Gregarious architectures brings together special projects and existing works by artists speaking to the theme of REFUGE, to the site of Tafawa Balewa Square — particularly the aspirations for state sovereignty with which it is symbolically associated as the location of Nigeria’s independence celebrations in 1960 — and to possibilities for building new architectures of community and solidarity. The fourth edition of the Lagos Biennial takes place in this highly stratified historical site and opens an important space for contemporary practices responding to the massive spatial and social transformations experienced over the last half century in Lagos as a burgeoning megalopolis: urbanisation, industrialization, the creation of new urban tissues, demographic transitions and migrations from rural space, struggles related to political and bodily choices, freedoms and constraints.
Gregarious architectures proposes an analysis of the utopian promises and dystopian experiences of modernity, with particular attention to Lagos and the nation state of Nigeria, as well as to the representation of the substantial failure of the violent logics underpinning ideas of economic progress and sovereignty – the failure also of an overextended system, as experienced over the last years of escalating wars, border policing, pandemics, toxicity and climate collapse. These demonstrate the urgency of building economies and political systems on the basis of other values: today there are widespread calls for radical change to address a cumulative crisis that has long existed in many geographies.
The modern ideology of progress affirmed the ability of human beings to reshape their lives and environments with the help of technology and science, creating new infrastructure and providing access to medical services, education and waged labour. New choices and freedoms were promised to non-Europeans, workers, women and others that had been historically marginalised or economically disadvantaged. Many rather found themselves isolated, in degraded living situations and with precarious, poorly paid and often dangerous work.
The economic system of capital growth requires constant expansion, cheap labour, and new resources, while the structural effects of the economic and social systems created under colonialism and imperialism continue to unfold. A large number of artists have sought a way out of apparent systemic dead ends, questioning, in historical perspective, the established order and accepted norms. Gregarious architectures explores the potential — through artistic experimentation, intervention and research into alternative bodies of knowledge — to open spaces of transformation and to imagine alternative economic, political, social and spiritual forms.
Curated by Kathryn Weir and Folakunle Oshun, Lagos Biennial 2024 Co-Artistic Directors