Lisson Gallery

'Otobong Nkanga Chooses Life' – Art Basel Stories

25 August 2023

‘Humans are only a small, minute part of the ecosystem,’ says Otobong Nkanga over a Zoom call from her studio, ‘but we as beings have forgotten this.’ It’s an observation that reverberates throughout the Nigerian-born, Antwerp-based artist’s urgent, challenging, and yet ultimately optimistic practice, which ranges from drawings to large-scale installations, from performances to projects in the social realm. To see the world through Nkanga’s eyes is to see not merely a stage on which Homo sapiens play out their all too often solipsistic and (self-) destructive dramas, but rather to see a shared habitat, in which what she terms countless ‘life forms’ (which include fauna and flora as well as soil and rivers, seas and mountains) coexist, connected in a great web of being.

Currently the subject of a solo exhibition, ‘Craving for Southern Light’ at IVAM València, Spain – a show that is, among other things, a meditation on weather, light, and heat – Nkanga is also a totemic presence in the Hayward Gallery, London’s environmentally-focused summer group exhibition ‘Dear Earth: Art and Hope in a Time of Crisis’. The Hayward show is billed as inspired by the artist’s proposition that ‘caring is a form of resistance’. What this means, says Nkanga, is that attentiveness to ‘other types of life that do not have a voice as we do’ is the basis for countering ‘what the economy has to say, what capital has to say, what politicians decide’ about the non-human elements of our ecosystem. At a time of planetary emergency, such care is what’s needed to ensure ‘the possibility of existence’ in the critical years to come.

Read the full piece via Art Basel.

'Otobong Nkanga Chooses Life' – Art Basel Stories
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