Sammy Baloji works as an artist mainly with photography, but he also makes video works and installations. In his photographic work, Baloji explores the memory and history of the Democratic Republic of Congo. His work is a permanent investigation into the cultural, architectural and industrial heritage of the Katanga region, often in relation to Belgian colonisation. Baloji juxtaposes photographic realities; past and present, reality and ideal, to reveal cultural and historical tensions. Architecture and the human body bear traces of social history, they are places of memory and witnesses of power operations. His work explores how identities are formed, reshaped, manipulated and reinvented.
Belgium enriched itself through copper mining in the Congo and used copper to produce munitions. In UNTITLED (2015 / 2021), the artist brings these issues together in an installation consisting of copper cartridge cases that were used in Belgium after the World Wars as ashtrays or flowerpots in living rooms and cafés. In the installation the cartridges are presented with the 'archetypal Flemish' sanseveria, a plant that also appears to have been brought from Congo.
During the last edition of Beaufort Sammy Baloji continued this research: here the starting point was the ammunition depot that lies under the sandbank 'de paardenmarkt'. By analogy with the grenades that were dumped under water and form an ecological threat, our memory of the role of the Democratic Republic of Congo during both world wars also sank to the depths of Belgian memory. Several Congolese soldiers fought on the Belgian side. In his installation '... and to those North Sea waves whispering sunken stories', these forgotten voices regain their voices. The work also echoes the repression by the colonial police force Force Publique and the use of slave labour for the exploitation of raw materials in Congo in the service of Belgian warfare.
Sammy Baloji had solo exhibitions in: Lund Konsthall and Aarhus Kunsthal (2020); Congo, Fragments d'une histoire, Le Point du Jour, Cherbourg (2019); A Blueprint for Toads and Snakes, Framer Framed, Amsterdam (2018); Urban Now: City Life in Congo, Sammy Baloji and Filip de Boeck, The Power Plant, Toronto and WIELS, Brussels (2016- 2017). His work has been featured in group exhibitions including the Fotofest Biennale 2020, Houston; the Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2020); the Chicago Architecture Biennale 2019; the 22nd Sydney Biennale (2020); documenta 14 in Kassel/Athens (2017); the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow (2017); the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington DC (2017), the Lyon Biennale in 2015 and the Venice Biennale (2015). Sammy Baloji is Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, and he has received numerous awards. In 2019-2020, he stayed at the Académie de France-Villa Medicis in Rome. In 2008, Sammy Baloji co-founded the Lubumbashi Biennale.
- KASK lectures
- Louis Pasteurlaan 2, 9000 Gent, free