WHEN THE SILENT SONG RISES is a group exhibition presenting works by Beverly D. Renekouzou, Exocé Kasongo, Melody Howse, Thomias Radin, Selassie and Elihu Ashong presented at ARTCO Gallery Berlin. Building up on their shared history in music and dance, the collaborating artists release their energy in both individual artworks and a collaborative performance that push the limits of human awakening. An interdisciplinary demonstration of ‚contemporary ancestry‘ and an opportunity to witness the unfolding of a transformative experience.
Sacrifices and Integration
The show builds up a on a curatorial concept by Beverly Renekouzou and her recent work series ‚Honorer le sacrifice‘, that the Berlin based painter started in 2022. The large scale paintings pay tribute to the generations of people living on – and leaving the – African continent to contribute to the growth of Europe’s economic prosperity through hard labour, frustrating integration experiences and other sacrifices. ‘They deserve more visibility and consideration than any other European citizens‘, the artists adds.
A personal story of loss and find as the artist, born in France and living in Central African Republic from 2011-2013 had to flee the country in April 2013 – one month after the civil war has started. Depicting this particular scene of arrival to France in one of her works, we see the young artist aged fifteen holding the hand of her little baby brother. Her step-mother is wearing the European star banner on her head.
The nimbus – spray painted on the actual oil painting – could be a hint towards a golden future ‚against the blue sky of the Western world’ (as mentioned by the Council of Europe in 1955), but it might also be read as the crown of thorns or an iconographic representation of the Virgin of the Apocalypse in that political context.
The Black Lives Matter Movement
Revisiting these individual experiences through her expressive style of painting, Renekouzou also opens a gate to ancestral knowledge and spiritual awakenings that have been buried for too long: ‚With these paintings, I want to delve into the resonance of old speeches from deceased loves and the powerful truth that lies within‘, she explains.
In a video work by Melody Howse, visitors of the exhibition can witness Renekouzou and fellow artist Exocé Kasongo in a spontaneous dance performance on the streets of Berlin. Made with footage from the 2021 Berlin Black Lives Matter demonstration, the video fuses a soundscape crafted from demo sounds and sounds from across the African diaspora. This sonic layer is overlaid a moment of ‘refusal’ and ‘joy’ at the demo found in the movements of the dancers. The film intones Arthur Jafa’s famous Black Visual Intonation through its sonic arrhythmia which emphasizes the limitless capacities of Black life and refuses the conditions of anti-Blackness.
A creative Process and healing
Thomias Radin’s musical influences and his background as a dancer become visible in his elusive brush stroke and performative gesture, which he understands as one holistic creative process:
His works resemble rhyzometric constructs of personal experiences, Caribbean mythologies, and political entanglements that connect his birthplace Guadeloupe (1993) with his later adopted home France. Since 2019, he is based in Berlin, where he was introduced to the art scene with a solo show at SAVVY Contemporary. (Exhibitions at KINDL – Center for Contemporary Art and Galerie Wedding will follow later this year).
Dances across the canvas
Radin’s recent paintings become more colorful and complex. His figures, drawn in dynamic poses, still dance across the canvas, but seem to disappear beneath vast areas of color as if they were slipping away into another time or sphere. An intimate and critical inner monologue around intuitive knowledge on one side and societal expectations from his diverse cultural relationships with the world on the other side.
The presentation of his works is complemented by three custom-built octagonal drums made of oak wood. Once again, an invitation to escape this world and move into another state of consciousness through rhythm and ecstasy.
German-Ghanaian artist Selassie works with wide, physical gestures in which he trusts his intuition. At its best, the genuine application of oil paint is awakening the ghosts of his past. Growing up in Ghana as part of a family from the Ewe people, the representative power of symbols, icons and stickmen play a major role in his work. In harmony with nature, they are meant to create the missing link to a universal wisdom that seems to have been lost in our cultural circles.
Tradition and modern Context
Within that spiritual set-up, Selassie identifies visual art (just like music) as an agent of culture who mediate individual and collective memory liberated from aesthetic criteria. The large-format tableau ‚Grandma’s fabric‘ is part of this mediation, which colorfully transfers into the present. The pattern refers to the Kente fabrics, which are known beyond the borders of West Africa – and place local textile production in the context of global supply chains. At the same time, the composition of acrylic paint and wood are a personal tribute to his grandma’s rough skin, as Selassie remembers from being a small boy.
Following his path back to nature, Selassie increasingly works with organic materials and will present a site-specific sculpture made of moss and volcanic rock as part of the exhibition. This particular installation will be created in collaboration with Elihu Ashong. Also originally from Ghana, Elihu has a background in photography and floral set-design. He moved to Berlin in 2020 and applied this particular background in his contribution to the group show ‚Concrete Limbo‘ at Haus der Statistik. After working as a curatorial assistant at MaHalla Berlin for two years, he is now preparing to launch his own curatorial platform focusing on holistic art production between the continents.
Mixed Media and Afro-Futurism
Born in France in 1995, Exosé Kasongo also works across disciplines – whether as a dancer in musical performances on stage, in video productions, or as a visual artist. Since 2019, Kasongo lives in Berlin and is currently involved in a series of events at Neuköllner art hub Oyoun, among various other international productions. In his mixed-media collages, he chooses a loud, expressive style to bring photography, modern accessories and natural elements onto paper. In that media, he uses historical photographs remixed with street culture references in order to re-write history on a demand for cultural, artistic, and spiritual restitution.
The attribution of an Afrofuturist aesthetic seems to be accurate as Kasongo’s work suggests a Pan-African vision for an art positioning, that despite its progressive language is accompanied by a return to the primordial confidence and values of his ancestors on the continent. „In time, everything will make sense,“ he explains, referring to his artistic direction, which tells a lot about his Congolese roots and the struggle of a Black man in a white society.