What happens when the exhibition form becomes a decoy — an anamorphic stain1 — that plugs itself into a system oblivious to it? “Something Played” is a curatorial project that brings to the fore issues of “exponential technology, looming ecological disaster, [and] concrete political action” through played objects — ranging from a console game, makeshift arcade game, [digitized] board game on screen, downloadable game app, sound, video and installation intersecting virtual/digital experiences with the material and optical. The exhibition features works by an app developer and eight artists: namely Aaron Sanson, Jonathan Okoronkow, Grace Gbedife, Adjo Daiki Apodey Kisser, Akwasi Afrane Bediako, Percy Nii Nortey, Moro Samiratu Abdulai, Kelvin Haizel and Prince Osei Owusu Bempah.
Sited on the second floor of a three-story building located on the commercial corridor of M-Plaza Drive in Asafo, the exhibition exists within the cacophony of architectural styles, sounds, images, and happenings that characterize such commercial districts in Kumasi and engages potential publics from transport yards, wholesale/retail outlets, pharmacy shops, banks, betting stores, and many more, as if to make the claim that in this arena, too, contemporary art has a right to exist. To interact with the briskness external to the exhibition environment an LED advertizing board on the front of the building has been appropriated to display Haizel’s, Abdulai’s and Nortey’s videos. For Abdulai and Nortey, the videos show their working processes: of immersing fried shrimps and dried anchovies in resin-accelerator-pigment mixture and ironing soiled fabrics collected from fitting shops cut, stitched and glued to construct rigid sculptural objects in the form of mechanical auto parts, respectively. Haizel’s video depicts two hands on either side of an Oware board game wearing clinical gloves, moving capsules — instead of pebbles — from one pit of the board to the other. The videos become part of a sequence of advertising material displayed on the LED mount marketing tinned fish, herbal soap and other beauty products.
In the exhibition space, Bediako’s makeshift arcade machine, built from parts of a desktop computer, retunes old games into his own versions — adapting the 2D aesthetics and run-time environments of “Super Mario Bros” into “Super Catholic Bros” — for an interactive experience. Across from this installation is Sanson’s Counters Ball Pro game (available on Google Play Store) projected onto the wall in one corner of the exhibition space — the single channel video setup permits one player at a time. To the left of this work is Okoronkwo’s engine oil drawings on plywood “inspired by mechanical bodies in fitting shops” in Kumasi. This work is mirrored on the opposite wall. Kisser’s stickers on wall usher the spectator into the exhibition and is distributed throughout the exhibition space to subtly interact with the other works. Nortey’s rigid sculptural objects composed into auto engineering parts sit in-between Okoronkwo’s drawings and Gbedife’s digitally manipulated photographs of working class citizens in Adum, Ayigya and other neighborhoods in Kumasi. Bempah’s acrylic paintings on table cloth with glued plastic cut-outs appropriate Hyacinthe Rigaud’s 18th century portrait of Louis XIV in Coronation Robes and a bank note depicting the Big Six of pre-independence Ghana rendering the heads of the figures with mortars. Abdulai’s gesture of preserving aquatic life in gel-like luminescent form is, in one mode of display, mounted on a wall encased in an open mini suitcase inspired by commercial wrist watch and phone sellers’ mode of displaying ware. The other display method of her work sees its luminous character stimulated by a torch light underneath the gel-like grid form mounted on glass placed on a wooden bar stool flipped upside down. The indoor display of Haizel’s video is mounted centrally in the exhibition space, next to Abdulai’s aforementioned work. Haizel’s video object is displayed on a screen fitted in a rectangular wooden encasement with two seats provided on both ends of its long sides. This display strategy inverts the normal order of the two-player Oware game by making it accessible to spectators exclusively in a visual, not playable, form. In an inner-room within the exhibition space, there is a game lounge with an X-Box console and a flatscreen monitor mounted on wall. Here, spectators literally indulge the virtual realm.
The exhibition deals with the concept of play as “fundamentally ambiguous”, opening it up to literal, paradoxical and political interpretations.
— written by Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh (2017).
Exhibition duration : 21 April – 5th May, open daily 9am – 7pm at Green building near VIP Parcel Office, M-Plaza Drive, Asafo, Kumaso.
Participants: Jonathan Okoronkwo, Grace Gbedife, Adjo Daiki Apodey Kisser, Aaron Sanson, Akwasi Afrane Bediako, Percy Nii Nortey, Moro Samiratu Abdulai, Kelvin Haizel and Prince Osei Owusu Bempah.
Curator: Selom Koffi Kudjie
Supporting institutions: Department of Painting and Sculpture, blaxTARLINES, KUMASI, Birago Multimedia
Advisors: kąrî’kạchä seid’ou, Kwaku Boafo Kissiedu, George Ampratwum.
- Essentially, this is the attitude advanced by kąrî’kạchä seid’ou’s emancipatory art teaching that shapes contemporary art practice in the Kumasi College of Art. seid’ou explains that “[w]hat we hope to advance in Kumasi [College of Art] is a field of “general intellect” which encourages student artists and other young artists to work in the spirit of finding alternatives to the bigger picture which excluded their voices but paradoxically by first becoming an anamorphic stain in the bigger picture itself. This way, the stain instigates a new vision, which requires a necessary shift in the spectator’s perspective. And this shift in perspective leaves the older picture as a stain in the new picture”. See: “Silent parodies: kąrî’kạchä seid’ou in conversation with Jelle Bouwhuis,” in Project 1975: Contemporary Art and the Postcolonial Unconscious, eds. Jelle Bouwhuis and Kerstin Winking (Amsterdam and London: SMBA and Black Dog Publishing, 2014), 109–18