This article explores two contemporary works (Kader Attia’s Open Your Eyes  and Neïl Beloufa’s Kempinski ), alongside Alain Resnais’s and Chris Marker’s 1953 classic short film Les statues meurent aussi (The Statues Also Die). The pieces belong to different contexts and periods. Resnais’s and Marker’s film coincided with the emergence of anticolonial culture and consciousness, which hinged on the African self-narrative and activist movements connected to the Parisian publishing house Présence Africaine. Attia’s work situates us in an indefinite period between World War I and the present and investigates the power relations between Western and non-Western worlds. Beloufa’s Kempinski overturns the idea of a globalized, materialistic future for everybody by filming dystopic yet realistic narratives. In this essay, the author examines how these three works are linked by a common investigation of ontological distances between Western and sub-Saharan societies and ways of exploring and conceptualizing these differences. Aesthetics and identity, heritage and museum-based practices, reappropriation and categorization are devices used to critically approach these pieces, which open a space for theorization and discussion on the concept of ontological distance. French anthropologist Philippe Descola’s ideas on existing differences in ontological conceptualizations of the world share a wide view of the world and its cosmologies akin to the alternative ways of thinking about the world that Attia, Marker and Renais, and Beloufa propose and provide a framework from which to reflect on what Attia, Marker and Resnais, and Beloufa grapple with in their works.
Research Article|May 01 2019
Ontological Distances: Contemporary Art, African Masks, and Western Museums
Nka (2019) 2019 (44): 132-142.
Ekaterina Golovko; Ontological Distances: Contemporary Art, African Masks, and Western Museums. Nka 1 May 2019; 2019 (44): 132–142. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10757163-7547514
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