1:54 FORUM, the fair’s unique discursive program, is curated by Koyo Kouoh, Founder and Artistic Director of RAW Material Company, Dakar and Curator of Ireland’s EVA International 2016.
For New York, Kouoh invited to the program as her collaborators: Adrienne Edwards (Performa, New York and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis), Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi (Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College), and Dexter Wimberly (independent New York-based curator).
1:54 PERFORMS was a new performance section for this year’s edition co-presented with Performa and curated by Adrienne Edwards (Curator at Performa and Curator-at-Large at the Walker Art Center). The program featured a newly developed performance by artist Dave McKenzie.
Beyond Cultural Polarities: Africa’s Creative ‘Repats’
As Africa’s international creative class becomes more visible on the continent – particularly in major metropolises like Dakar, Lagos, Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Luanda and Johannesburg – many diaspora Africans are choosing to return to the continent. Many of these returnees, known as ‘repats’, are highly educated and skilled, and while they have shown that they can seize new opportunities and transfer skills to Africa’s nascent creative industries, they face plenty of challenges. This panel framed the concept of African repatriation through the insight of three entrepreneurs: Andrew Dosunmu (filmmaker based in Nigeria); Nina Keïta (entrepreneur based in Côte d’Ivoire); and Elinyisia Mosha (journalist based in Tanzania). Moderated by Claude Grunitzky (Founder and Editor-in-Chief of TRUE Africa).
Media Platforms for the Promotion of the Arts, Visual Cultures, and Social Experiences of and about Africa and the Diaspora
This panel explored the new wave of omnibus digital content providers focused on African and African diaspora contemporary cultures and social activities with Claude Grunitzky (Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of TRUE Africa); Ginny Suss (President and Co-Founder of OkayAfrica); and Antoinette Isama (Associate Editor at OkayAfrica). Moderated by Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi (Curator of African Art at the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College).
The Politics and Privilege of Play: Dexter Wimberly (independent curator) in conversation with ruby onyinyechi amanze (artist)
Navigating the liminal space between fantasy and reality, ruby onyinyechi amanze’s drawings envision speculative narratives of self-discovery, supernatural existence and spatio-temporal escapism to evoke ideas around cultural hybridity, belonging, and displacement.
Emerging Social Entrepreneurs and Cultural Brokers
Exploring the changing dynamics and growing interest in contemporary art and cultures of Africa and African Diaspora, this panel spotlights an upcoming generation of African social entrepreneurs who are seizing the opportunity to mobilize new platforms of discussion. With discussants Ifeanyi Awachie (Curator of Africa Salon: Yale University’s contemporary African arts and culture festival); Shimite Obialo (lawyer and Founder of the digital platform Anoko); Sharon Obuobi (Founder of Art Accra); and Amy Sall (Founder and Editor-In-Chief of SUNU Journal of African Affairs, Critical Thought + Aesthetics). Moderated by Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi.
Museums and Contemporary African Art
The panel explored practices in collecting, curating, and the display of contemporary art by African artists in American museums with discussants Karen Milbourne (Curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art); Kevin Dumouchelle (Associate Curator of Arts of Africa and the Pacific Islands at the Brooklyn Museum); and Yesomi Umolu (Curator of Exhibitions at University of Chicago’s Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts). Moderated by Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi.
Materiality, Storytelling, and Grand Narratives in Contemporary African Art: Dexter Wimberly (independent curator) in conversation with Billie Zangewa (artist)
Billie Zangewa is an internationally celebrated Johannesburg based Malawian artist who works with fabrics, mostly silk, to create intricate tapestries. By way of her rich, elaborate silk ‘paintings’, Zangewa celebrates black femininity, self-empowerment, and the importance of storytelling.
Typing Machine: Adrienne Edwards (Curator at Performa and Curator-at-Large at the Walker Art Center) in conversation with Dave McKenzie (artist)
McKenzie is a conceptual artist working in performance, photography, and video. McKenzie was invited by Adrienne Edwards to compose a special text-based performance for 1:54, which was performed at intervals throughout the fair. This conversation between Edwards and McKenzie explores this project – as well as earlier works – as an expression of the influence of printmaking on the artist’s approach to multi-disciplinary performance.
Dave McKenzie, This ship would set sail, even anchored as it was, 2016
As a special project for FORUM, Dave McKenzie produced a slow text-based performance using prototyped sneakers. The soles of the shoes act like keys on a typewriter, which allowed him to print text on a paper surface through touch and bodily pressure. With reference to the centennial anniversary of Pan-African leader Marcus Garvey’s arrival in New York City in 1916, the text was generated as a series of short performances/gestures that reveal itself over time.
Trained in printmaking, McKenzie’s new work references and reimagines newsprint, a communication tool and vital organizing vehicle for Garvey once he arrived in the United States. Much like letterpress, lithography, and woodblock printing, McKenzie’s actions produce misprints as well as a record of the act of mark-making impressions. In McKenzie’s hands, the newspaper is rendered an ephemeral form as the artist creates images and text using his body and objects, creating a visual and sonic matrix through which we come to think about the possibilities for a story and a body to merge as image and speech.
Listen to Talks from FORUM London 2015 here