Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The World is Flat: A comment

Krydz Ikwuemesi, Beyond Maps, pen and ink

In April 2008, Johanne Løgstrup, a Danish curator and artist, invited a number of Danish and international artists to comment on and elaborate the possibilities inherent in geographical maps as media. The project and artists seek to use the map as metaphor for addressing geo-political issues from diverse but complementary standpoints. The Participating artists include Anonymous (Romania), Heman Chong (SG), Shahram Entekhabi (Iran), Kristofer Hultenberg (SE/Denmark), Lasse Lau (Denmark), Lize Mogel (USA), Ursula Nistrup (Denmark), Dan Rees (UK) and Jee Young Sim (Korea/USA). The exhibition was opened at Overgaden, Institute for Contemporary Art, Denmark and will travel to other venues later, including Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos. I was also invited as the Nigerian/African participant.

The opening of the exhibition on the 26th of April was well attended, as it coincided with several other events at Overgaden. It has also been well received by the exhibition-going public in Copenhagen. According to a statement issued by Overgaden, “The artists have used the conventional measures and folding functions of the map as a general template for the artworks. In completely different and very playful and experimental ways they have made maps of places – some of them fictitious, some of them real. The maps vary from Heman Chong’s private landscape of knowledge shown by his personal list of literature to Lize Mogel’s map which has zoomed in on the centre of The UN’s logotype, the North Pole, to take a look at the political conflicts that have lately arisen in this area. Dan Rees contributes a map where snails have drawn … routes across a world map with almost invisible silvery trails and C. Krydz Ikwuemesi’s map is animated with features that contrast the right angles and concise metrical elements that usually characterize maps… The World is Flat gives new perceptions of the networks, associations and representations of places, people and power.”

As an African, the map is for me a sad reminder of the balkanization of Africa by European imperialists on arbitrary, if absurd, geopolitical assumptions and for their own economic interests. Today, Africa is a collage of nation states burdened with national and international conflicts which are largely due to the legacy of colonization. As cartography can also be metaphorically characterized, Africa remains mapped out of the mainstream in the exfoliating politics of globalization with its contradictions and paradoxes.

My work seemed to differ thematically in its relation to the other works exhibited. Not because it was the only one from Africa, but because it tried to subvert the theme of the exhibition in its title Beyond Maps. The work takes a negative look at maps as an instrument and basis of the colonial project in Africa. It also explores the possible metaphoric significations of the map by interrogating the ahistoric mapping of Africa when the continent was shared at the Berlin conference like a breakfast sausage among European colonizers. It alludes to this moment in history and its unending political aftermaths through the dominating outlines of the European faces that dominate the organic landscape embodied in the work, thus inscribing mapping as a means to determining self and other, a tool for the “assertion of authority” and for “confirmation of acts of violence.”

At Overgaden the works were laid side by side, flat on a specially designed high, round table, which allows the viewer to get close to the maps and have a close encounter with the works. The display, though, reflects the usual way of viewing the map, also subverts the conventionality of art display on wall and other traditional surfaces and angles.

I am grateful to CCA, Lagos and the curator of the exhibition, Johanne Løgstrup, for facilitating my participation in the exhibition. Although there was no forum for in-depth and meaningful interaction and exchange between the participating artists in Copenhagen, the experience in working with map and seeing the works of other participants have provoked new thoughts and ideas in my mind, the kind that may influence some of my paintings in the near future.

C. Krydz Ikwuemesi

Visiting Associate Professor,
National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka

A reply by curator Johanne Loegstrup.
Dear Krydz

Thank you for your documentation. I thinks it is really great that you have done such. I just have a short comment. You write: 'Although there was no forum for in-depth and meaningful interaction and exchange between the participating artists in Copenhagen '. I don't thing you are right. Sunday, after the opening I had facilitated a roundtable discussion for the artists and the public. Unfortunately few of the artists turned up and some really late (including you). But the people being there all have a hugh interest in the field. So I don't think there wasn't created a forum for exchange and in-depth discussions.

Very best, Johanne


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