Thierry Oussou

Thierry Oussou, Impossible Is Nothing, 2016, Excavation, Allada (Benin), photo: Thierry Oussou

Expanding on his work Impossible Is Nothing (2016–18), Thierry Oussou presents the reproduction of an archaeological excavation carried out in 2016 at Allada in Tokpa, Benin. Documented through film and objects, the excavation strictly adhered to archaeological protocol but is part of a performance orchestrated by the artist in several stages: having commissioned sculptor Elias Boko to make a replica of the throne that belonged to King Béhanzin (1845–1906), the last king of Dahomey (modern-day Benin), Oussou then buried this replica in December 2015 at a location known only to himself. In August of the following year, he led an excavation of the buried throne in collaboration with history and archaeology students.

Currently, the throne is the source of a diplomatic dispute between France, the holder of the original, and Benin, which is demanding its restitution. Even as a “fake,” Oussou’s throne has gained a certain authenticity; it has generated a series of conflicts—which have become part of the work—both with the university of the students who participated in his excavation and with the Benin government. While highlighting the real issues that underlie the debate on the restitution of objects of art, Oussou has simultaneously managed to probe concepts of authenticity, heritage, and history as well as their political trajectories within a postcolonial context. In addition, having a long-established practice as a painter, the artist is also presenting a new painting at KW institute for Contemporary Art titled Reflection Time (2018).

—Dagara Dakin

  • Akademie der Künste
  • KW Institute for Contemporary Art



Impossible Is Nothing, 2016–18
Mixed media; video, color, sound, 09′37′′
Courtesy Thierry Oussou


Reflection Time, 2018
Mixed media on paper
Courtesy Thierry Oussou

Produced with the support of Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art
With the support of Ammodo Foundation; Botschaft des Königreichs der Niederlande, Berlin; Mondriaan Fund