Spectacles. Speculations… posits imaging as emerging from a multiplicity; as code or as a system of perceptible elements necessarily political. If we consider the spectacle as images proliferated through capitalist modes of production that come to mediate human experience while eschewing political agency, the exhibition takes a contemporary approach to analyzing the ways in which it has evolved in a globalized economic order through new technologies and traditional media. The spectacle appears as an autonomously separate power that reinforces distance and alienation. Since the past century, the spectacle has been understood as an alienatory system or a regime of images manufactured by the ruling class to subvert reality and indeed to replace it. Distance becomes a critical component in this dynamic: the chasm created between individuals’ interpersonal relations, the distance between the worker whose labor produces commodities they are estranged from by virtue of their wages, between the rich and the poor, between artist and spectator, between spectatorship and the art work, between agency and passivity, and so forth…

The role of images in the ideological wars of this period in history (chiefly between capitalism, socialism, communism and fascism) played out in art as well. Filmmakers, artists, dramatists and intellectuals alike from the Soviet Union, Europe, North America, Latin America and Africa contributed significantly to the class struggle of the twentieth century through their practices of which specific ones will be discussed in a forthcoming essay titled Spectacles. Speculation…: In Terms of Images.

The progressive solution was to abolish this distance, to massify, (in terms of deasthetization and de-skilling) and to de-commodify the art object such that ownership and spectatorship will not remain the exclusive preserve of trained experts and of property-owning classes. There are many lessons to be learnt from practitioners of this political position, but in order to come to terms with the spectacle in the twenty-first century this pre-digital thesis would need to be updated since the spectacle cannot be said to possess the same characteristics today. The spectacle has achieved greater sophistication in content, form and effect. For example, it has become more participatory than ever in the digital paradigm where photography and film have achieved such proliferation, massification and de-skilling through computers and smart technologies that one only needs a portable device like the mobile phone to become a photographer or filmmaker. Couple this with the possibilities of collaboration and dissemination offered by the Internet. Yet the spectacle endures. Smuggling authority, alienation and commodification back into this pseudo-egalitarian dynamic.

With the domination of the capitalist politico-economic ideology around the world after the Cold War in 1989, the spectacle has essentially remained the same reactionary apparatus used in service of capitalism but has revolutionized itself by way of content and form through its appropriation of modern techno-scientific triumphs.

The exhibition responds to these issues by dialectically restaging elements of the spectacle in order to diagnose it for what it is, to be confronted by its complexity from which point we can begin to critically speculate new realities for art. The exhibition features works by fourteen artists based in Africa, Latin America and Europe who are, in respective ways, intervening in their chosen image-making technologies and inventing new visual, gestural and auditory modalities of practice that incorporate post-human forms of interaction. With site-sequencing strategies consisting of an ensemble of objects and forms sited across conceptual (discursive), literal and virtual dimensions, the exhibition displays a spectrum of mediums including braille, text, photography, video, film, sound, black box theatre, computer-aided design, installation, sculpture, and spoken word poetry.


Click here for curatorial statement.


Spectacles. Speculations… (2018), exhibition view, photo by Elolo Bosokah

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Spectacles. Speculations… (2018), exhibition view, photo by Elolo Bosokah



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The Winds Blew Silently through the NOiSyWall
22nd February — 14th March 2018
at the Maintenance and Essential Services, Transport Department- KNUST, Kumasi
Opening: 22nd February, 3:30pm
Opening hours: 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday


Inspired by layers of accumulated dirt on wall surfaces, patterns and textures caused as a result of rusting roofs on old compound houses within and around the Kumasi metropolis, Silas Mensah re-imagines space as a series of overlapping histories. Mundane narratives of crisis and curiosity scraped together from newspapers, archival material and random documents intermingle with the failed dreams and aspirations of individuals within local communities. These are presented as a complex system of gloomy stains, deliberate spills, visceral splatters, illegible photo-transfers and object collages suspended between earth and sky.

Galaxies are hoarded onto perilously sutured fabric panels in an assortment of textures, sheen and tensile strength. Mensah refers to the draperies as walls and when activated by the blowing breeze, they become in his words, “audibly silent but visually loud”.

In a bid to critically engage with and thus expand the language of watercolour painting, Mensah works with mixtures of manganese dioxide extracted from discarded alkaline batteries, an assortment of clays, and vegetable extracts as pigment, immersed in a solution of gum-Arabic or cassava starch as a binder onto a selection of fabrics. He applies his paint solutions in accordance with the material composition of the fabrics.
In this present exhibition, the work assumes several guises: hanged in free space, draped against walls or arranged as amorphous object installations. Silas Mensah seems to be initiating a conversation between chaotic contemporary urban dwellings as living organisms and the ideal utopian projections of urban planners.


About the Artist:
Silas Mensah’s work has been exhibited in group shows like “The GOWN Must Go to TOWN”, (2015) and “Orderly Disorderly” (2017) organized by blaxtARLINES KUMASI, (Project Space for Contemporary Art), Department of Painting and Sculpture, KNUST, Kumasi. These exhibitions were held in the Museum of Science and Technology Accra, Ghana. He also participated in the inaugural Lagos Biennale, (2017) in Lagos Nigeria, dubbed “Living on the Edge”.



Orderly Disorderly (2017) completes the trilogy of large scale end-of-year exhibitions held by blaxTARLINES KUMASI, the contemporary art incubator and project space of KNUST, in collaboration with Ghana Museums and Monuments Board (GMMB) and its subsidiary, the Museum of Science and Technology (MST) in Accra. The exhibition features works by fresh graduates, alumni, and guest artists (living and dead). The previous two exhibitions — The Gown Must Go to Town… (2015) and Cornfields in Accra (2016) — honored Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and Ama Ata Aidoo respectively. “Cornfields” also honored the memory of Cameroonian conceptual artist Goddy Leye (1965-2011). Orderly Disorderly shares and celebrates the political vision of artist and educator Professor Ablade Glover who mobilized artists toward economic emancipation within a hopeless artistic milieu in the early 1990s when Ghana’s cultural institutions had been famished of domestic and international support.

Intergenerational conversations, collective curating and accessibility programming are vital to the curatorial model adopted by blaxTARLINES KUMASI during this series of exhibitions. blaxTARLINES actively collaborates with GMMB and MST in programming and curating to incorporate artefacts in their permanent collection into its exhibitions. The terms of the exhibition trilogy were set by “Silence between the Lines” in 2015 based on a deliberate misreading of the Sankɔfa legend by karî’kạchä seid’ou. In this new reading, the Sankɔfa bird unfastens its customary anchor of nostalgia and “attempts to grasp what it might have forgotten from futures that are to come”. This summarizes the new spirit of the Kumasi Art School which would be interpreted as anagrams of emancipated futures.

Orderly Disorderly combines the political attitudes and principles underlying Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami’s practice — notably The Bread and the Alley (1970), Orderly or Disorderly (1981) and The Chorus (1982) — and seid’ou’s emancipatory art pedagogy. Kiarostami is reputed for his deliberate use of non-actors and unprofessional crew to produce very significant films. His vital efforts to intervene in the film form saw him subvert conventions of filmmaking in order to transform and reinvent the medium. This spirit aligns with that which animates contemporary art production in the Department of Painting and Sculpture (KNUST, Kumasi). seid’ou’s egalitarian and emancipatory teaching practice “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 typifies his politics of ironic overidentification.

With this background the exhibition reflects on the status of art in the early decades of the 21st century. The exhibition posits art as a site of multiplicity. Art that is de-substantialized and emerges from a void: a state of indifference that is not pre-emptively prejudicial to any particular medium, content, skill, material, trend or process. If anything can be said to be art today it must necessarily be invented.

There are important analogies to be drawn from the artistic and political indifference espoused by the curatorial team of Orderly Disorderly, and the state of hopelessness and indifference experienced by sufferers and witnesses of the current global crises of public commons (refugee crisis, economic precarity, threats of ecological crisis in the epoch of anthropocene, new forms of apartheid emerging as invisible walls in the public sphere, gentrification of digital space and intellectual property, etc). As a response, the exhibition features a generic participant, ‘The Unknown Artist’. This character embodies the void, the disavowed, which haunts the consistency of exhibition projects operating within the finitude of contemporary capitalist processes but disavowing the precarity they leave behind.

Orderly Disorderly countenances diverse multi-site projects extending from MST into the city of Accra and further into virtual spaces — straddling human-centered and posthuman, art and non-art practices alike — by over 90 artists, including seminars, outreach programs, art talk events and a body of archives of the Kumasi School among which are manuscripts of poems authored by Uche Okeke. The exhibition invites its audience to deal with the contradictions that are constitutive of their everyday lives.

Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh and Curatorial Team.

‘ORDERLY DISORDERLY’: KNUST end of year exhibition
OPENING: Friday, 30TH June – Friday 1st September, 2017
Museum of Science & Technology, Accra
Organizers: blaxTARLINES KUMASI
Supported by: Ghana Museums & Monuments Board (GMMB)