Christian Nyampeta, Sometimes It Was Beautiful, 2018. Color 2K video, with sounds, 37 min. Commissioned by Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm.
Artist Christian Nyampeta conceives and organizes convenings, screenings, performances, pedagogical experiments, and publications as hosting structures for collective feeling, cooperative thinking, and mutual action. At the Guggenheim, Nyampeta transforms the iconic rotunda into a “night school,” drawing on Senegalese writer and film director Ousmane Sembène’s notion of cinema as cours du soir. Sembène considered such “evening classes” as providing a learning environment for the working class, informed by the traditions of orality, sensuality, and conviviality within social struggles and hopes in his region and beyond.
At the center of the museums’ rotunda, Nyampeta presents the US premiere of his 2018 video Sometimes It Was Beautiful, in which a group of friends convene to watch and critique films made by Swedish cinematographer Sven Nykvist in the Congo between 1948 and 1952. The group discussion highlights enduring tensions surrounding social conversion, cultural property, and who has the right to representation.
Mirroring the video’s discursive structure, furniture and graphic interventions on the museum’s ramps play host to a program of interludes animated by the artist’s guests and collaborators. Through music, poetry, readings, screenings, and conversations, Nyampeta’s project considers new models for globalism based in reparation and the possibility of a common world in an age dominated by difference. Drawing from the fundamental precariousness shared across the immense variety and geographic expanses of the African diasporic experience, the program will lend an ear to proposals for reimagining the earth as a whole and shelter for all who inhabit it, human and otherwise.
This presentation is organized by Xiaoyu Weng, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Associate Curator.