Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc

Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc’s work intertwines his own personal history with the collective history of the Guianas, which is deeply rooted in the forests of the Amazon Basin. He reads this landscape like an archive, one marked by exploration, exploitation, rupture and loss.

“Traveling in the past with the ruins of the future.”

Wilson Harris, Jonestown
Gods Moving in Places. The Day Reader © Victoria Tomaschko

For many years, Abonnenc’s research has focused on the literature of the Guyanese author Wilson Harris (1921–2018), whose ecological and decolonial vision provides the lens through which the works in the exhibition are expanded and reconfigured. In his writings, Wilson Harris establishes a connection between the psyche and the landscape, drawing from an Amerindian cosmology founded on the interconnectedness of all beings, places and times. Seen from this perspective, the rainforest becomes a realm of infinite possibilities for reshaping a postcolonial condition.

An Outpost of Progress (2008/2022), references the age-old agricultural technique of slash-and-burn farming, in which small sections of forest are burnt in order to fertilise the ground and enable the planting of crops such as manioc. In the exhibition, this floor-based installation made of burnt wood forms the basis for an intricate mesh of research, facts, narration and sensual experience, aiming to productively inhabit the space of colonial trauma.

Abonnenc’s filmic works unfold into a sensitive meditation on the recent history of a region of so-called French Guiana. With The Night Readers (2018), Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc revisits the Surinamese Interior War, which took place along the Maroni river from 1986 to 1992. Wacapou, a Prologue or A Room in my Mother’s house (2018) tells a different story of the Maroni River and the communities that lived there, but it is more intimately connected to the artist’s life.

The Day Reader is the second part of the exhibition cycle Gods Moving in Places which started with a group show by Minia Biabiany, Karl Joseph, Mirtho Linguet, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Marcel Pinas, Pamela Colman-Smith und Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc‘s (b. 1977 in French Guiana, lives and works in Sète, France) practice, which incorporates work as an artist, researcher and curator, is committed to exploring topics neglected by colonial and postcolonial history. His works have been exhibited internationally, recent solo exhibitions include: The Music of Living Landscapes, Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover (DE, 2022), The Palace of the Peacock, Musée dart contemporain de la Haute-Vienne ­– Château de Rochechouart (FR, 2018), Concerning Solitude, Fundación Jumex, Mexico City (MX, 2018), Maintaining the Distance, Guyane Art Factory – Maison Henri et Marcelle Prévot, Cayenne (FG, 2017), and Mefloquine Dreams, MMK Frankfurt (DE, 2016). From 2016 to 2017 he was a resident at the French Academy in Rome – Villa Medici (IT) and in 2019 he was a guest artist at the DAAD Berlin (DE). Abonnenc is a PhD candidate at the École Doctorale Esthétique, Sciences et Technologies des Arts (EDESTA) at Université Paris 8 (FR).

Initiated by Lea Altner.


Head of ifa Gallery Berlin: Inka Gressel, Susanne Weiß, Alya Sebti (parental leave)
Exhibition production: Stefano Ferlito in cooperation with HU Design González & Franquesa & Studio Kerti Berlin
Exhibition setup: Stefano Ferlito, Bert Günther, Rosa Llinás, Hippolyte Moulun, Keanu Sapadi
Project Management: Ev Fischer
Digital Communication: Anna Giannessi
Exhibition staff: Katharina Bevand, Kevin Dieke, Ximena Ferrer Pizarro, Mila Asmira Mazo Cano, Djanum Podolski
Art education: Annika Niemann in cooperation with Fetesh Tarekegn and Club Real, Karen Michelsen Castañón as well as Asha Bambry and Klaus Trebeß
Texts: Lea Altner
Fotodokumentation: Victoria Tomaschko

With the kind support of the Bureau des arts plastiques of the French
Institute Germany and the French Culture Minister.