Look at This
Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
06/17/2021 - 09/19/2021
The exhibition LOOK AT THIS invites you to critically reflect on the diverse relationships between the work of art, the audience, the space and the institution. At the same time, the show questions firmly established (Western) perspectives. LOOK AT THIS asks: What is being exhibited and in what form? What role does space play in this? Which evaluations and attributions are associated with it? Which dependencies and power structures come to light?
LOOK AT THIS shows works in a wide variety of media by a total of 30 international artists: from the past five decades, including Kristina Buch, Magdalena Jetelová, Victor Leguy, Nam June Paik, Gerhard Richter, David Shrigley, Andreas von Weizsäcker.
The exhibition is a dialogue between the curators Folakunle Oshun (Lagos) and Bernhart Schwenk (Munich). It makes the perception of art and the variety of perspectives the actual theme of the exhibition. The process is accompanied by a film project.
Season Africa 2020
Based on the principle of collective intelligence, the General Commissioner organised a workshop with these four personalities, from 25 to 29 June 2018 in Saint Louis, in Senegal. The goal was to allow an African team to reflect on Africa, its societies and their future on the edge of the Sahara, on a small island far from the hustle and bustle of big cities. Symbolically, it was important to hold this workshop on African soil, the land on which the participants were born, grew up, and still work, and from which they draw their inspiration.
During this workshop, the team mapped out the main ideas object of intellectual, scientific and artistic research and production in Africa and identified five main lines of investigation. Titles were purposefully attributed in the spirit of fluid partitions sparking the imagination.
(1) Mr. Ntone Edjabe (1970), Cameroon. Lives in Cape Town, South Africa. Writer and DJ, founder and publisher of Chimurenga, a pan-African magazine dedicated to culture, social and political sciences. Founder of the Pan African Space Station (PASS), an online research platform including a pop-up radio broadcasting live, archives and a library. (2) Mrs Nontobeko Ntombela (1982), South Africa. Lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. Lecturer in art history and heritage management at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Fields of study: art theory, feminism in visual arts, art education. (3) Mr. Folakunle Oshun (1984), Nigeria. Lives in Lagos, Nigeria. Artist and curator. Founder and director of the Lagos biennial. Fields of study: Parallel stories, social engagement, contemporary cultures. (4) Mrs Sarah Rifky (1981), Egypt. Lives in Cairo, Egypt. Curator, art critic researcher in urban studies and modern theories. PhD candidate in History, Theory and Criticism, Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, MIT, USA.
Lagos Biennial 2019
How to Build a Lagoon with Just a Bottle of Wine
26/102019 - 30/11/2019
Director: Folakunle Oshun
Curators: Antawan Byrd, Tosin Oshinowo, Oyinda Fakeye
How to Build a Lagoon with Just a Bottle of Wine?
An environment can be made up of living or non-living things, concepts, and belief systems. Environments are natural or man-made and are increasingly inhabited and navigated through digital and virtual media.
With an estimated 21 million inhabitants, Lagos ranks among the largest cities in the world and is the most populous in Africa. In recent decades, the city’s built environment has expanded exponentially through large-scale land reclamation initiatives, major industrial and luxury development projects, new transportation infrastructures, and sprawling housing settlements. This steady growth has transformed and amplified Lagos’s distinctive history as a cosmopolitan hub, and incubator of cultural and technological innovation. Yet such rapid change continues to raise pressing questions, facing cities across the globe, about the impact of urbanisation on conceptions of citizenship, the role of information systems, the sustainability of natural resources, and socio-economic equality.
The forthcoming biennial titled, How To Build a Lagoon with Just a Bottle of Wine? will take the city of Lagos as its epicenter and point of departure for a broader investigation on how contemporary artists, designers, and other creatives, are responding to the challenges and possibilities of environments today. Inspired by lines from Nigerian writer Akeem Lasisi’s poem “A Song For Lagos,” the biennial’s title calls to mind the lagoons and waterways, that founded the city; the centuries-long histories of trade that have transformed Lagos; and daily herculean and inconceivable activities that support our burgeoning metropolis.
Potsdam is Potsdam
Curator in Residence Programme
Potsdam City Council, Brangemburg
Artist and curator Folakunle Oshun, born in 1984 in Nigeria, received the first-ever Potsdam Curator Prize 2017. The award is valued at € 30,000 and comes with an invitation to stay in the state capital. It is awarded in an invitation-only competition and is intended to recognize outstanding up-and-coming international curators with an opportunity to undertake intensive research in the city of Potsdam, where they can then develop projects focussing beyond the art world to encompass the local urban society as well.
The jury members explained their decision as follows: "In a time when more and more we see attempts to create cultural distances, Folakunle Oshun captivated us with a programme of playful transgression of boundaries in which familiar perceptions of self are challenged, history blends spontaneously with the private sector and completely unaccustomed collaborations can arise from a moment of surprise. This approach demonstrated both curatorial creativity and also reminds us, that art is an experiment and an adventure. His projects are also constructive and reassuring criticism of the widespread institutionalised practice of exhibitions."
The 8-member panel of jury specialists was chaired by Gerrit Gohlke (Artistic Director, Brandenburgischer Kunstverein Potsdam e.V.) and included Katja Aßmann (Director of the Centre for Art and Public Space of Schloss Biesdorf), Siegfried Dittler (Director of the Kunstraum c/o Waschhaus Potsdam gGmbH), Gerrit Gohlke (Brandenburgischer Kunstverein Potsdam e.V.), Prof. Christian Jankowski (artist and curator of MANIFESTA 11), Bettina Klein (Berlin artists programme at the DAAD), Ulrike Kremeier (Director, Brandenburgisches Landesmuseum für moderne Kunst, Cottbus/Frankfurt (Oder)), Dr. Ortrud Westheider (Director of the Museum Barberini Potsdam) and Prof. Beatrice von Bismarck (Professor of Art History and Visual Culture at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig). The city and state were involved in the selection process through the participation of consultants Reiner Walleser, Department Head for Culture at the Brandenburg Ministry for Science, Research and Culture and Dr. Birgit-Katharine Seemann, Department Head for Culture and Museums for the city of Potsdam.
Lagos Biennial 2017
Living on the Edge
14/10/2017 - 22/11/2015
Founder and Director: Folakunle Oshun:
Guest Curators: Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh and Kelvin Haizel
To Re-think. To Re-imagine.
The former suggests a logical mental exercise, while the latter reaches the fringes of fantasy. Art, for too long, has proffered beautiful but unrealistic and unachievable solutions to the issues of society; asking more questions than it answers. Should art remain in its most essential form, whether or not it achieves a tangible goal? Does it become necessary to examine the role of art in society especially in the dimension of large-scale biennial interventions? The city of Lagos, in its peculiarity as a commercial center and melting pot for diverse endeavors and cultures, holds a reputation for spewing out what does not add up materially. A historical slave and trade route, Lagos developed the culture of gate-keeping and taxation - where foreigners were welcome only to the reach of their pockets. In an attempt to juxtapose the historical and contemporary realities in this dynamic space, it would be natural to place the spotlight on the current expressions of these ancient values which have invariably become an urban culture. The danger would be to subsist in a bubble and alienate one’s reality from a global politico-economic climate that is submerged under the currents of capitalism. It may be savvier to investigate the realities of the losers in societies around the world - the unseen majority who are pushed to the brink of their existence; in both political and cultural ramifications. This, by far, offers a more realistic starting point for conversations set to engage the city of Lagos in years to come.
The vision is not to mystify or demystify, but rather to embark on a journey to explore multi-faceted scenarios which will undoubtedly question the very essence of our humanity, spirituality, and the interconnectedness of the universe. If we were to take a portrait of the world, would it be life-giving? Would it be a collage of despair? The greatest challenge of this exercise would be to solicit the interest of local communities which are key to the eventual plausibility of the continuum.
In essence, art will be put to the ultimate test; can it save the world or at least make an attempt? The narrative of the biennial, which shares its title with the 2012 project of Mozambican artist Mário Macilau, is expanded to accommodate the geographical, spiritual, and, most importantly, the psychological ramifications of living on the edge.
United Nations of Jollof
Dak'Art Biennale 2016
03/05 2016 - 11/07/ 2016
“United Nations of Jollof” (UNJ) the artist proposes a new world order that
counters post-colonial peace-keeping efforts in the West African region and in sub-Saharan Africa at large. An installation in which UNJ is parallel to the UN consists of a series of small blue pots are placed upside down in a military formation with a logo that also resembles the UN one, highlighting that Africa can solve their own problems without the vested external interests. It is believed that the Jollof rice originated during the Jollof Empire (of the Wolof people), a medieval West African state that ruled some territories in the Senegambia region between the 14th and the 19th centuries, and today it is considered a national dish" in Senegal, even though it is now called Theibou Dienn (“rice with fish”) or Benachin. Apart from plausible evidence of the name's origins, it is nebulous that the popularity of this dish reached
many West African territories during this period. Historian James C. McCann proposes that the migration of the dish occurred during the Mali Empire, through the Djula tradespeople who circulated widely across West African Kingdoms. Therefore, to unveil some of the “authenticity” polemics around this recipe, it is crucial to understand West African history and the consequential exchanges with other cultures, particularly Arabs and Europeans who over centuries, introduced ingredients that today are key elements in African gastronomy. In North and East Africa, the influence of Arabs is heavily obvious through spices such as saffron, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, or nutmeg that were introduced during the 7th century. Nevertheless, in the Horn of Africa, the cuisine is very different, perhaps as a result of the impact of Islam and/or Christian influences. Another case is where the Portuguese introduced techniques of roasting and marinating using Piri-Piri (chili seasoning), which is now very common in South Africa today. On another hand, the cuisine in West and Central Africa is considered to be less contaminated by Europeans, due to active trade with the Arab world that pre-dates their arrival, and consequently West African food features a variety of hot spices. However, Europeans did have some influence on African regional cuisines, but not as much as one might expect. Another misconception is that the Europeans introduced rice into West Africa from Asia and brought the knowledge of its cultivation to the Americas. This is a fallacy, because many years before contact with the Europeans, West African farmers of the Inland Niger Delta were already able to domesticate a hardy species of rice -Oryza glaberrima-, which became a dietary staple of the great empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai which flourished due to the trans-Saharan trade between the 11th and the 16th centuries.
Goethe Insitute, ZK/U Berlin, SAVVY Contemporary
Goethe institute Lagos Residency Programme
Since the early 1900s, traditional African art has played an intense role in the evolution of modern and contemporary European art. A number of Notable European artists are known to have been hugely influenced by their encounters with African art; showing distinct elements in their work. Picasso, Matisse, and Van Gogh are some of the names that cannot be overstated in this discussion, as these artists were bold to acknowledge their influence from their interaction with the African continent. The adaptation of simplistic forms and geometric shapes of sculptures from West and Central Africa by many European artists during the cubist and expressionist movements has remodeled the perception and sensibilities of their audience. Over the past few decades, extended texts have been written on the subject of African traditional art without convincing detail on the origin, purpose, and cultural significance of the art. This could be as a result of the time-lapse between the creation of the art in question and the period it became expedient to make proper research on them. It is also regrettable that a staggering number of publications made on the subject of African art have been made by art historians of non-African nationality.
This pattern is evident across Western museums holding art of African origin - the rhetoric with which these art pieces are contextualized may be unacceptable and sometimes condescending to the originating cultures. A great number of these collections are often lumped up together and labeled as African Art - without in-depth reference to their historical background and context. Indeed these details cannot be fully captured without extensive research into the origins of these pieces which in turn might be discordant with their placement in museums. As the collections get older, it becomes more tedious to collate these data and tie them to the context in which the works are presently curated. It is pertinent to note that a significant number of Traditional African Art pieces which have found their way to Western museums through diverse circumstances were originally not created to serve aesthetic purposes, but more pervasively as religious totems. These salient factors are not new to art historians, but not nonetheless these pieces are still found under African Art sections in Western museums without wholesome detail to their individual narratives. Indeed, there is a disconnect between the original intent for the creation of some of these works of art, the manner in which they were acquired, and their presentation to the public.
This project seeks to examine the presentation and contextualization of African art in Western museums by engaging a younger generation of budding artists/art historians from both sides of the Mediterranean. Students from universities in Nigeria and Germany will be selected to work as a team in the making of an art piece which ultimately will embody their cultural interjections and historical parallels - affording them the opportunity to trace their histories and the recurring decimals evident in the art of their continents.
A group of volunteer art students in Berlin will be commissioned to create a clay pot with specific dimensions. The students will then be given the freedom to illustrate imagery that captures their perception of the subject and aesthetic of African art on the pot.
Upon completion of the clay pot, performance will be enacted to contest the inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the contextualization of African Art by Western Museums. The clay pot will be elevated and left to fall and break into several pieces. These pieces will be retrieved and documented by the students. Each student will take responsibility for at least one piece of the broken pot. The pieces will then be created and sent to selected museums with notable collections of African art across Europe and America. The museums will be laden with the responsibility of holding these pieces for a period of 6 months and eventually shipping them to the University of Lagos in Nigeria. The Students in Nigerian will strive to put the pot back together and a final performance will be held at the University of Lagos where the mended pot will be filled with water and made functional again. The Pot's final destination will be the National Museum Lagos, Nigeria.
British Museum, London
Ethnological Museum, Berlin
Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Musee Du Quai Branly, Paris
Iwalewa Haus, Bayreuth
The project is supported by Goethe Institut Lagos, Galerie Wedding, ZK/U, and SAVVY Contemporary
Established in August, 2013, The Osh Gallery has become an alternative arts space in Lagos, Nigeria. The Gallery serves as a hub for emerging artists to find expression. Based on the ideology of experimentation and collaboration, the gallery is constantly expanding its scope and capacity to engage young artists. Situated on the Lagos Mainland, the space is a walking distance from the Yaba College of Technology and the University of Lagos Art Schools; affording it the luxury of young, passionate, creative minds. Our 95 Square Meter custom built space affords artists a degree of creative freedom and the gallery offers this at no cost to artists, both as temporary studios and for exhibition.
The Osh is a privately owned gallery which serves as a platform for budding artists to showcase their work to the public. Our Artists’ Development Program (ADP) provides a thriving environment for emerging artists to engage a curatorial team towards the realization of their career goals. The gallery organizes seminars, workshops, residencies, internships, and exhibitions with the sole aim of giving artists a strong foundation for their professional careers. It is also a breeding ground for young talent and also a hub for collectors who are keen on following new artists from the inception of their careers. As part of our mentorship initiative, the gallery occasionally shows the works of a more established artist, creating an avenue for younger artists to get first hand interactions with professionals.
National Arts Competition
The year is 2084; man has yet again found himself in the medieval age. Barely a hundred years from the setting of the Orwellian epochal and prescient piece which satirically predicted the preoccupations of a coming era has nature once again been pushed to the limits by an
overwhelming and overbearing civilization. The effects of nuclear energy, gas flaring, and carbon emission have taken their due cause as predicted by even laymen. The imminent and self-destruct of planet earth is more than apparent, a product of greed and the systematic stifling of clean alternative energy by world superpowers.
All but the survival instinct of man is lost.
This seemingly artificial Armageddon has forced
mankind to retrogressively evolve, creating a hybrid who is transfixed in endless paradoxes. The livelihood of mankind is presently hinged on the ability to adapt to relics of a civilization now though to be ancient, gradually metamorphosing into a sophisticated barbarian of some sort,
struggling to make sense of a world that has imploded on itself.