International Exhibition). Emblematic of Dak’Art’s raison d’être, the International Exhibition has provided the main platform for presenting contemporary art by African producers since the event’s genesis.5 Although the in site-program has expanded to incorporate other exhibitions, including the Salon du Design (Design Exhibition)andexpositionsindividuelles(soloexhibitions), and a series of conferences termed Rencontres et Échanges , the International Exhibition benefits consistently from the lion’s share of official financial and human resources...



Subject Headings

  • Dak'art (Exhibition).
  • Art, Modern -- 21st century.
  • Art, Modern -- 20th century.
  • Art, Senegalese -- 21st century.
  • Art, Senegalese -- 20th century.
  • Artists -- Senegal -- Dakar.
  • Art -- Senegal -- Dakar -- Exhibitions.
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