BIOGRAPHY

 

Grada Kilomba, THE DESIRE PROJECT Grada Kilomba, THE DESIRE PROJECT

Grada Kilomba is a Portuguese interdisciplinary artist and writer living in Berlin.

Her work draws on memory, trauma, race, gender, and the decolonisation of knowledge: ’who can speak?’ ‘what can we speak about?’ and ‘what happens when we speak?’ Are three constant questions in Kilomba’s body of work.

She is best known for her subversive writing and her unconventional use of artistic practices, in which she gives body, voice and image to her own texts, using a variety of formats from video installation, to staged reading, to performance, text collage, and sound installations.

In her work, Kilomba intentionally creates a hybrid space between the academic and artistic languages, and uses storytelling as a central element to her decolonial practices.

She has been presenting her work internationally, including: Documenta 14, Kassel; 10. Berlin Biennale; 32. Bienal de São Paulo 2016; Rauma Biennal Balticum 2016; Art Basel; Cape Town Art Fair;  1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Marrakech; The Power Plant, Toronto; MAAT – Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, Lisbon;  Galeria Avenida da Índia, Lisbon; WdW Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam; Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto; Secession Museum, Vienna; Bozar Museum, Brussels; SAVYY Contemporary Berlin; Maxim Gorki Theatre in Berlin,  among others.

 

Kilomba is represented by the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa.

 

Plantation Memories/Staged Reading by Grada Kilomba Screen Shot Ensemble1

Grada Kilomba, Plantation Memories, 2015.

 

EARLY LIFE AND CAREER

Kilomba studied Clinical Psychology and Psychoanalysis at the ‘ISPA – Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada’ in Lisbon. There, she worked in the psychiatry department with war survivors from Angola and Mozambique. Strongly influenced by the work of Frantz Fanon, Kilomba started writing, and developing projects on memory, trauma and colonialism, extending her concerns to form, language, and performance.

Recognised for her academic excellence, Kilomba received a Ph.D. fellowship from the German Heinrich Böll Foundation, and moved from Lisbon to Berlin, where she attained a Doctorate in Philosophy (summa cum laude) from the Freie Universität Berlin, in 2008.

Since 2004, she has been lecturing at several international universities, and last, was a Associate Professor at the Humboldt Universität Berlin, department of Gender Studies. Her work in the academia was known for its hybridity, in which Kilomba combined theory, writing, and performance as integral part of her seminars; among others she developed for several years the works Bodies Without Shame – Decolonial FeminismTongues Without Shame – Decolonizing Knowledge  and Performing Knowledge; as well as numerous seminars based on the oeuvres  of Frantz Fanon and bell hooks, two of her main intellectual references. During this time she had the opportunity to work in collaboration with several universities from the University of Accra to the University of Arts in Vienna, among others.

Her written work has been published in numerous international anthologies and translated into several languages. She is the co-editor of Mythen, Subjekt und Masken (2008), a pioneer anthology on Critical Whiteness; and the author of Plantation Memories (2008), a compilation of episodes of everyday racism written in the form of short psychoanalytical stories, and released at the International Literature Festival, at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Berlin. Soon after its release, her book became internationally acclaimed, and Kilomba started presenting herself  on stage with performative readings of her own book, at prominent theatres, literary and academic venues. In 2011, she was awarded as one of “The Most Inspirational Black Women in Europe” by the Austrian BWIE due to her writings and performative readings; and in 2013, she was named a “Woman of Excellence” by the German Sonne Magazine.

Working between Berlin and London, in 2010, Kilomba developed a project titled Performing Knowledge, as a visionary concept of her own hybrid practices, in which academic and artist languages intentionally merge. During this time, she started exploring theoretical and political texts on stage and the performance and the visualisation of post-colonial narratives. Among others, she adapted her own book  Plantation Memories into a staged reading (2012), with an ensemble of theatre actors who are now part of her most important artworks, exploring the visualisation and performance of her own texts. Only recently, she adapted the live recording of this performance into a video installation, Plantation Memories (2018), a 14’14” intense narrative performed in a minimalist black stage, where the voices and expressions of the actors become prominent – this work was first shown at her solo exhibition Speaking the Unspeakable, 2018, at the Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.

From 2010 to 2015 she developed numerous lecture-performances reflecting on knowledge production and violence, and how violence can be produced through knowledge production: “What is acknowledged as knowledge? Whose knowledge is this? Who is acknowledged to produce knowledge?” These questions remained a constant topic in her work, in particular on the lecture-performance Decolonizing Knowledge (2013), presented internationally, and in which she is concerned with the concepts of knowledge, race and gender, exposing not only the violence of classic knowledge production, but also how this violence is performed in academic, cultural and artistic spaces. To touch this colonial wound, says Kilomba, she “intentionally creates a hybrid space where the boundaries between the academic and the artistic languages confine, to transform the configurations of knowledge and power.”

In 2013/2014 she has decided to leave the academia and work exclusively in creative platforms, such as the theatre. In 2015, Kilomba create a two years series of artist talks at the Maxim Gorki Theatre to intervene artistically on the European migrant crisis discourse, the acclaimed series titled KOSMOS² (2015 – 2017) at Studio R,  a performative intervention and critical dialogue and between refugee artists and herself, about the importance of subversive artistic practices. In these highly thought provoking works, Kilomba continued exploring experimental formats to approach her questions, placing her works in very different platforms. In a recent interview to the Shirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt Magazine (2018) she says “My work is very experimental and hybrid. It is a work that can be placed everywhere and nowhere at the same time. But, I believe because in Contemporary Art everything is possible, here my work seems not only to be in place, but at home.”

Kilomba entered the contemporary art world, in 2016 only, when she was invited to make a work for the 32. Biennal of São Paulo.

This followed Documenta 14, in Kassel 2017; two major solo exhibitions at Galeria Avenida da Índia in Lisbon (2017) curated by Gabi Ngcobo, at MAAT- Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology in Lisbon (2017) curated by Inês Grosso; and several international group exhibitions, including two shows at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg and Cape Town (2017), at Museu Serralves in Oporto (2017), and at the Museu das Artes in Belo Horizonte (2017); by the end of the same year, the International Film Festival Rotterdam awarded her artwork Illusions Vol. I , Narcissus and Echo (2017).

 

 

 

 

SOLO  EXHIBITIONS

2018       Secrets to Tell, The Power Plant, Toronto, Canada

2018       Speaking the Unspeakable, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

 

2017       Secrets to Tell, MAAT – Museum of Art, Architecture. and Technology, Lisbon, Portugal

2017       The Most Beautiful Language, Gallery Avenida da Índia, EGEAC, Lisbon, Portugal

 

 

 

GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2018       We don’t need another hero, 10. Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany

 

2017       Incerteza Viva – Live Uncertainty, selected artist to represent the 32. Bienal de São Paulo, Centro Dragão do Mar de Arte e Cultura , Fortaleza, Brazil

2017      3. Berliner Herbstsalon, Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin, Germany

2017       The Silences Between, Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

2017      Incerteza Viva – Live Uncertainty, selected artist to represent the 32. Bienal de São Paulo, at the Palace of Arts, Belo Horizonte, Brazil

2017      SouthSouth – Let Me Begin Again, Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

 

2016      O futuro será uma réplica – The future will be a replica, Consul of Portugal in São Paulo, Brazil

2016      Incerteza Viva – Live Uncertainty, 32. Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

2016      Vulnerability, Rauma Biennial Balticum, Rauma, Finnland

2016      Knowledge Unbounded, Department of Arts and Aesthetics Edxhibition, University of Stockholm, Stockholm, Sweden

2016     Banquete Antropofágico – Anthropophagic Banquet, Department of Contemporary Arts Exhibition, University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

 

 

 

SELECTED PERFORMANCES

2017      Documenta 14, Kassel, Germany

2017      SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin, Germany

2017      Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

 

2016      Teatro Vila Velha, Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

2016      32. Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

2016      Theatre Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin, Germany

2016,      Wits Theatre, Johannesburg, South Africa

2016      Theatre Münchner Kammerspiel, Munich, Germany

2016      Goethe Institut Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

2016      TheaterTreffen, Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Berlin, Germany

2016      Secession Museum Vienna, Vienna, Austria

2016      University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria

2016      University of Accra, Accra, Ghana

2016      Berliner Festspiele, Berlin

2016      Kampnagel, Hamburg, Germany

2016      Mostra Internacional de Teatro em São Paulo, Brazil

2016      Bozar Museum for Contemporary Arts, Brussels, Belgium

2016      SOAS University of London, London, UK

 

2015      Theatre Münchner Kammerspiel, Munich, Germany

2015      Antwerpen Museum, Antwerpen, Belgium

2015      Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Vienna, Austria

2015      Theatre Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin, Germany

2015      International Arts Center José Guimarães, Guimarães, Portugal

2015      Theatre Ballhaus Naunynstrass, Berlin, Germany

2015      Oslo House of Literature, Oslo, Norway

 


SELECTED ARTIST TALKS/ LECTURES

2017      Academy of Arts Berlin, Berlin, Germany

2017      Transmediale, House of the World Cultures, Berlin, Germany

2017      Art Fair Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

2017      Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin, Germany

 

2016      AfroTranscendente, São Paulo, Brazil

2016      Goethe Institut Salvador da Bahia, Bahia, Brazil

2016      Berlin University of Arts – UdK, Berlin, Germany

2016      ArtBasel, Basel, Switzerland

2016      Mousonturm House of Arts, Frankfurt, Germany

2016      University of Accra, Accra, Ghana

2016      Goethe Institut São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

2016      Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin, Germany

 

 

2015      Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Vienna, Austria

2015      Theatre Ballhaus Naunynstrasse, Berlin, Germany

2015      University of Linköping, Linköping, Sweden

2015      Free University Berlin, Berlin, Germany

2015      University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Holland

2015      University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany

2015      Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin, Germany