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Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible Ocula Report Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible 17 Apr 2019 : Federica Bueti for Ocula

I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...

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Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui Ocula Conversation Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui

The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...

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The National 2019: New Australian Art Ocula Report The National 2019: New Australian Art 13 Apr 2019 : Elyse Goldfinch for Ocula

The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...

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Otobong Nkanga

b. 1974, Nigeria

Working across performance, sculpture, drawing, painting, textiles, photography and installation, Otobong Nkanga is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice considers the relationship between humankind and land and its resources. Born in Kano, Nigeria in 1974, Nkanga studied at Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria before continuing her studies at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 2008 Nkanga completed her Masters in the Performing Arts at DasArts, Amsterdam. The artist is based in Antwerp.

In 2015, Nkanga embarked on a field trip in Namibia where she traced the railway route from Swakopmund to Tsumeb. Almost entirely defunct, the line's construction was completed in 1906 by the Otavi Mining and Railway Company (OMEG). Its path leads to what was once a minerally rich area in Tsumeb, commonly called the 'Green Hill'. Extensive mining has, however, transformed the hill into a cavernous hole—a monument that speaks to human desire and the exploitation of natural resources. The sound recordings, video, photographs, performance documentation, interviews and images from the Namibian archives that Nkanga collected during her journey along the railway route acted as a catalyst for an array of projects and artworks, including a series of intensive workshops held at Frankfurt's Städelschule, where she was guest professor in 2015. Out of her research came In Pursuit of Bling at the 8th Berlin Biennale, followed by exhibitions at Kadist Art Foundation in Paris (Comot Your Eyes Make I Borrow You Mine, 27 September-20 December 2015), Portikus in Frankfurt (Crumbling Through Powdery Air, 16 July-6 September 2015), and M HKA in Antwerp (Bruises and Lustre, 14 October 2015-17 January 2016).

In Pursuit of Bling (2014) is centred on the natural mineral mica, whose name is Latin for 'crumb' but is thought to have derived from the Latin micare, which means 'to glitter'. Nkanga's artwork explores mica's different applications once it has been processed, reflecting on the human desire to turn resources into commodities. In Pursuit of Bling was later included in Nkanga's first survey exhibition in the United States in 2018 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (To Dig a Hole That Collapses Again, 31 March-2 September 2018). In an Ocula Conversation with Stephanie Bailey held in June 2018, Nkanga explains that the work 'was not only about looking at that material sense of light, but also thinking about it in relation to spirituality and connection to a place, and how we can understand the notion of migration and displacement by thinking about a hole that displaces because of the removal of what it once contained. As the hole is made, the body is displaced.'

The processes of corrosion, oxidation and transformation of natural materials were explored by Nkanga in her commission for the 2017 Belgian Art Prize, which comprised four works including In a Place Yet Unknown (2017)—a tapestry displaying a poem by Nkanga that slowly absorbed a liquid from a container placed at the bottom, using the rising stain as a way in which to think about the transformation processes that occur in society.

Nkanga's research-driven approach to contemporary art in some cases necessitates specialists or practitioners. Such is the case in Carved to Flow (2017-2018), an ongoing project that was conceived for documenta 14. The work is composed of three 'phases'—'the Laboratory', 'the Warehouse & Distribution', and 'the Germination'. The first phase comprised of a site-specific installation in Athens that functioned as a soap-making factory, which saw Nkanga work alongside soap maker Evi Lachana to create soap, inviting participants to contribute to the process and add to the installation. Through the use of natural ingredients such as olive and coconut oil, Nkanga unveiled the potential for soap as a medium 'capable of expressing complex geographical, historical and affective entanglements.' For the project's third phase, the artist has created The Carved to Flow Foundation, based in Akwa Ibom in Nigeria, which seeks to sustain the initiatives from the project and will be dedicated to 'fostering shared experimentation and exchange locally.'

Tessa Moldan | Ocula | 2018
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In Ocula Magazine

Otobong Nkanga Ocula Conversation Otobong Nkanga Artist

Otobong Nkanga has developed a practice that reads the world on material terms and maps out how the body fits into a shared, earthly narrative. Her 2012 project Contained Measures of a Kolanut followed the artist's research into the library of CIRAD, the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development in Paris' Bois De Vincennes,...

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documenta 14: the view from Athens Ocula Report documenta 14: the view from Athens 11 May 2017 : Maria Nicolacopoulou for Ocula

documenta 14's mammoth effort to include 40 something venues and over 160 artists in its exhibition in Athens (8 April–16 July 2017) is a testimony of the institution's struggle to infiltrate a city with a weighted ancient and modern past, a turbulent present, and an uncertain future. There is a push-pull relationship between inside and outside in...

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'Polyphonic Worlds': Contour Biennale 8 Ocula Report 'Polyphonic Worlds': Contour Biennale 8 5 Apr 2017 : Federica Bueti for Ocula

Polyphonic Worlds: Justice as Medium is the eighth edition of the Contour Biennale. It opened on 11 March 2017 (running until 21 May) with an ambitious exhibition and public programme curated by Natasha Ginwala and an all-female team of advisors including thinker Denise Ferreira da Silva, artist Judy Radul and writer Rachel O'Reilly, co-curator of...

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Six top shows to see in Shanghai this September Ocula Report Six top shows to see in Shanghai this September 3 Sep 2015 : Sam Gaskin for Ocula

With the West Bund Art & Design Fair, Photo Shanghai and Art in the City all taking place this month, it's a great time to visit Shanghai. Outside of the fairs, these are the biggest draws.The Yuz Museum: Featuring Yang Fudong, Secundino Hernández and the Rain RoomChinese-Indonesian collector Budi Tek's Yuz Museum is a destination in itself,...

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In Related Press

Artes Mundi 8: Filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul wins £40,000 prize Related Press Artes Mundi 8: Filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul wins £40,000 prize BBC News : 24 January 2019

Indie Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul has won the £40,000 Artes Mundi contemporary art prize.The judges said his film Invisibility was 'a powerful weapon in these turbulent times'.The 48-year-old gave a UK premiere to his dream-like work, projected over two screens and showing two figures rising from their beds in separate rooms.He was...

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