Thursday, June 30, 2011

coming to you live from Cidade de São Salvador da Bahia de Todos os Santos

Yesterday we made a visit to the Museum of Modern Art in Bahia. Time travel slowly. View from the catacombs, which is also the education room(!). Used to be a slave port. And a sugar mill. Didn't feel ghosts strangely enough. The museum is majestic, several galleries, wide open spaces.

Blue and white tile work covers the walls leading to the main gallery. Where is the place of history and remembrance in all of this? I thought of the artist Adriana Varejão whose work brilliantly displays the history of colonization within the beauty of the ceramic work. Her work should live here.

by Adriana Varejão

There is also a restaurant below. Caipirinhas on the patio? The irony does not escape me.

The tracks from the ingenio (sugar mill) below my feet.

Monday, March 07, 2011


from Cauleen Smith's PROGRAM NOTES: GLOSSOLALIA 5.0 @ The Kitchen

SEE full program notes here.

My Father and I Dance In Outer Space (2011)

First Encounter: Sixteen years ago in West Oakland On the set of Drylongso. Subsequent Viewing Pattern: I am compelled to screen an Ogunji video every seven months or so.

With My Father and I Dance In Outer Space, Wura-Natasha Ogunji has deepened and refined her endurance performance videos by stripping away everything that we don’t need, and providing us with everything we do need to feel unstable, uncertain, enthralled, and undone. The spirit dancer presents herself, and then proceeds to make a barren landscape with her footprints, moisten it with her sweat and breath. Based on my experience with the Malibu State Park Rangers, the intensity of the Ogunji Spirit’s sustained levitations will certainly aerate that yellow soil. If we return to this site in one month’s time, the Ogunji Figure may not be there, but I am certain, that scented chaparral shrubs, and desert cacti will. Rather than frame and validate the video’s signifiers enjoying direct linkage to Yoruban ritual and Ogunji’s heritage, the artist opens the video to grander possibilities and indeed extends her speculations beyond terrestrial identity into the speculative realm of the cosmological. The discomfort we feel as we sympathetically ache with the strain of Ogunji’s gorgeously choreographed performance is diminished by her application of distance and time. The figure’s placement in the landscape tells us one ting about this gesture while the sky above her tells us another all together. Long Memory. Clouds sweep over Ogunji faster than we can comprehend just as my Malibu clouds confounded my aperture many times over the course of an afternoon of building an inverted maypole and tearing it apart. The Ogunji Spirit is a regenerative force that finally stops because the work is done, not because its powers are exhausted. Just as I was happy to have Wura on my set building the delicate readymades that grace the finale of Drylongso, I am happy to have her videos with me now: Ogunji’s work never fails celebrate and test the confounding tension between the quotidian and the magical.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

stills from new performance 'sweep'

Sunday, February 06, 2011

i will marry when i want

my first animation inspired by a day at the market, being an outsider and insider, a stranger and family, being an artist. title after the play of the same name by Ngugi wa Thiong'o & Ngugi wa Mirii

Saturday, February 05, 2011

first rain in Abuja

Finally language comes....rough inspiration from Kimberli Gant's review in Art Lies of my recent exhibition at WATW. She writes, "Though Ogunji’s interweaving of ancestry and spiritualism is understated and effective, her art-historical appropriation could use some strengthening." True dat. This helped answer a question, or look at a question I've been asking myself since landing here in Abuja. Thinking about the Atlantic's place in my cosmology. Wondering how my metaphors will change, what shifts will happen in my imagination, in the world of my creativity.

What drew me to the Ife heads has something and nothing to do with art history. The power of artifacts, objects, (even people!) encased in museums has always been palpable and it is so ironic that we must come to know ourselves through artifacts. Can we? What draws me to the Ife heads is the sense of individuality in the people, not how these heads are evidence of a great civilization. That question doesn't interest me--if we are or are not, were or weren't great (that was never our question). I am interested in how these faces are portraits of individuals who navigated the world with all the vulnerabilities that I have, with all that makes us human. What is it that I want to know or need to know? That they loved as I do and had doubts and touched the earth and felt the sun against faces and couldn't get enough of the smell of rain against the dusty red roads.

The smallest gestures are so important, that is what I have been looking for, not the epic but the quiet, unseen, embodied. I realized there was nothing massive in what I longed for. A smell. Or sound.

The airport is a subtle combination of palm oil and dried fish I think. It smells like the African stores in the U.S. Familiar and specific. And emerging from the airport reminded me so much of the Dominican Republic, that sweet and smokey smell of burning trash but unending because of the Harmattan. I walked so certainly out of the baggage claim to find my cousin and waiting for her I felt so comfortable after having navigated the Santo Domingo airport so many times.

Though landing here felt strangely common, as if it had happened so many times before. It moved me, but in a slow way. My cousins love me as if they have always known me. Though people in the street call me oyinbo (white person in Yoruba; oyibo in Igbo) wherever I go, I don't feel like an outsider to this place, or even a stranger.

My cousin tells me on a daily basis how much I look like my father. And all my relatives have gaps in their teeth (i used to have one too).

I am enjoying a lovely moment of quiet as I write this, a moment without the sound of generators.

I think about something Stephen Hawking said when asked to name his hero. He said Galileo because he taught us the power of observation. It is a beautiful gift to always be able to observe, to compose with our eyes, to observe our own gestures and responses, to be present to our mistakes and awkwardness as well as voice, difference, commonalities. I love that all this is new and familiar.

Lights off again. That quiet is short-lived.