The Divine Comedy: My Hell is the place of consciousness. Elio Grazioli interviews Simon Njami

Bili Bidjocka: Grâces & Intentions & Grâces (2014)

While The Divine Comedy exhibition carries on at MMK Frankfurt Museum, lettera27 continues to examine its contents and the behind the scenes, putting together the authors that enabled this impressive project and other scholars, artists and intellectuals from all over the world, hosted by important editorial platforms. One such example is the conversation published by Doppiozero, between Elio Grazioli, the art critic, writer and curator and Simon Njami, the exhibition’s curator.

The encounter between the Divine Comedy and the work of more than 60 African artists allows to read the Dante masterpiece as a device of knowledge construction, an argument of a particular interest for the mission of lettera27. In fact, Grazioli points out how the Divine Comedy has given birth to a narrative archetype, which translates a journey from one world to another as a metaphor of consciousness and has been able to build the knowledge maps, from Dante to the contemporary times. A mechanism that Simon Njami has realized and applied to the present of the African continent and its multiplicity, inverting the direction of the journey: from Paradise to Hell, the works of art included in the exhibition rewrite the history and the alleged Western universalism through the visions of Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, atheistic, agnostic and Jewish artists.

Among them Bili Bidjocka, the author of Ecriture Infinie, a travelling artistic project, which also became digital thanks to Moleskine, that celebrates the calligraphy and the pleasure of transferring the thoughts from the mind to the page through handwriting in an enormous notebook which will forever preserve their traces. Through these collective traces he creates an infinite and absolute time, like the one of the Dante’s Divine Comedy, in which the grand intellectuals and thinkers from the various epochs meet in a continuous present. “This way throughout the exhibition the living are tasked with the work of the dead, or however the ones that are not visible.” Njami elaborates on the link between Ecriture Infinie and the Dante masterpiece, “By inviting the visitors to add their thoughts to the big book, which simultaneously questions our notions of space and time, Bidjoka makes them a part of eternity in perpetual mutation.”

We can navigate this journey through the contemporaneity, history and infinite time through the words of two exceptional guides: Elio Grazioli and Simon Njami.