Hans-Ulrich Obrist Archive Chapter 1: Édouard Glissant
Where all the world’s imaginations can meet and hear one another

Valerio Adami
Etel Adnan
agnès b.
Miquel Barceló
Tosh Basco & Wu Tsang
Daniel Boyd
Patrick Chamoiseau
Tony Cokes
Julien Creuzet
Manthia Diawara
Melvin Edwards
Édouard Glissant
Koo Jeong A
Dozie Kanu & Precious Okoyomon
Matthew Lutz-Kinoy
Julie Mehretu
Jota Mombaça
The Otolith Group
Philippe Parreno
Raqs Media Collective
Sylvie Séma-Glissant
Asad Raza
Anri Sala

Co-curated by Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Arthur Fouray

LUMA Westbau
Zurich, Switzerland

Graphic design: Christine Denamur,  Lead Graphic Designer, LUMA Arles
Photographs: Nelly Rodriguez

Produced by LUMA Foundation
The One-World trembles physically, geologically, mentally, spiritually, because the One-World is looking for this point, I would not say this station, but this utopian point where all the cultures of the world, all the imaginations of the world, can meet and hear one another without being dispersed or getting lost.
Édouard Glissant, Utopia Station, Venice Biennale, 2003

The first chapter of Hans-Ulrich Obrist Archive is dedicated to the late Édouard Glissant (1928–2011), Martinique-born philosopher, poet and public intellectual. Glissant is an emblematic figure for both Obrist, for whom he was a mentor, and for the Luma project in Arles, for which the thinker has been an inspiration since its inception, as for many who are finally grasping the relevance of his thought. Drawing on periods of collaboration, friendship and mentorship between the philosopher and the curator, the presentation highlights a belief they had in common: conversation and reciprocal exchange with the other can be a means to produce new realities. For Glissant, a world in transformation is a ‘One-World’ that listens and learns from each of its unique voices.

Obrist’s encounter with Glissant influenced the direction of his work for years to come. He was first introduced to the philosopher’s thinking through the artist Alighiero Boetti, whom he met after turning eighteen in 1986. Throughout the second half of the 1990s, he got to know Glissant in the company of their mutual friend Agnès B. Their companionship started in Parisian cafés, and these meetings quickly became regular events. During this period, Obrist adopted a daily fifteen-minute ritual of reading the writings of the poet-philosopher, a habit that he still practises. Their relationship was driven by a spontaneity that enabled them to collaborate on a dozen public conversations, interviews and printed materials. These projects led them to travel together across cities, continents and archipelagos.

Glissant’s philosophy of ‘Relation’ is rooted in the history and the geography of the Antilles Archipelago. Through constant exchanges from one island to another, the archipelago has provided the matrix for creolisation, a process of continual fusion that does not cause the loss of cultural and linguistic diversity but enriches it through hybridisation. The most tangible outcome to emerge from this context is creole languages, resulting from miscegenation and osmosis between vernaculars. While continental thinking relies on systems, and claims the absoluteness of its own worldview, archipelagic thinking recognises and furthers the world’s diversity. Glissant realised early on the dangers of globalisation, the homogenising engine behind the disappearance of cultural, linguistic, and ecological diversity, as well as the dangers of the populist counter-current to globalisation, namely new forms of nationalism and localism that refuse solidarity. To resist globalisation without denying globality, he coined the notion of Mondialité as a plea for a continuous worldwide dialogue that equally encouraged the mixing of cultures and celebration of local identities. Obrist’s curatorial projects are directly inspired by this concept of Mondialité as a perpetual process of relating.
The focus of this presentation is a collection of audio-visual material related to Glissant from Obrist’s Interview Archive, which was displayed for the first time on the occasion of the overall opening of Luma in Arles in 2021. More than six hours of video material from public and private interviews, screened on eight viewing stations, allow visitors to listen to Glissant engaging in dialogues, reading his poetry aloud, forming and shaping his thoughts and philosophy while speaking. In addition to the videos, various other archival materials such as books dedicated to Obrist by Glissant are presented to offer a unique overview of this inspiring relationship. The presentation at Luma Westbau also features a series of posters by contemporary artists, who were either close to Glissant or who feel connected to his thinking. It is through their unique language that Glissant’s ideas find prolongation, reflecting their contemporaneity and urgency.

Throughout his career, Obrist has been committed to making Glissant’s thinking accessible, quoting him at every opportunity and orchestrating numerous events, exhibitions, and publications dedicated to him. The second presentation of this exhibition at Luma Westbau delves deeper into Obrist’s relationship with French philosopher-poet Édouard Glissant, whose vision of the 21st century art institution as an archipelago that would accommodate networks of interrelations between people, traditions and disciplines has been an inspiration for the Luma project in Arles since its conception. Glissant had imagined the institutions of the future as places of dialogue where various parts of the world would come into contact with others. For him, what mattered was the production of reality, the transformation of theories and poetry into concrete engagements to respond to the problems of the moment. His utopia was a quivering place that transcended established systems and perpetually reinvented itself. This presentation aims to give historical and artistic consistency to the dream shared by Glissant and Obrist of a ‘utopian point where all the world’s cultures and all the world’s imaginations can meet and hear one another’.
Édouard Glissant
Born 21 September 1928, Saint-Marie, Martinique.
Died 3 February 2011, Paris, France.

Novelist, poet and essayist Édouard Glissant is one of the great writers of our time. As a young man in Martinique, Glissant was fascinated by the surrealist movement and, together with his friends of the literary and political group ‘Franc Jeu’, campaigned for revolutionary ideas of liberation for the colonies. He left Martinique for France in 1946 where he studied Philosophy at the Sorbonne and Ethnology at the Musée de l’Homme. He made his literay debut in 1953 with a collection of poetry entitled Un Champ d’îles [A field of islands]; his first novel La Lézarde [The Ripening] won the Prix Renaudot in 1958. In 1965, Édouard Glissant returned to Martinique where he created the Institut Martiniquais d’Études (IME) in 1967, a private institution that aims to give young Antilleans an education in keeping with the reality of their history and geography. In 1971, he founded Acoma (distributed by Parisian publisher Maspéro), a critical research journal on West Indian societies, which already heralded one of his master essays in the field at that time, Le Discours antillais [1987 Caribbean Discourse].

Through his essays, novels and poetry, he developed the notion of Tout-Monde (One World) which was the title of the 1995 novel, followed by the essay Traité du Tout-Monde [Treatise on the Whole World] in 1997. From 1980 to 1988, Édouard Glissant was Editor in Chief of the UNESCO Courier, whose editions were published in 36 languages and distributed in over 150 countries. In 1988, Édouard Glissant moved to the United States and became Chair of the Center for French and Francophone Studies at Louisiana State University (LSU). In 1993, he was actively involved in the creation of the International Parliament of Writers, an international institution designed to organise concrete solidarity with writers and intellectuals who are victims of persecution. In Paris, Édouard Glissant created the Institut du Tout-Monde in 2007 with the support of the Conseil Régional d’IIe-de-France, the Ministère de l’Outre-Mer, and the Maison de l’Amérique Latine. In 2009, Glissant published his last essay Philosophie de la Relation : Poésie en étendue [Philosophy of Relation] and his final book La terre, le feu, l’eau et les vents - Une anthologie de la poésie du Tout-monde [The earth, the fire, the water, and the winds - An anthology of poetry from the Whole-world] in 2010.

Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Arthur Fouray wish to thank Maja Hoffmann for her vision and passion for archives; and also thank Vassilis Oikonomopoulos, Mustapha Bouhayati, Anna von Brühl, Sandra Roemermann, Friedrich von Brühl and the Luma dream team.

Above all, we would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Sylvie Séma-Glissant and the family of Édouard Glissant, including their son Mathieu Glissant, as well as the artists who participated in the first chapter of the archive at Luma Westbau: Valerio Adami, the late Etel Adnan, agnès b., Miquel Barceló, Tosh Basco & Wu Tsang, Daniel Boyd, Patrick Chamoiseau, Tony Cokes, Julien Creuzet, Manthia Diawara, Melvin Edwards, Koo Jeong A, Dozie Kanu & Precious Okoyomon, Matthew Lutz-Kinoy, Julie Mehretu, Jota Mombaça, The Otolith Group, Philippe Parreno, Raqs Media Collective, Asad Raza, and Anri Sala.

Our special thanks go to Dimitri Bruni, Manuel Krebs, and Ludovic Varone of NORM for arranging the artists’ posters, Christine Denamur for the exhibition poster, and Anne Stock for the lithography of the artists’ posters. A big thank you also goes to Samuel Thomas for the editing of the archive videos; to the Sintagma team, especially Renato Barcelos and Rosário Valadas Vieira, for the subtitling of the archive videos; to Jean-Baptiste Marcant for the sound mastering of the archive videos, to Vincent Teuscher, Pascal Häusermann, Nico Canzoniere, and the entire exhibition installation team, without whom this presentation would not have been possible.

Finally, we would like to thank all the people who participated in
the development of the presentation, especially Manuela Lucadazio and the Venice Biennale team, the Serpentine Galleries team, and the Fonds de dotation agnès b. team, particularly Élodie Cazes and William Massey, but also Matthieu Humery, Lucas Jacques-Witz, Adèle Koechlin, Molly Nesbit, Carrie Pilto, Gianluigi Ricuperati, Max Shackleton, and Lorraine Two Testro.



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Special thanks to Béatrice & Alain Fouray.

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