Kitenge Banza's exhibition 'Inhabiting the Imaginary' will be on view at the PHI Foundation starting today

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Kitenge Banza's exhibition 'Inhabiting the Imaginary' will be on view at the PHI Foundation starting today
Moridja Kitenge Banza, Chiromancie #14 n°1 (detail), 2023. Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Hughes Charbonneau. ©Kitenge Banza. Photo Courtesy of PHI Foundation.

MONTREAL.- The PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art is now opening a solo exhibition by Moridja Kitenge Banza: Inhabiting the Imaginary [Habiter l’imaginaire].

Kitenge Banza’s life is a fascinating entanglement of trajectories and turns, comprised of leaving his home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to study in France, and then migrating to Montréal, Québec, Canada. Through a multidisciplinary practice that includes painting, photography, video, drawing, and installation, Kitenge Banza explores the histories, memories, and identities of the places he has lived in relation to the experiences he has had living there. Drawing from past and present situations, the artist organizes, assembles, and traces figures, as would a land surveyor, reappropriating codes from cultural, political, social, and economic milieux. Intentionally confusing fact and fiction, he problematizes hegemonic narratives in order to create spaces wherein marginalized discourses can flourish.

For this exhibition, Kitenge Banza occupies four floors of the PHI Foundation’s 451 Saint-Jean Street building. On the first two floors, the artist debuts two series of paintings that deepen his exploration of the Chiromancie project (2008—), which is rooted in the unequal power dynamics of cartography and the divinatory art of palmistry. For this new body of works in the series, Kitenge Banza draws comparisons between the history of colonization and the political and economic relationship it has with extraction mining in both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Québec. These formally stunning pieces offer deep reflection on current geopolitical situations, and the invasive forces that displace people and forever transform territories. On the third floor is a new installation that demonstrates the artist’s signature approach of using irony to address difficult subjects. Cycle (2023) takes the form of the office reception area of a fictional corporation that offers organizations a way to remove and recycle racism. Here, the visitor will be able to watch a corporate video and consult brochures and displays that explain their process. The creation of this work was a way for Kitenge Banza to address and heal from his own direct experience of racial discrimination. Linking the whole exhibition together is a site-specific audio intervention that puts a new spin on the artist’s award-winning 2009 work Hymne à nous. This piece weaves together phrases from four different national anthems to the tune of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, as an ensemble of 30 voices, and sung in four-part harmony by the artist himself. Taken together, these works exemplify “politicized sensuousness,” as they seduce through the eye and the ear, while feeding the critical mind.

Curated by Cheryl Sim

Moridja Kitenge Banza (b. 1980) graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Kinshasa (1999) and the École supérieure des beaux-arts de Nantes in France (2008). In 2010, he received the 1st prize at the Dakar Biennale for his video Hymne à nous (2009) and his installation De 1848 à nos jours (2006–2018). His work has been presented at the Musée Dauphinois, Grenoble, France; the Roskilde Museum of Contemporary Art, Denmark; the ARNDT Gallery and the nGbK in Berlin, Germany; the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; and the Joyce Yahouda Gallery and Galerie Hugues Charbonneau, Montréal.

PHI Foundation
Inhabiting the Imaginary
August 4th, 2023 - September 3rd, 2023

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