This comprehensive monograph contains a selection of emblematic works by Sengalese-born artist Issa Samb, aka Joe Ouakam. The publication follows Samb’s first solo exhibition in Europe, curated by Koyo Kouoh, entitled “WORD! WORD? WORD! Issa Samb and the Undecipherable Form,” at the Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA). The exhibition is organized in collaboration with Raw Material Company in Dakar, where it will travel to in late 2013. The exhibition focuses on Samb’s multifaceted practice, bringing together work from the past twenty-five years, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, performances, assemblages, and installations, as well as essays, plays, notes, and poems. The publication contains essays by independent curator and novelist Simon Njami and art historian Sylvette Maurin, and a conversation between the artist and Koyo Kouoh.
In 1974 Samb founded, together with a group of artists, writers, filmmakers, performance artists, and musicians, the Dakar-based Laboratoire Agit’Art. The aim of the group was to transform the nature of artistic practice from a formalist, object-bound way of working to practices that were based on experimentation and agitation, on process rather than product, ephemerality rather than permanence, and political and social ideas over aesthetic ones. Focusing on communication between the artist and audience over physical objects, the actions of Laboratoire Agit’Art engaged with the immediate sociopolitical situation.
From the establishment of Laboratoire Agit’Art to the present, Samb has produced an extensive body of work from which emerges a fluid exchange between objects, the artist, and audience. His work, although nontraditional and unconventional, combines African artistic traditions—where importance is placed on the spoken word and performative actions—with direct political action.