“Living on the Edge”

Announcing the 1st Edition of the Lagos Biennial for Contemporary Art

The Lagos Biennial will be held from the 14th October to 22nd December 2017 in six different venues across Nigeria’s metropolis.

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“Living on the Edge”, the first edition of the Lagos Biennial of contemporary art will be held from the 14th October to 22nd December 2017 in six different venues across Nigeria’s metropolis.

The artist-run biennial will attract over 40 international artists from 20 countries including: France, Iran, Mozambique, Kenya, Norway, Afghanistan, Germany, Switzerland, South Korea, Ethiopia, Angola, Senegal, Greece, United Kingdom, Sweden, Ghana, Spain, Egypt, Russia, and Nigeria. The biennial is organized by the Akete Art Foundation.

The Lagos Biennial sets out to position Lagos on the map as a major art capital on the African continent. Given the immense talent generated by its contemporary artistic energy, its illustrious history, its burgeoning population and economic clout, such a major international event is just waiting to happen. “Lagos should be a hub for critical thought and international artistic exchanges. The city should embody a more globalized approach to the subject of art and should not just be driven by Afrocentric ideologies but rather it should embrace  the  unifying simplicity of the human experience.” says Folakunle Oshun, the founding artistic director of the Lagos Biennial.

The theme of the biennial “Living on the Edge”, which coincidentally was also the title of the exhibition by the Mozambican artist Mario Macilau in 2012, seeks to interrogate the experiences of contemporary artists in and around crisis situations. The theme also hopes to explore contemporary realities of the thematic interpretations opened up by the works to be exhibited, pushing the idea of “the edge” to its broadest geographical and psychological limits.

The Lagos Biennial will be curated by an international team consisting of Amira Paree, a Paris-based Egyptian/Dutch artist, Perpetuum Mobilε, a curatorial platform co-directed by Ivor Stodolsky and Marita Muukkonen which brings together art, engaged practice and enquiry, and Folakunle Oshun as Artistic Director.

An academic conference, to be held at the University of Lagos, will accompany the biennial, co-ordinated by Erin Rice, a doctoral candidate at the Freie Universität Berlin in Germany, along with Akor Opaluwah, a doctoral researcher at Nottingham Trent University, United Kingdom. The Film Programme of the Lagos Biennial will be held at The Old Film Unit of the Nigeria Film Corporation, Ikoyi, Lagos.

The Akete Art Foundation is a not-for-profit cultural organization founded in 2016 and registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission in 2017 with the main objective of promoting contemporary art in Nigeria through the staging of the Lagos Biennial once in two years.

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Curatorial Statement:

To re-think. To re-imagine.

The former suggests a logical mental exercise, while the latter reaches to the fringes of fantasy. Art, for too long, has proffered beautiful but unrealistic and unachievable solutions to the issues of society; asking more questions than it answers. Should art remain in its most essential form, whether or not it achieves a tangible goal? Does it become necessary to examine the role of art in society especially in the dimension of large-scale biennial interventions? The city of Lagos in its peculiarity as a commercial center and melting pot for diverse endeavors and cultures holds a reputation for spewing out whatever does not add up materially. A historical slave and trade route, Lagos developed the culture of gate-keeping and taxation – where foreigners were welcome only to the reach of their pockets. In an attempt to juxtapose the historical and contemporary realities in this dynamic space, it would be natural to place the spotlight on the current expressions of these ancient values which have invariably become urban culture. The danger would be to subsist in a bubble and alienate ones reality from a global politico-economic climate which is submerged under the currents of capitalism. It may be savvier to investigate the realities of the losers in societies around the world – the unseen majority who are pushed to the brink of their existence; in both political and cultural ramifications. This by far offers a more realistic starting point for conversations set to engage the city of Lagos in years to come.

The vision is not to mystify or demystify, but rather to embark on a journey to explore multi-faceted scenarios which will undoubtedly question the very essence of our humanity, spirituality, and the interconnectedness of the universe. If we were to take a portrait of the world, would it be life-giving? Would it be a collage of despair? The greatest challenge of this exercise would be to solicit the interest of local communities who are a key to the eventual plausibility of the continuum.

In essence, art will be put to the ultimate test; can it save the world or at least make an attempt? The narrative of the biennial, which shares its title with the 2012 project of Mozambican artist Mário Macilau, is expanded to accommodate the geographical, spiritual, and most importantly, the psychological ramifications of living on the edge.

Folakunle Oshun
Artistic Director
Lagos Biennial 2017