Saturday, November 25, 2006
Bili Bidjocka | Cameroon/France
b.1962 - Present
Photo: Bili Bidjocka, Pascale Marthine Tayou and Pierre Granoux are ready to put an imaginery graffity at the New Berlin Wall
BILI BIDJOCKA was born in Douala, Cameroon in 1962, and has lived in Paris since the age of 12. He is a painter and installation artist who has held several one-person shows in Europe and America. He has contributed to several group shows, including Otros Pais, which traveled through Europe in 1995. He is widely traveled and exhibited, making his work on the road, turning the debris of urban living and its excesses into art. He creates metaphors for loss, absence, ravishment, and renewal through his installation pieces. The work deals with issues of nationality, indeterminacy, and identity. He will be exhibiting in the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City with Los Carpinteros in the Summer of 1998. Additional information on the artist can be found on the World Wide Web .
Explicit Lyrics, one of two Bidjocka installations in Cross/ing, was created during a stay in New York in 1995. Objects and ideas were collected from friends and on the streets to make a tribute to the hypocritical veneer over our indebtedness to the personal services industry, while on the other hand, investigating the underscoring insidiousness of the language of the industry. [Reference 7] The work consists of twelve boxes the meaning of which has been greatly speculated, each individually lit by a small bulb at the bottom, and hung on the wall in a row below them, on the floor, are twelve brown bags each containing a candle. Each box contains words and phrases of a sexual nature. Since Bidjocka knew very little English when he first came to New York, the work suggests that when first coming to a foreign country, the traveler will hear and use slang, obscene phrases without knowing their true meaning and proper usage. In this situation, the words and phrases are seemingly innocent yet intriguing, rhythmical and perhaps even lyrical as demonstrated by the repetition of the word `fuck` in one of the boxes. For the foreigner, there is a fascination and seduction in the meanings and their interplay. He was able to locate lyricism in a language which, devoid of meaning and social associations as it was for him, became text as curio. And even as meaning was returned to it through translation, the inevitably cynical nature of the text and its source industry froze it in the frame of the exotic. It became fetish. Such keen, almost tongue-in-cheek fascination with text and the allures and failures of language comes as no surprise to us when we position it within the tradition of French semiotic preoccupation the appeal of language for a man coming from a culture that savors language and the pleasures of the text. Nor would it fail to make sense when we consider Bidjocka`s other heritage, in Africa, where language holds the same pleasurable appeal as it does in France.  He truly crosses over cultures.
Explicit Lyrics generated as many alternative interpretations as it had viewers. Examples include:
• It is a reflection of the obsession with sex that exists to a greater or lesser degree in every society. The word love is used, but seems to be intertwined and confused with sex.
• It seems to suggest the notion of a religious piece - shrine-like with epitaph phrases.
• The candles signify lovemaking and the artificial light signifies meaningless sex a waste of energy.
• The candles are lighting the way to Christ, symbolized by the number twelve for the twelve disciples.
• The brown bags represent those used by street persons who over-indulge in alcohol within the red light districts.
Explicit Lyrics also generated negative responses from the community. The exhibition curator received phone calls from people who questioned the relevance of obscene words in an art exhibition. Ultimately, a warning sign was placed at the entrance to the exhibition!
Bidjocka’s mixed media installation, Untitled Witches’ Ball, 1992, deals with absence and evacuation, as well as with the resilient occupation of spaces that is characteristic of the human spirit. Reference 9. Indeed, a room full of empty black dance gowns, moving in a circle around a giant egg to the strains of a tango, conjures up the spirits. We are in the midst of a kind of fertility dance, as they help in the hatching of ancestral powers Reference 2. Pairs of gowns and jackets, seeming to represent couples, are hung on the outside of the circle. The centered egg suggests new life or rebirth. There is a representational dichotomy of life and death, new and old, unfinished and finished. Bidjocka has created a ritualistic and ceremonial environment. The garments are the lingering ghosts that stay on earth after one’s physical existence is through. The moving entities around the egg are the living beings. As the elements extend outward, they grow older in phases. The motionless spirits placed in the outer region are reflective of how the dead remain on earth waiting for their transfer into another state or realm. We are reminded of the ghost houses of Laurenco Marques, or Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s deserted cities where the spirits of the dead linger, laying continuous claim to moment and territory, reminding us that there are no terra nullis, no spaces uninhabited by the residues of our passing. [Reference 10]
6. World Wide Web: http://www.artincontext.com/listings/pages/artist/k/hpac370k/menu.htm
7. World Wide Web: http://satie.arts.usf.edu/~ooguibe/a22.htm
8. Olu Oguibe, op cit
9. Olu Oguibe, op cit
10. Olu Oguibe, op cit