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Grada Kilomba: Opera to a Black Venus at Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden

The Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden presents the first comprehensive institutional solo exhibition in Germany by the internationally renowned artist, author, and thinker Grada Kilomba with an engrossing question: “What would the bottom of the ocean tell us tomorrow, if emptied of water today?” Her work has been described as a new postcolonial minimalism, in which form, image and movement blurs the boundaries between disciplines. Borrowing the title from the new commission, Opera to a Black Venus, the exhibition revisits the Black history of resistance to examine the entanglement between ecological collapse and colonial injustice.

At the heart of the exhibition is Opera to a Black Venus (2024), a large-scale video installation and Labyrinth (2024), a site specific spatial installation, both presented for the first time to the public. In Opera to a Black Venus, Kilomba stages a contemporary opera dedicated to a Black Venus, who inhabits the bottom of the sea and becomes the oracle of stories about memory and resilience. In a futuristic scenario, a desolate landscape reveals the archaeology of human existence. Kilomba has created a unique ensemble, with singers as well as percussionists and ballet dancers using the boat as a metaphor to the politics of violence. Experimenting with forms of storytelling, she frames the show around the opera genre, hailed as the paramount of performative arts. An opera demands an array of elements such as a poetic libretto, a range of vocal frequencies from soprano to tenor, authentic costumes, and intricate set designs to transport audiences to different eras and locales.

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