On Screen: Global Intimacy Checklist

02/05/2011 - 03/31/2011

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Alex M. Hernández Dueñas
(b. 1982, Cuba)
Zona Afectada, 2006
DVD, color, sound
8 min 47 sec
Courtesy of the artist

The experience of economic decline in Cuba led artist Alex Hernández-Dueñas to focus on the daily struggle of life as a critique of his country’s revolutionary ideology. The steady deterioration of services, poor infra-structure, and ongoing drought caused service cut backs and threatened the population with starvation. The government’s continued embrace of failed socio-political principals in the name of revolution, has threatened the livelihood of many of its citizens. For many Cubans, this political rhetoric has become an obstacle towards improving their lives. As can be imagined, looking to the outside world has become a way of escaping the present reality that seems unshakeable.

Achillekà Komguem
(b. 1973, Cameroon)
Précarité, 2006
DVD, color, sound
1 min 35 sec
Courtesy of the artist

Achillekà Komguem’s video documents the chaotic congestion at the edges of the city of Douala in Cameroon. Captured on video are both traditional (walking and horseback) and modern (cars and truck) modes of transportation competing for equal access at the crossroads. The interchange appears to be disorderly and unsafe, and yet, no incident is recorded. The video, accelerated to emphasize the precarious relations operating within the local systems of transport-ation and communication, brings the viewer’s attention to the issues of time and distance between cities as well as the sprawling development and availability of technology and their effect on the country. Komguem’s traffic maze maps out systems of networks critical to the life force of cities as expanding global processes, portraying cities as fluid and open entities. The crossroads symbolize specific, diverse, and divergent paths connecting the present and past ways of being.

Tiong Ang
(b. 1961, Indonesia)
Bandits, 2005
DVD, color, sound
16 min 30 sec
Courtesy of the artist and Florence Lynch Gallery, NY

The early recognition of the name “bandits” refers to outlaws, gangster-like characters whose identity is unknown because of their masked faces. In this work, a different kind of bandit is portrayed; the video camera captures motorcyclists scrambling around Yogyakarta, Indonesia, where overcrowding has become one of the most pressing issues. Given the rapid population growth, increased traffic, and air pollution in the city, these bike riders have their faces covered almost out of necessity—using their masks as protective devices from the pollution. This action signals a public awareness of the problems facing Indonesia.

On an international level, climate change discourse has focused on continental changes, such as melting ice caps and changing weather patterns, while local populations battle to adapt to the changing environment, leaving communities vulnerable. The rise of Asia as a global economic competitor has had huge consequences for the environment, which have yet to be addressed. Only through personal acts, such as the masking of faces, is the threat of environmental disaster made more real.

Tiong Ang
(b. 1961, Indonesia)
Three Men, 2001
DVD, color, sound
4 min 13 sec
Courtesy of the artist and Florence Lynch Gallery, NY

Tiong Ang created an open-ended narrative that was inspired by colonial conquest and its subjugation of the majority of black South Africans. The video captures three laborers appearing from a distance, slowly moving towards the camera, finally coming into view, and then disappearing. This scenario is reminiscent of the apartheid era, when black farm workers were exploited and exposed to brutal living and working conditions. The laws of the land initially sanctioned deplorable conditions for black workers to benefit the white minority population.

In the video, the laborers approach the camera with an ease suggesting a change in attitude, perhaps brought about by the ending of apartheid in 1994. One man pushes a bicycle while the others look straight ahead as if focused on the future. They appear to be either going to or returning from work; the yellowish-green screen creates a dream-like scape in which time is slowed, changing their movements into something surreal. Since the new democracy these workers have been frustrated over the lack of very basic services such as electricity, water, houses, and roads. Even though the political landscape has changed, Ang’s video draws our attention to the alienation of workers to the land, and as such, he questions the extent of social transformation promised by liberation struggles.

Donna Kukama
(b. 1981, South Africa)
Let Go, 2007
DVD, color, sound
11 min
Courtesy of the artist

“This title ‘Let Go’ is a command, an instruction to release one’s grasp or hold, to become unrestrained or abandon inhibitions, to also forget and discard old ideas. It is a demand to act, and a proposal that is contradictory to its image.” The video confronts the viewer with an image of a woman (myself) standing on a rocky beach, in an environment where it’s unclear whether she is approaching or receding, being in a position of neither arrival nor departure. Movement within the image is minimal, and limited to the sea current and strong wind, except on occasion the viewer notices some head-shaking and the occasional rolling back of eyes from the person in the scene. Although the strong wind is visible in the image, its sound has been replaced by white noise from the radio, whose role was to merge and treat all movement within the shot as one. The sound is composed of a continuous shifting (forwards and backwards) between radio stations, at most times remaining in-between stations, and never settling at any single station for too long, never allowing for (linguistic) comprehension to emerge from any position. “It is a work about the improbable; a constructed situation that welcomes the occasion of the accident, a once-off concert about an assumed freedom, confronting foreignness, and self-contradiction.”

– Donna Kukama

Donna Kukama
(b. 1981, South Africa)
Not Yet (and nobody knows why not), 2008
DVD, color, sound
12 min
Courtesy of the artist

Standing in the open field amidst a gathering of elderly war veterans in Nairobi, Kenya, Donna Kukama transforms her face by painting it with red lipstick. This gesture is aimed at provoking public attention, yet only a few curious bystanders seem to respond. By performing at a political rally, Kukama is interested in the recovery and articulation of women’s experience of history and contemp-orary society. Their lack of recognition and historical record is evinced by her invisibility in this location. Her actions interrogate gender roles and the implicit power associated with established forms of representation.

In the past Kikuyu women were instrumental in the Kenyan Mau Mau Revolt (1952–1960); however, the issue of exclusion and marginalization of women is still very prevalent today and has generated debates about the scale of emancipation. Kukama’s gestures advocate for women to become catalysts for change by acquiring knowledge based on personal experience.

Andrew Dosunmu
(b. Nigeria, educated in England)
Gitanes, 2000
DVD, B&W, sound
1min 26 sec
Kirk Krak, 2004
DVD, B&W, sound
53 sec
Courtesy of the artist

Nigerian photographer and filmmaker Andrew Dosunmu traces African traits in African American culture. In his work Gitanes, Dosunmuexamines the nomadic life-style of Africans after colonialism. He evokes the history of gypsies by incorporating the iconic female image used to brand French cigarettes “Gitanes. This image is displayed in many of the African locations as both a decorative symbol and a desirable commodity. Despite its overt recognition as a consumer brand, Dosunmu re-contextualizes the icon to represent free spirit and survival.

In this video Kirk Krak, Dosunmu captures black bodies in a spiritual trance. This ritual is associated with religious practices that have connected American culture with African traditions. The ceremony is a symbolic rite of passage linking past history with the present. Drawing on the history of migration and experience of the Diaspora, Dosunmu focuses on African music and religion as sources of cultural influence.

Hank Willis Thomas
(b. 1976, United States)

Kambui Olujimi
(b. 1976, United States)
Winter in America, 2005
DVD, animation, color and sound
4 min 04 sec
Courtesy of the artists

Winter in America is a collaborative video project consisting of a stop-motion animated video and still photographs depicting the robbery and murder of Songha Thomas Willis, a cousin to Hank Willis Thomas. Songha Willis was killed during a robbery on a cold February night outside a Philadelphia nightclub. This violent incident, like many other nonsensical crimes, highlights the fear, insecurity, and vulnerability of a community.

For this project, the artists studied the details of the actual incident from police reports and eyewitness accounts to recreate a small-scale replica of the crime scene. Casting G.I. Joe action figures as their main characters, the video simulates how the robbery and murder took place. Using comic animation and caricature to communicate deeply repressed suffering, the artists draw our attention to the ways media has desensitized us from deeply traumatic events. The presence of G.I. Joe action figures is unthreatening and commonly associated with television games played by young people. Using play as the subject of focus, the artists examine how toys potentially influence aggressive behavior. In addition they highlight how technology and media sources significantly impact our daily lives and raise concerns about the exposure and consumption of violent imagery in early childhood.

Fatimah Tuggar
(b. 1967, Nigeria)
Transient Transfer, 2008
plasma screen, touch overlay, speakers
Courtesy of BintaZarah Studios

Nigerian-born Fatimah Tuggar creates digital photomontages of African scenes juxtaposed with American daily life. Using computer programs, Tugger seamlessly integrates two worlds to highlight the flawless interactions between Western and African cultures. Her work comments on themes such as race, technology, and global culture. In Transient Transfer, our attention is directed towards a more localized experience of living in the Bronx, New York. Commissioned by the Public Art Fund, Tuggar presents a selection of photographs taken in the Bronx and displayed on bus shelters along the Grand Concourse. Now displayed on an interactive screen in the gallery, the artist allows the public to change the image on the screen. By extending authorship to the viewer, Tuggar underscores the use of technology as both an instrument of control and of liberty.

Mendi + Keith Obadike
(each b. 1973, United States)
Untitled (The Interesting Narrative), 2000/2009
DVD, color and sound
5 min.

In this video a scene, from the 1979 film Alien by director Ridley Scott, introduces us to the discomfort and confined spaces of the ship’s bowels. It is combined with text from the 1789 autobiography by Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African.  This text is known to be one of the earliest examples of published writings by an African slave. At the time, Equiano was one of the most prominent Africans involved in the British abolitionist movement. The Obadikes have layered Equiano’s text with the iconic diagram of the eighteenth-century slave ship to disclose the trauma and inhumanity experienced during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The juxtaposition of Equiano’s real life epic against the box office science fiction movie Alien, draws our attention to the history and reality of the injustice perpetrated by colonialism. The work establishes a connection between the collective past memories and the future imagined ideas of a homeland.

Artist Bios:

Tiong Ang (b. 1961, Indonesia)

Tiong Ang was raised and educated in the Netherlands. Most of his works incorporate footage taken during his nomadic travels throughout the world. His work has been shown in many international exhibitions including the 2001 Venice Biennale in Italy. He has exhibited in numerous galleries including the Florence Lynch Gallery in New York and the Lumen Travo Gallery in Amsterdam. Ang lives and works in Amsterdam.

Andrew Dosunmu (b. Nigeria)

Andrew Dosunmu was born and raised in Nigeria and educated in England. He began his career as a design assistant at the fashion house Yves Saint Laurent and worked as a creative director before pursuing a career as a fashion photographer. Dosunmu also has worked in the music and film industries as well as in television where he directed the South African television series “Yizo Yizo” among many other programs. Dosunmu lives and works in New York.

Alex M. Hernández Dueñas (b. 1982, Cuba)

Alex Hernández Dueñas studied art at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana. He has completed several international residencies and has exhibited at a number of venues including the Museo Rufino Tamayo in México; the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam in Havana; and the Brooklyn Museum in New York. He also has participated in the VIII and IX Bienal de La Habana in Cuba. Hernández Dueñas lives and works in Havana.

Achillekà Komguem (b. 1973, Cameroon)

Achillekà Komguem received his visual arts degree from the University of Yaoundé in Cameroon. He is also the recipient of the 2004 UNESCO Visual Arts Award for promoting the arts and culture in his country. His work has been included in numerous national and international exhibitions. Besides his fine art career, Komguem also oversees a bilingual art journal called DiArtgonale. Komguem lives and works in Cameroon.

Donna Kukama (b. 1981, South Africa)

Donna Kukama received her Master’s of Arts degree in the public sphere at Ecole Cantonale d’Art du Valais (ECAV) in Switzerland. Her works largely are performance, video and sound installations that explore social relations. She has participated in numerous exhibitions including the Dak’Art Biennale in Senegal; La Villa Dutoit in Switzerland; and the Pretoria Art Museum in South Africa. Kukama lives and works in Pretoria, South Africa.

Mendi + Keith Obadike (each b. 1973, United States)

The duo of Mendi Obadike and Keith Obadike creates music, art and literature. They work across genres exhibiting and performing at various institutions including the New Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; the Yale Cabaret in New Haven, Conn.; and the Whitechapel Gallery in London. Mendi received her Ph.D. in literature from Duke University and Keith obtained his M.F.A. degree in sound design from Yale University. Mendi + Keith live and work in New York.

Kambui Olujimi (b. 1976, United States)

Kambui Olujimi received his B.F.A. degree from Parsons School of Design. His work examines popular cultural icons and their histories. He has exhibited in galleries and museums around the country, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Olujimi lives and works in New York.

Hank Willis Thomas (b. 1976, United States)

Hank Willis Thomas was raised in New York and received a Master’s of Arts degree and an M.F.A. degree from the California College of the Arts. His work explores the impact of branding assigned to cultural symbols. His work has been included in several exhibitions around the country, including at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem; the High Museum of Art in Atlanta; and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Conn. Thomas is the recipient of several awards and lives and works in New York.

Fatimah Tuggar (b. 1967, Nigeria)

Fatimah Tuggar received her M.F.A. degree from Yale University and has since exhibited internationally at venues such as the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and the Bamako Biennale in Mali. She works predominantly with digital photomontage, juxtaposing scenes from Africa with those from the West. Using technology to collapse these differences, Tuggar comments on the complexity of living between cultures. She lives and works in North Carolina.