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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)

 

PRESS RELEASE

Orderly Disorderly is the third in a trilogy of large-scale end-of-year exhibitions held in the Science and Technology Museum, Accra, by fresh graduates, alumni and special guests of the KNUST Fine Art Department in Kumasi. The terms of the trilogy were launched by Silence between the Lines, an experimental exhibition of emergent art held in Kumasi in February, 2015. Some common features of this body of exhibitions are intergenerational conversations, collective curating, accessibility programming, especially, braille translations of exhibition texts and open-source coordination, and off-site ‘prosthesis’ projects.

Following Gown must go to Town…(2015) and Cornfields in Accra (2016) respectively, Orderly Disorderly (2017) presents a constellation of projects by over 80 selected artists, and a body of archives of the Kumasi School which includes manuscripts of poems authored by Uche Okeke. Supplementing the artist list is a generic participant ‘The Unknown Artist’, marking the ineluctable site of exception which haunts art projects operating within the finitude of capitalist processes. The curatorial muse is Iranian film maker Abbas Kiarostami, the author of Orderly or Disorderly (1981), whose films star children and amateurs in lead roles.

The exhibition also honours the lifework of Ghanaian modernist Ablade Glover, dubbed Order in Disorder, which culminated in the political vision of an artists’ alliance in the early 1990s when decades of domestic and international neglect had left Ghana’s cultural institutions emaciated. This modest vision of emancipatory politics and courageous social action in a milieu of hopelessness, inspires blaxTARLINES KUMASI, the contemporary art incubator and project space of KNUST organising this exhibition.

Orderly Disorderly will be opened by the guest of honour, the artist El Anatsui.

 

‘ORDERLY DISORDERLY’: KNUST END OF YEAR EXHIBITION

OPENING: FRIDAY, 30TH JUNE, 2017

MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, ACCRA

ORGANISERS: blaxTARLINES KUMASI

SUPPORTED BY: GHANA MUSEUMS AND MONUMENTS BOARD

Orderly Disorderly (2017) poster

“To every question there is a bigger question; to every text there is a context.” – Ravi Zacharias.

Questioning is important. Such that my entire art practice assumes this posture. When we ask questions we believe them to be relevant and worthy of answers. All questions make assumptions. Sometimes we are unwilling to accept or deal with what the inherent assumptions of our questions elicit in terms of responses or answers. There are self-defeating questions which are not always wrong — as they can determine the starting point into a potential conversation — but only give away the extent to which the questioner had considered their own presuppositions. Not always do questions require answers. Some simply do not, and intend their propositions to function, at the same time, as inquiry and answer.

I have questions about what I have become. The national identity I have inherited since I was born and no doubt affirm. I seek to learn how it came into existence for I know that it has not always been — not in the form it is in now, a nation state. What are the events, sentiments and passions which necessitated and produced this form of identity: that its bearer is burdened with and must exude when journeying through this world? I seek to learn the presuppositions (historical, linguistic, cultural, political) undergirding my national identity so I can be able to position myself in relation to the next person who has a different national  affiliation.

Notion: 06 03 is the current work I am developing in residency at Gasworks. It is in continuation of Prison Anxieties, a research series I begun in 2011 which investigates colonial histories. The title punningly juxtaposes the days on which The Bond of 1844 was signed and when the British government granted independence to the then Gold Coast (1957). Both events, although separated by 113 years, happened on the 6th day of March respectively.

The Bond is presumed to have laid the legal foundation for subsequent British colonisation of the coastal area of the Gold Coast. In essence, the Bond certified a diminution of the Chiefs’ juridical powers ceding them to the British crown which then begun the formal annexation of the Gold Coast as British colony. According to J. B Danquah, the declaration of Independence marked “the liberation of the chiefs and the people of the Gold Coast from the legal effect of the Bond of 1844.”(1) He expounds further to say that “[T]he first axiom or self-evident truth of the Bond is therefore that the Chiefs who signed it placed the exercise of certain specified ancient rights and liberties, for instance the right to constitute their own courts, in bondage to the Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”(2)

Notion: 06 03 captures two moments in Gold Coast/Ghana[ian] cultural history and critiques the constitution of its national identity through its flag. The title of the work advances a theory which identifies the link between the day on which the Bond was signed and the day Independence was granted to the Gold Coast. It explores the long journey between these two points in Gold Coast/Ghana[ian] political history and establishes them as broad timelines within which many meaningful events occurred in producing the entity known, politically, as the ‘Ghanaian’ today.

I borrow from the figurative and relativistic language of the Asafo flag — a culture of flag-making dating back at least until the seventeenth century, appropriated from the British colonialists’ use of their own flag by Fante military factions — to begin to rethink  or reinterpret what it means for me to uphold this sense of nationalistic identification today. The Asafo flag also enables me to branch into an entirely new world of aesthetics, form, and materiality that aligns with my inquiry.

For the open studio at Gasworks (December 5th 2015), I featured a hand-made Asafo flag, sketches and excerpts from writings of authors on subjects of nationhood, race, the Gold Coast and Ghanaian colonial/ political history.

In a broader sense, I am asking questions and am happy to follow wherever the information may lead. As I make work and think about what I do, the question has become less about what art means and more about what art does… it has transcended cerebrality a cerebral place into concrete reality.

 

Notes:
(1) Danquah J.B. “The Historical Significance of the Bond of 1844”. Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana, Vol. 3, No. 1 (1957), pp. 3-29. Web. JSTOR. 1 Nov. 2015.
(2) ibid.

 

 

Accra is burgeoning in real estate development. New buildings punctuate its skies in the city’s desperate ambition to ‘modernize’. I have, of late, taken to its streets and documented this phenomenon of sites always undergoing construction. The interesting aspects of this phenomenon is that as some new developments are started and finished other sites are left abandoned for whatever reasons. So the construction site has become a precarious ground which does not always promise a finished outcome. This may have its reasons shrouded in capitalist structures or economic tussles but that is not my focus. I read from what i see in my environment. The construction site aesthetic has become so present in the city that i find it a compelling subject matter to begin to deal with.

Privately, I harbor resentment for this urban regeneration in the city i grew up and still live in. Places i hold fond childhood memories have been torn down and ‘modern’ buildings, malls and highways built in its place. For example, I remember Lapaz (a place in Accra) as a transit point radically altered by the construction of the six-lane, 14-kilometre (8.7 mi) George W. Bush highway. The psychic connection i shared with this place by my everyday travels through it as a child with my family has been severed entirely and it feels empty of any meaning to me as i inhabit it now. I speak neither for a positive nor negative implication of this change or development initiative; I am merely presenting one artist’s selfish (utopian) desire for things to stay the same; for a comfort of being in places.

I think of Driss Ouadahi’s 300 x 200 cm painting Unter uns (Entre nous), 2014. I physically saw this work as it was exhibited this year at the Dak’Art Biennale. It is an abstract composition bereft of human forms. The work collects fragmented images of “neighborhoods” and paints a disturbing resemblance1. Ouadahi’s painting becomes a visual representation of my mentally lonely and deserted migrations through hitherto meaningful places in Accra. My next body of work will take this personal sense of loss and dis-location in various forms using the metal scaffold (industrial ladder) as its primary material — therefore the Ouadahi-Mahama proposal.

Driss Ouadahi’s heterotopian environment reminds me of the scaffold-cladded exteriors of buildings so natural to construction sites. Ibrahim Mahama’s massive scale draperies of repurposed jute sacks on landscapes, buildings and other giant objects brings the daunting presence of an austere material that lends itself to a multitude of functions.

Wildly hypothesising, what would it look like if Ouadahi’s painting materialized into a metropolis defined by metal scaffolding in conversation with Mahama’s jute sacks which can stand on its own in this same feat? How would they work together? How will this look — The metal scaffold as an interior framework for a draping material existing on the outside walls of a building or any landscape?

Interestingly i chanced on a shopping mall which had used this idea for a renovation phase it was undergoing and this presented an enlightening fusion of what these two artists’ methods when stretched could produce. It is interesting what we can learn from our environment if we pay attention to its happenings. The ideas still flit around in my mind with this hypothesis as my beginning point.

  1. See 11e biennale de l’art africain Contemporaine, DAK’ART 2014 catalogue.