he publication accompanying the Belgian Pavilion at the next Venice Biennale, Personne et les autres borrow its title from a lost play by André Frankin, a Belgian art critic affiliated with the Lettrist and Situationist Internationals. The exhibition takes the history of the Belgian Pavilion and the international context of the Biennale (both derived from the colonial exhibitions and world expositions) as its points of departure. The Belgian Pavilion itself was the first foreign Pavilion to be built in the Giardini in Venice, during the reign of King Leopold II. Meessen’s work and artistic research have consistently explored the history and afterlife of colonial modernity. Edited by the curators of the Pavilion, Katerina Gregos and Vincent Meessen, this book will feature all the artists invited to show work alongside Meessen’s: Mathieu K. Abonnenc, Sammy Baloji, James Beckett, Elisabetta Benassi, Patrick Bernier & Olive Martin, Tamar Guimarães & Kasper Akhøj, Maryam Jafri, and Adam Pendleton. Essays by Katerina Gregos, Raoul Vaneigem, Harry Garuba, and Pedro Monaville

In the wake of failed states, growing economic and political inequality, and the ongoing US- and NATO-led wars for resources, security, and economic dominance worldwide, contemporary artists are revisiting former European colonies, considering past injustices as they haunt the living yet remain repressed in European consciousness. With great timeliness, projects by Sven Augustijnen, Vincent Meessen, Zarina Bhimji, Renzo Martens, and Pieter Hugo have emerged during the fiftieth anniversary of independence for many African countries, inspiring a kind of “reverse migration”—a return to the postcolony, which drives an ethico-political as well as aesthetic set of imperatives: to learn to live with ghosts, and to do so more justly.

The artist’s book by Elisabetta Benassi, King Leopold’s Soliloquy by Mark Twain, is a faithful reproduction of the original pamphlet edited by Mark Twain and published for the first time by The P. R. Warren Co. in Boston in 1905. The original book is a work of political satire about King Leopold’s rule over the Congo Free State – a monologue in which Leopold speaks in his own defense. The artist’s book, which also includes miscellaneous attachments collected by the artist, is part of the work M’FUMU, installation and performance, produced for Personne et les Autres: Vincent Meessen and guests, group exhibition curated by Katerina Gregos for the Belgian Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale, 2015.

Taking the history of the Belgian Pavilion and the international context of the Biennale as its points of departure, the exhibition Personne et les Autres probes the unknown micro-histories and revisits a range of hybrid cultural and intellectual forms produced as a result of colonial encounters. The Belgian Pavilion itself was the first foreign Pavilion to be built in the Giardini in Venice, during the reign of King Leopold II.

In the context of the group exhibition, the reference for the work M’FUMU by Elisabetta Benassi is the figure of M’Fumu Paul Panda Farnana (1888-1930), Congolese intellectual and activist, whose thoughts and actions marked the relations between Belgium and the Congo in the period between the two world wars.

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