A leading artist of the French scene since the early 2000s, Saâdane Afif mixes low and high culture by referencing art history, pop music, graphic design, and performance art. Melancholia and the passage of time are at the heart of Restore Hope (2000), a thoroughly committed piece, as captured by a photograph (produced in collaboration with Guillaume Janot) showing Afif wearing a t-shirt bearing the phrase “Restore Hope,” the name of the United States military mission in Somalia (1992–1994). This astonishing image was analyzed by curator Francois Piron in the catalogue Saâdane Afif: Jeunesse/Youth (2003) as alluding to Paul Klee’s monoprint Angelus Novus (1920), which, in turn, was described by Walter Benjamin in an essay in his Theses on the Philosophy of History as a figure turned toward both past and future.
Since 2004, with a dual objective to redefine the boundaries of the art exhibition format and to question the role of the author/artist, Afif has been inviting other artists, curators, critics, and writers to take his projects as starting points and turn them into music, translate them into a text, or perform them as a poem, a song, a melody, or a sound. Continuing this fusion between material and immaterial, for the Biennale di Venezia’s All the World’s Futures, Afif has reactivated the Corner Speakers project that he presented in Beirut, Rotterdam, Brussels, and Zurich. Each day during the whole period of the Biennale, an actor will publicly recite the texts from the songs collected and written by the artist. A poster in the exhibition space will announce the location of the performance, but not the time. By creating the conditions of an impromptu gathering with Corner Speakers, the artist combines the intimate with the collective, poetry with urban, in a public space where the stakes and the boundaries are constantly being redefined.
A laureate of the Prix Marcel Duchamp in 2009, Afif has participated in many exhibitions during the past fifteen years, including the Biennale de Lyon (2005) and Documenta 12, Kassel (2007).