María Leguízamo (b. 1988)
María Leguízamo is an artist from Colombia, currently working between Philadelphia (U.S.A) and Bogotá (Colombia). In 2017, she graduated with an MFA in Sculpture at Tyler School of Art with the support of a Fulbright Fellowship. She is a member of the Punk-Pop band Da Peeblz, an intersectional feminist music band for kids. Leguízamo has focused her practice on themes such as the phenomenon of absence of land and the potency of fragility and invisibility as subversive apparatuses; with her explorations always unfolding from personal experiences embedded in specific sociopolitical contexts. Her work has been shown at Temple Contemporary, The Woodmere Art Museum and ICEBOX-Crane Arts in Philadelphia; The Koppel Project in London; Artecamara Chapinero and El Claustro San Agustín in Bogotá.
For the exhibition Leguízamo shows two works: LOT (2010) and FLY (2016). LOT, concerned with the “absence of ground” and of land, is a moving image on 32inch flatscreen monitor mounted on a wall and edited by the artist to subvert the motion of gravity with a pair of legs seemingly levitating in time and space accumulating weightless tranches of terra firma that can barely support its weight. The video induces vertigo and could be read as an allegory of displacement in 21stcentury migration crises. FLY is a postproduction video object displaying a recording of explosions from a Youtube compilation from sites of war, corporate implosions, etc playing on a screen. The mediated moving image appears blurry and of lower resolution. A dead fly is stuck to the screen with honey. The fly, in a sense, could be interpreted as memento mori. In a formal sense, it serves as a tacit reminder of the screen; to emphasize its literalness by countering the illusion or distance created by the virtual space behind it. Honey is the viscous medium used to attach the fly to the screen. Dialectically, the dead fly is stuck to the screen with honey, an organic substance that neither dries up nor rots giving it the uncanny appearance of invisible motion. The 14inch monitor with chassis displaying the work is sited directly on the floor to condition the spectator to reorient themselves towards it for an intimate encounter, permitting touch and other forms of interaction. As human agents interact with the work, other biological life forms such as ants also intervene on the dead fly.
Dzyadzorm (b. 1987)
Dzyadzorm is a Ghanaian-Liberian poet who interrelates the written and spoken word in her work. Her content occasionally finds form in music. She participated in Voyage of [Re]Discovery (2015), a group exhibition organized by Nubuke Foundation in Accra, Ghana. Her performance style is delicately textured with surreal pathos while passionately exploring themes of love, desire, geopolitics, gender and identity politics from a feminist perspective.
For the exhibition, Dzyadzorm performs “Memoirs”, “MissUnderstood” and “Obaa Boni” live and also participates in the panel discussion themed “Spectacles. Speculations: In Terms of Images”. Her performances are staged within the exhibition space as a dynamic set of forms – words, gestures, voice, and cadence – in relation to the ensemble of objects in the exhibition space. As in theater, Dzyadzorm’s work establishes direct temporal affect on the audience, eliciting visceral as well as dialogic engagement.
Ibrahim Mahama (b. 1987)
Ibrahim Mahama is an artist who lives and works in Tamale, Ghana. He earned a BFA and MFA in Painting and Sculpture from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). In 2012 he began producing “Occupations”, a series of itinerant installations made in collaboration with migrant communities using industrial materials, namely jute fibre sacks used to carry various commodities. His work has been included in a number of group shows including Pangea I(2014) and Pangea II(2015) at Saatchi Gallery, London, Silence Between The Lines(2015) in Ahenema Kokobeng, Kumasi, The Gown must Go To Town (2015), Accra, the 56th Venice Biennale “All The Worlds Futures” (2015), Orderly Disorderly (2017), Accra, and documenta 14, Learning from Athens, Athens and Kassel (2017).
For the exhibition, Mahama shows a two-channel video installation, with sound, capturing the processes of making these itinerant installations in Accra and Kumasi. Tapestries of jute sacks encounter architectural objects in Mahama’s monumental installations. The video projections interchange drone angles with human eye-level viewpoints and are displayed to converge in a corner of the literal exhibition site where two walls meet – forming an enclave where flat converging walls create the illusion of continuing space. The “God’s-eye view” of the drone subverts eye-level angles as montages of moving images and sound recede and advance towards the spectator on both channels absorbing them into its world of pictures. By engaging migrant workers from the Northern Region of Ghana, Mahama highlights, amongst other things, the parallels between the decommissioned jute sacks – ranked lowest in the class society of commodities – and the state of hopelessness lived by the precariatshe employs in production. On the one hand, Mahama materially rewards this kind of labor but on the other they also belong to the vulnerable and exploited masses. A paradoxical situation emerges when Mahama’s artistic intervention at the same time gives away what could potentially be the artist’s complicity when commodification is smuggled back into the sacks as they participate in a capitalist art market. Mahama’s work takes on such contradictions in the dynamics between capital and labor as geographic, urban, architectural and other formal factors decussate into each other in his critical approach.
Kelvin Haizel (b.1987)
Kelvin Haizel investigates the contemporary condition of the image and expresses his ideas through video, photography, installations and objects. He holds a BFA and MFA in Painting and Sculpture from the College of Art, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). He has exhibited widely in his home country Ghana, and elsewhere including Nigeria, Mozambique, France and Portugal. His body of work from a recent solo show “things and nothings” showed in Mali, at the 11th edition of the Rencontres de Bamako, Biennale Africaine de la Photographie (2017), dubbed Afrotopia. He served as guest curator for the maiden edition of the Lagos Biennale, 2017. He is winner of the Vontobel Prize for Contemporary Photography, “A New Gaze 2018”.
Haizel’s silent video on screen remixes vignettes of a Vulture in motion from Casper Nyovest’s Hip-Hop music video War Ready dedicated to the student victims of the Soweto Uprising in South Africa in 1976. Inspired by Alfredo Jaar’s film installation responding to the ethical furor generated by the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of an emaciated child in Sudan stalked by a Vulture, authored by South African photojournalist Kevin Carter in 1993 who committed suicide three months after receiving the award, Haizel summons a poetics of the image in his postproduction while dealing with its politics as used in mass media and in mainstream consumer culture. He stretches the one-minute-thirty-six-second extract from War Readyinto a twenty-minute sequence causing the moving images to behave like jerky fragmented frames in a process of becoming; colliding, frame by frame, into and out of each other. The immanence of still and moving picture is here given visual form.
Aisha Nelson (b. 1986)
Aisha Nelson dreams, writes, thinks, teaches and lives in Accra, Ghana. A set of her poems were shortlisted by Erbacce Press in 2014; one won Akwantuo Writing’s 2015 Harmattan Poetry Contest. More of her poetry, short fiction, non-fiction and short plays have featured in outlets including Accra Theatre Workshop, One Ghana One Voice, Kalahari Review, Munyori Journal, Saraba Magazine, University of London’s Prairie Schooner, Writers Project of Ghana’s 2015 poetry anthology According to Sourcesand Caine Prize for African Writing’s 2015 short story anthology Lusaka Punk and Other Stories. Nelson shares some of her writing on her blog, Nu kɛ Hulu (Water and Sun), at aishawrites.wordpress.com.
For the exhibition, a poem by Nelson is translated from English to Ga, printed on cartridge paper in the modernist sans-serif typeface Helvetica, left-aligned and displayed as visual material. The unframed paper, 42cm x 59.4cm in dimensions, is held together on both ends by two black binder clips propped onto blackened concrete nails hit into the wall. The display style permits a 4.5cm distance between wall and paper, permitting interior lighting to cast an overlapping shadow of the paper onto the wall, creating the illusion of depth when the spectator assumes a frontal position. This literal as well as technical conversion — translating from one language to another and from one medium to another — radically transforms the text by unhinging it from its dependence on linguistic parameters and expands it into new aesthetic dimensions. The operation comes to bear implications on spectatorship, meaning and form. Tensions created by these dynamics sustain the work in its new identity.By conceptually reducing the poem to a series of marks on a flat surface, Nelson’s politicization of the written word through the technique of translation also counterbalances idealism with contingencies of time and the viewer’s position in relation to the object. If the work evokes a reference to modernist formalism, it undermines it by activating a here-and-now dialogism between text and pictorial content.
Mawuenya Amudzi (b. 1992)
Mawuenya Amudzi is based in Kumasi, Ghana. He has participated in group exhibitions including Orderly Disorderly(2017) organized by blaxTARLINES KUMASI in Accra, Ghana and the inaugural Lagos Biennial dubbed Living on the Edgein 2017.
Amudzi’s photographic objects are created from disused cathode ray tube (CRT) television screens and computer monitors. His process involves taking photographs of activities in the scrap yards and repairer workshops, where he collects the materials, as well as using family portraits from his personal archives and transferring these images on transparent stickers onto the screens. Incorporating photography, sculpture and installation, his work in the exhibition is a convex geometric shape composed of CRT computer monitors and wood employing the logic of seriality and the technique of scale by stacking one image object on top of another at equal distances in a corner of the literal exhibition site. Amudzi’s installation evokes references to minimalist sculptures as it elicits a reflexive cum confrontational encounter by orienting the spectator to be cognizant of their presence and position in relation to the work. The viewer can encounter the work frontally, as well as from its sides, but is left to imagine or complete the gestalt in their mind since they cannot access the work from behind. Alkaline battery-powered LED lights are implanted within the objects to augment theatricality in the objects by subtly revealing the palimpsest of images layered in the blotches of color within the damaged CRT screens in relation to the superimposed pictures. A conversation develops between the decommissioned screens, amorphous images, realist portraits, LED lights, spectator and exhibition space. When the batteries wear down, the images become less palpable unless upon closer inspection. The work eerily comes alive when all of the interior lights go off in the exhibition space. As it reveals more of itself upon intimate inspection, distance becomes necessary for contemplating its singularity.
Men on Black is a collective comprised of poet Sir Black and actors Dr. So and Jeneral Nta Tia. Adapting Franz Kafka’s characterization in The Trialinto a three-person stage act, the trio explore the situational dynamic between performer and audience with the experimental form of black box theatre. In The Trial (originally published in German as Der Process in 1925), Kafka tells the story of Josef K, Chief Clerk of a bank, who is, for no reason, arrested one morning and assumed guilty. His prosecution becomes a series of events shrouded in bureacracy and secrecy — from his offense to the rules of the law court, to the remote authorities behind the courts until his execution. The play was directed by Simon Eifeler and premiered in Theaterfabrik in Düsseldorf, Germany in 2016.
Spectacles. Speculations…restages this performance via video projection and extends the dialogics at play in the collective’s translation of Kafka’s literary work from a series of live actions and gestures into a medium that alienates the image of the actors and their live audience from literal space. Their image, which has now become a moving picture being thrown by means of light onto a rectangular semi-opaque screen, is severed from its dependence on the presence of the actors’ and audiences’ physical bodies. Thus, a work of literature is translated from text and adapted onto the stage with live actors and audiences. The live moment is recorded via video, extending the life of the work into the digital realm where time can be manipulated beyond restrictions of three-dimensional space-time (the performance can now be slowed down, repeated, duplicated, accelerated, and so on). The video work is a result of postproduction; an editor’s hand – the new producer-author in addition to the director, actors, audience, production crew and cameraperson – has contributed to the form and experience of the work, i.e. what the work becomes.
If the experimental space of black box theater purports to abolish frontal distance between the stage, where the actors are placed, and the audience (as in classical theater where the spectacle or illusion is homed), the display method used in the exhibition smuggles frontality back into this iteration of the performance through separation by means of a 52in. x 71.5in. screen. The screen, diagonally suspended from the ceiling in the exhibition space, processes the images beaming onto it by mirroring them in an asymmetrical display with audiences frontally receiving moving images on both of its surfaces at a necessary distance.
Hence, the director adapts a literary work for the ‘stage’ by exercising artistic decisions which include and exclude parts of the original work, the editor dissects time on the editing bench via montage to create the video, the curator remixes these poetics at play in the video (factual, aesthetic, technical, and fictional elements) by restaging it in the context of an exhibition to establish new relations regarding how the work exists in the world of things. The experimental ethic in the exhibition is heightened when another work in the exhibition space is temporarily displaced to be able to show this work. The screen used to display Poku Mensah’s video Fooding (2014) will be used for the duration of screening The Trial. This alternation of displays emphasizes the screen as the site of interest: the technology that interplays with others in the continual production of images within the exhibition space.
Steloolive (b. 1984)
Steloolive is a Ghana based DJ of electronic music who remixes content from live percussion, fashion, photography, sound and performance in his work. He has performed in Accra’s biggest street art festival, Chale Wote, Nairobi’s Thrift Social, Abidjan’s Electropique Festival and Bush Man Film Festival. Steloolive has also performed at We Don’t Contemporary festival in Hamburg, Germany, Afropean Mimicry and Mockery III, Frankfurk, Germany, and Iwalewahaus – Future Ports of Entry Festival Bayreuth, Germany.
The exhibition restages sound from a Steloolive performance where he employs readymades such as glass, water, spoons, empty cans, and musical instruments (eg. Xylophone and Conga), mediated by computer software and the drum machine, to create sound from electronic, synthetic, and organic sources. The sound is distributed within the exhibition space with wired loudspeakers.
Akwasi Afrane Bediako (b. 1990)
Akwasi Afrane Bediako has a BFA and MFA from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana. He has participated in group exhibitions including “if you love me…”(2016) co-curated by Robin Riskin, Patrick Nii Okanta Ankrah and Selom Kudjie in Kumasi and Orderly Disorderly (2017) organized by blaxTARLINES KUMASI in Accra, Ghana.
Bediako’s installation in the exhibition, on the one hand, functions as a surveillance apparatus — a network of two 32inch flatscreen monitors, Logitech C270 webcam, Samsumg Galaxy S4 camera and computer — inviting local and online audiences to perversely join in consuming images of happenings in the literal exhibition site for entertainment. Reflexively mirroring the spectator’s presence and offering recorded footage of other guests within the literal exhibition site, the work raises concerns of contemporary voyeurism, mass surveillance, and mass hacking by governments and private institutions in a post-Internet epoch with deleterious effects on privacy. On the other hand, the installation inverts the logic of things in the exhibition since it is the one work that exclusively generates its content from the literal exhibition site in realtime; displaying the immanent relationship between reality and fiction. Time becomes material in this installation. The content in the two flatscreens offer different angles of the same environment —one camera is placed directly on top of the screen and the other mounted in another corner of the room. In a Foucauldian sense they could be described as heterotopias; sites that are real but which subvert the reality they mirror at the same time. Bediako’s installation offers a place that is real insofar as it is virtual by manipulating time (examples can be seen in the way footage is recorded to be played back at different times during the exhibition and how motion capture on the webcam is delayed as compared to capture on the smartphone), extending space, and countering the literal with the virtual – positing a dimension outside of the time it is participating in.
Francis Kokoroko (b. 1987)
Francis Kokoroko is a freelance photographer and artist living and working in Accra, Ghana. He has a B.Sc. in Computer Science from Ashesi University College. Kokoroko developed the passion for image-making after studying Projects in Photography at the New York University Campus in Accra— a program run by artist Lyle Ashton Harris. He is a member of Nuku Studio— a photography institution at the forefront of the advancement of image-making and its interpretation in Africa— and has participated in World Press Photo West African Master Class (2017).Kokoroko has a keen interest in documenting the upbeat everyday life on the African continent and its ever-evolving cultures. He currently works on long-term projects for Reuters Wider Image. His @accraphoto account on Instagram chronicles his encounters in Ghana and journeys through the African continent. His work has been exhibited at Addis Foto (2016) and Lagos Photo (2017).
Kokoroko’s participatory installation is a set of instructions mounted on a wall ergonomically facilitated with a 60cm high stool. The work permits one participant at a time. Audiences are instructed, via text, to fulfill specific conditions in order to visit Kokoroko’s online gallery which is his @accraphoto Instagram timeline accessed through the app on any smartphone device. This offers a quasi-private experience for both artist and participant of a solo exhibition within a group exhibition where textual and smartphone technologies mediate inter-personal communication. The participant is invited to take a seat and then follow instructions and even to engage the photographer via direct messaging, ‘liking’ or commenting on photos. They are also burdened with the awareness that once seated their activities may be recorded. Here, text functions as decoy for an interactive encounter simultaneously virtual and in realtime. Kokoroko’s photographs are genre images of the everyday.
Poku Mensah (b. 1992)
Poku Mensah is an artist of Ghanaian nationality born in Accra, Ghana. In 2010, he was admitted to Northeastern University in Boston Massachusetts where he pursued Architecture but failure to complete led him to Paris in 2011. In 2012 he was admitted to Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts de Paris. He attained his Masters degree (DNSAP) in December 2017 after admission to the post-graduate residency (Van Eyck Academy). Mensah has participated in exhibitions including Dak’Art Biennale (2016), Salon d’Automne on the Champs Elysee (2016), Capital Africa at LaVillette (Paris) under the curatorial management of Simon Njami (June 2017) and the inaugural edition of the Lagos Biennial (2017). He interned for Claudy Jongstra in Friesland Netherlands during the summer of July 2017. He is currently a guest lecturer in Sculpture at the Chiang Mai University in Thailand.
Mensah’s work for Spectacles is a ten-minute video projection on knitted cotton/polyester cloth of a black body portrayed as a stuffed animal centered in the moving picture of a dinner setting. The subject is ominously scanning his environment, aware of his impending fate with faceless European dinner guests who seem oblivious to his presence, drinking and feeding from around his body and on it. Bent on both knees with hands bound behind him, the only movable part of the subject’s body is his neck as his head pans across the room. His mouth is stuffed with what appears to be an orange thus having no voice. A narrator enunciates, in measured cadences, over the moving image. The fabric screen mediates the projected image heightening the intense interplay of light and dark tones in the video by rendering a shimmering effect on the areas with intense lighting such as the lustrous silk mat covering the dinner table. Its patterns of vertical and horizontal lines are not perceivable from a distance but appear as pixels in the video upon closer inspection. The work encountered by the viewer is produced through the artist’s appropriation of painterly elements from 17th century Dutch Golden Age oil paintings. The artist interrelates traditional portraiture, still life and genre painting by reworking them into a new relationship through video – a digital technological medium. The installation resists frontality as it can be perceived from both sides of the semi-opaque screen. The surface of the screen displays a chiral image: the image received from the projector mirrors a non-superimposable, asymmetrical image on its other side. Through appropriation, editing and light manipulation techniques the artist gives a contemporary interpretation to art historical styles while engaging racial and colonial memories.
Bright Ackwerh (1989)
Bright Ackwerh is an artist from Ghana whose satirical computer-aided illustrations make commentary on geopolitics and pop culture. Ackwerh considers the internet (social media) as a site of intervention for his often provocative, exaggerated and controversial subject matter encountering different forms of censorship. His versatile practice is situated in the interstices of painting, illustration and street art. He graduated from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) where he earned a BFA and MFA in Painting and Sculpture. He is the winner of the Kuenyehia Prize for Ghanaian Contemporary Art in 2016, an honor conferred on him by a jury led by Professor El Anatsui. He was also named one of the top 10 artists in the 2017 Barclays L’atelier.
For the exhibition, Ackwerh’s work is a sequence of portraits and still life digital drawings animated with video editing software to remove the hand of the artist. Displayed as a video projection on the exterior walls of the exhibition site, the work creates what seems to be a picture coming into existence by itself without the artist’s hand and increases the variable dynamics of interactions in the public space. Ackwerh’s videos were staged for two nights throughout the three months the exhibition lasted emphasizing how some images may happen, be present but not always be available for visual consumption.
Edwin Bodjawah (b. 1970)
Edwin Bodjawah is an artist and teacher based in Kumasi, Ghana. He has featured in exhibitions including blaxTARLINES KUMASI’s large-scale exhibitions at the Museum of Science & Technology in Accra — The Gown Must Go to Town(2015) Cornfields in Accra(2016) and Orderly Disorderly(2017). In 2017 Bodjawah’s solo exhibition “of Blood Soil & More… SILENCE SPEAKS” was held at the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana.
Bodjawah’s reproductions of facemasks are made from layered decommissioned lithographic plates from the Ghanaian print industry and corrugated roofing sheets as well as other objects and materials appropriated from building sites. The masks featured in the exhibition space are sited on the ceiling and on the walls. Serially mounted in imperfect uniformity, the masks face the spectator from various angles — from above, below and eye-level. Borrowing from multi-layered processes embedded in African masking systems and their theatrical role in social life, Bodjawah improvises with techniques of mechanical reproduction, similar to industrial embossment and stamping. His nominalist gesture reclaims the African mask from the white cube gallery system— a colonial apparatus which flattens it into an autonomous object to be contemplated by a disembodied eye — and reinfuses the new forms with collective processes of production and spectatorship.
Kwabena Afriyie Poku (b. 1968)
Educated at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, where he currently teaches, Kwabena Afriyie Poku started his practice as a painter, illustrator and art teacher. Poku’s works have evolved into incorporating new territories of digital expression. Exploring performance and video, amidst other digital media, his work emphasizes Karate-related principles —regarding body movements, time, speed, and angles— as content for art practice. Poku has shown his work in residencies and several local and international exhibitions including Dialogue(2015-2016), a Ghanaian-Danish collaboration in Ghana and Denmark, and Orderly Disorderly(2017) organized by blaxTARLINES KUMASI in Accra.
Poku’s four-screen video installation in the exhibition, “Jazz of Katas” (2018), is a composition of the artist performing four Katas— a system of individual training routines in Karate and other martial arts— per screen in four minutes edited to repeatedly echo every action. The result is a video with continuously repeating movements split between four screens. The work involves elements of performance extended through video to manipulate the effects of time—delayed, controlled, layered, continuous, etc. His moving images become unavailable to the spectator for absorption and examines notions of time, movement, angles and speed.
Koliko constitutes a loose collective of practitioners who share an interest in music and are based in Kumasi, Ghana. For the group music is a tool for entertainment and for the soul which ought to be available to everybody, irrespective of age, class, gender or racial background. Koliko’s music functions as a medium through which to express these egalitarian ideals. Inspired by the Afrobeat band Osibisa, founded in the late 1960s, and Kwame Yeboah’s “Ohia Bɛ Yɛ Ya” band, the group’s cosmopolitan sound appropriates from local highlife music (Adadamu, Burger highlife, etc), Jazz, Soul, Calypso, et al. For the exhibition, Koliko deepen public participation by extending the environment of the exhibition from an interior space onto the streets with their relational form. They create temporary communities organized on the basis of a mythic unity in the safe and convivial space of a live open mic event subject to participation from members of the general public. By siting their work this way, any passer-by can potentially become a spectator, a participant or neither.