Samson Kambalu

The artist's new work from his series of spontaneous site-specific performances

Samson Kambalu, Dancer in the Woods, 2014, digital video, colour, 34 sec

Samson Kambalu, Dancer in the Woods, 2014, digital video, colour, 34 sec

Samson Kambalu (b. 1975 , Malawi), lives and works in London
Samson Kambalu’s films, which he calls ‘Nyau cinema’, are based on a set of ten rules, which the artist published in 2013. This method of film production, after a programmatic written set of rules, can be read in the tradition of the Nouvelle Vague and Dogme 95 movements. Some of Kambalu’s rules are: 1. Nyau film must be conceived as a clip no longer than a minute. 2. Performance should be spontaneous and site-specific to found architecture, landscape, or object. […] 6. Acting must be subtle but otherworldly, transgressive and playful. 7. Editing must be limited to the aesthetics of primitive film and silent cinema. […] 10. Nyau cinema must encourage active participation from [the] audience.

These spontaneous, site-specific works using the body in performance collide different art-historical traditions and possible readings. In imposing such formal simplicity and limitations on filmic instruments, Kambalu takes very early film history as his point of departure. Nyau is the word for excess in Chichewa (one of the languages spoken in Malawi). Film theorist Leger Grindon makes a distinction between ‘excess’ and ‘spectacle’ by describing filmic excess as containing an aspect of reflection, even a self-reflective component. In that sense Kambalu’s films could be also read in the tradition of many African cultures, where the performing body serves as an instrument of notation of memory, a living archive.

Born in 1975 in Malawi, Samson Kambalu lives and works in London. He has a BA in Fine Art and Ethnomusicology from University of Malawi (1999), an MA in Fine Art from Nottingham Trent University (2003), and a PhD from Chelsea College of Art and Design (2015). His first book The Jive Talker, or How to Get a British Passport (Jonathan Cape, 2008 / Unionsverlag, 2010) was voted favourite of National Book Tokens’ ‘Global Reads’ (2010). He was included in the Liverpool Biennial (2016), Dak’art, Senegal (2016), and the 56th Venice Biennial (2015).

Showing in the Frieze London auditorium at 11:30am and 6:30pm on Friday and Saturday; 11:30am and 5:30pm on Sunday.

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