Collaborating since 2021
KJ Abudu (curator)
Born London, UK, lives and works in New York, USA, London, UK, and Lagos, Nigeria
Born Iperu, Nigeria (1988), lives and works in London, UK
Nolan Oswald Dennis
Born Lusaka, Zambia (1988), lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa
Born Bridgeport, USA (1991), lives and works in New York, USA
Born Lagos, Nigeria (1995), lives and works in London, UK
Born Lagos, Nigeria (1991), lives and works in Lagos, Nigeria
Traces of Ecstasy 2024
architectural pavilion featuring sound installation, three-channel video installation, textile installation, live performance, digital browser artwork
Courtesy of the artists
The production of this work was supported by British Council Visual Arts Biennials Connect programme, Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant, Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Lagos State Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture, Mid Atlantic Arts, The Department of African and African American Studies at Columbia University, Ukiri Lijadu.
Commissioned by Lagos Biennial 2024
Traces of Ecstasy is an architectural pavilion, art exhibition, and symposium, premiering at the 2024 Lagos Biennial. Guided by the biennial’s overarching theme of refuge, the curatorial project critically responds to the charged historical residues of Tafawa Balewa Square, taking its constitutive role in postcolonial nation-building as a point of departure. Traces of Ecstasy aims to unsettle the colonial capitalist power structures that maintain and reproduce the ideological legitimacy of the nation-state in post/neocolonial Africa.
Providing a space for critique, repair and ‘freedom-dreaming’, Traces of Ecstasy features artists from the African continent and its diasporas including Nolan Oswald Dennis, Evan Ifekoya, Raymond Pinto, Temitayo Shonibare, and Adeju Thompson. The exhibition presents works spanning sculpture, video, sound, textile, performance, and digital art.
Designed by Dennis, the pavilion’s modular structure and overlapping curvilinear facades reference the fractal geometries of African indigenous space-making practices as well as contemporary makeshift architectures. Composed of concrete bricks, which are aligned with wooden supports to form a breeze-block pattern, the pavilion’s facades further allude to postcolonial modernist buildings constructed during the period of mid-twentieth century African decolonization movements. As a sculptural composite of past, present and future spatial grammars, the pavilion simultaneously spurs reflective engagements with and liberatory speculations beyond the surrounding site.
The Traces of Ecstasy pavilion features a new sound installation by Ifekoya. Emitted from dispersed dried gourd speakers, the score mixes sounds of water in various state changes with Yoruba polyrhythmic drumming, Tafawa Balewa’s independence speech, meditative chimes, and the sonic backdrop of the Lagosian urban environment. Through metaphorical allusions to melting, liquefaction, and sublimation, the work’s dissident frequencies point to fluid, indeterminate possibilities that destabilise structures of national, gender, sexual, and ethnic identification. Viewers will additionally encounter a series of monumental textiles by Thompson, founder of the experimental, gender non-binary fashion label, Lagos Space Programme. Continuing their formal innovations in àdìrẹ –– a resist indigo-dyeing technique long practised by the Yoruba in what is today southwestern Nigeria––the textiles’ aerial suspension, evoking market tarps and ephemeral architectures for refuge, provides a sense of protection and communal gathering for viewers’ bodies. Thompson also rips, tears, and folds the works’ surfaces, these violent gestures suggesting the scarred, brutalised skin of the postcolonial African body politic.
In the pavilion’s interior space, Dennis presents a new interactive digital browser work which allows viewers to navigate a shape-shifting archive of text, video and image fragments grounded in Black, Indigenous, queer liberation. The digital archive’s communal and transnational conditions of production––via uploads by people from all over the global African diaspora––challenges the authority of borders and proposes alternative modes of digitally mediated collectivity. Nearby, Shonibare’s three-channel video installation weaves together seemingly disparate audio and visual media to explore a multiplicity of sites enshrined in the Nigerian and Afro-diasporic collective imaginary, from the colonial period, to the immediate post-independence era, to the present. Foregrounding media spectacle and gesture, and incorporating glitchy effects, CGI renderings, and Nollywood aesthetics, the work’s playful juxtapositions, humorous subversions, and rhythmical narrative diversions reflect the commingling of physical and online spaces as well as the scrambled, digitised subjectivities produced under twenty-first-century neoliberal capitalism.
Choreographed with the materiality of the pavilion and its historical location in mind, and in collaboration with sound artists Ayomide Kalejaiye (SAROSAYÉ) and Xavier Emmanuel, Pinto’s roving live performance (on February 4th at 4pm) takes the Gẹlẹdẹ masquerade as its starting exploratory point––a masquerade ritually performed by men in honour of female deities and ancestors. Inspired by the masquerade’s adornments, Pinto will perform in garments specially designed by Thompson. Through layered arrangements of clothing, music and dance, Pinto’s piece reframes indigenous spirituality and Black diasporic archives of sound and movement to illuminate decolonial registers of queer embodiment.
Gathering artists, writers, and scholars whose works have informed the theoretical thrust of TRACES OF ECSTASY, the accompanying symposium (on 7 February 2024 from 12-5pm) includes presentations and discussions exploring a variety of relevant themes such as the fraught relationship between colonial modernity and African indigeneity; the pitfalls of postcolonial statecraft; the intersections of critical African studies and queer and feminist theory; and the affinities between African metaphysical schemes and digital technologies. The symposium’s speakers include Zoé Samudzi, Emmanuel Iduma, Roberto Strongman, Neema Githere, and Nolan Oswald Dennis, with introductory and concluding remarks by KJ Abudu.
TRACES OF ECSTASY is titled after an essay by Rotimi Fani-Kayode, an exiled British-Nigerian artist whose photographic works combined Yoruba ritualistic practice and transgressive eroticism to destabilise colonial fictions of nationality and positivist rationality. Equally oriented toward a future horizon of decolonial liberation, TRACES OF ECSTASY brings together aesthetic and discursive interventions across space and time to illuminate alternative, anarchic forms of African collectivity for the twenty-first century.
diffractions with Raymond Pinto (in collaboration with Ayo Kalejaiye (SAROSAYÉ) and Xavier Emmanuel)
4 February 2024 at 4pm
Traces of Ecstasy pavilion, Tafawa Balewa Square
TRACES OF ECSTASY SYMPOSIUM
7 February 2024, 12-5pm
Alliance Française de Lagos / Mike Adenuga Centre, 9 Osborne Road, Ikoyi
TRACES OF ECSTACY’s work is included in REFUGE teams.