1-54 FORUM 2022
Curated by Dr. Omar Kholeif
To Catch Flying Horses from the Sky: The Impossible Task of Dreaming in the Present
There are moments when disruptions open up new corridors of and into the imagination. For this tenth anniversary edition of the 1-54 Forum, it felt imperative to look inwards — to interrogate what it means to convene, to listen, to read, to convalesce, forming a composition. To do so, in-situ, in-person, experiencing togetherness, giving room for the echo of our breath to be heard. The tenth is fabled as the ‘tin anniversary’. Tin — a silvery metal of mutable colour is not quite precious, but rather, economical, and malleable. Open to the elements, it can be exposed to contour and contortion — to being reconfigured and reshaped to the sweeping tempo of time as it is able to metamorphosise to the key changes of a song.
Continuing continuity is not the goal of existence. This is a moment to peer behind the curtain, to curate the invisible, to cooperatively develop a toolkit for how we speak of art in and of the continent that is Africa and its diaspora, for today, tomorrow, perhaps forever. The Kashmiri proverb — To catch flying horses from the sky — suggests the impossible task of conjuring dreams in the present tense — to make visible that which lives amidst the crackle and crack, amidst the borderlands. But that which can never be achieved, or attained, tenders a space — room beyond speculation, to dream of expression, beyond the limits of vanity. As communities, intertwined, we are still processing — negotiating burdens and scars that require, indeed, demand, a specific form of opacity — a moment, as Michaela Coel noted in 2021, ‘to disappear for a while’, to bear witness, to see, ‘what comes to us in the silence.’ What emerges from the quiet?
Saturday 15 October 2022
How to Make a Toolkit: Intro to FORUM LONDON 2022 by Dr. Omar Kholeif
Overture Number 2/A Re-Play: Koyo Kouoh: The Curator as Storyteller with Dr. Omar Kholeif
Koyo Kouoh, Executive Director, and Chief Curator of Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town and Founding Director of RAW Materials Company in Dakar, in conversation with Kholeif, narrates a path — as a storyteller who weaves and builds upon the intimacies of human relationships. Here, Kouoh, leads, guides, and enables us through her commitment to a nurturing curatorial practice of multiple convenings with artists and curators. How did this all begin, and where to from here, for Koyo Kouoh? The path may not always have been traditional, perhaps even thorny, but Koyo has utilised divergent routes to construct pavements for African artists, authors, historians, and curators to be seen. What shall, and can we do together? In this talk, curator Kholeif, invites Koyo to walk down lanes of memory, to a beginning — tracing itineraries, developing maps, and building worlds, which might offer audiences an inventory for how to consider art in the present.
Narrating our “Pan-Afrikan” Connections: Claudette Johnson and Marlene Smith in-dialogue with Lubaina Himid
Marlene Smith is a multi-disciplinary artist and curator recognised for her research on Black Artists and Modernism in the UK. Claudette Johnson, known for her large-scale figurative drawings, are acknowledged for their ‘defiant’ contribution to the study of Black visuality. Both Claudette Johnson and Marlene Smith were co-founders of the East-Midlands based, BLK Group formed in Wolverhampton in 1979, setting the stage for the anti-racist discourse of the British Black arts movement, which would follow the early 1980s. Lubaina Himid is an artist, who spent much of her life working to create space for herself and other Black women in the UK’s artistic ecosystem, simultaneously operating as a curator, cultural historian, and as an educator. Here, she speaks to Marlene Smith and Claudette Johnson about the complexities of negotiating one’s individual artistic practice, while also giving credence to the effective power of collective movement and action in shaping and nuancing our multiple histories of art. The panel draws its title from an exhibition held at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in 1983.
Ageing Ruins…: A Listening Session with Otobong Nkanga and a response by Dr. O.
Otobong Nkanga, one of the leading artistic voices of her generation, returns to FORUM to present four tracks from her forthcoming vinyl record release, developed from her award-winning installation, ‘Ageing Ruins Dreaming Only to Recall the Hard Chisel from the Past,’ at Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE, commissioned as part of Sharjah Biennial 14. Here, audiences are invited to an intimate evocation that explores the use of the artist’s voice within her practice, proffering possibilities and questions about the multiple forms of imagination that can be conjured through this form of embodiment. Here, the duo discusses the voice in relation to the body as a site contingency with its natural surroundings — the environment, which is forever transmuting, seeping through our hands, as much as it is responding to the contours of our hands. A discussion with the audience will follow.
Sunday 16 October 2022
Introduction by Dr. O: An invocation for Bertina Lopes (Mozambique, 1924-2010) Roland Dorcely (Haiti, 1930-2017).
Exhibition Itineraries with Dr. ‘Ugochukwu-Smooth’ Nzewi and Dr. Omar Kholeif
‘Ugochukwu-Smooth’ Nzewi is an artist, art historian, and curator who currently serves as the inaugural Steven and Lisa Tananbaum Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York. Both trained as artists, Nzewi and Kholeif, take a winding path through the exhibition halls of memory, reflecting on the projects that inspired and gave route to formative trajectories, such as the Dak’Art Biennial in Senegal, through to the art spaces, that nourished and inspired them — from Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa. In this conversation, the duo negotiates the tension between the notion of ‘tradition’ in art history against the accumulated concept of the contemporary. They consider the ethnographic and the anthropological in a dialogue that summons individual ways of looking and narrating art of Africa and its diasporas.
The Poetry Salon: (My) Episodes of Everyday Racism, Interrupted with Raymond Antrobus, Phoebe Boswell, Lakwena Maciver, Andra Simons, and Dr. O.
Drawing inspiration in-part from Grada Kilomba’s book, Plantation Memories, and Lola Olufemi’s Feminism, Interrupted, the FORUM’s second edition of the poetry salon invites artists and writers to present and reflect on poems that disrupt and challenge the very concept of ‘everyday racism’. The mask, the mouth, and the wound are expressed and amplified from the interstices of silence — not marginal, but rather, enabling new centres of reclaimed imagination to come to bear. Merging oral testimony, with the diaristic, the meditative, and the propulsive — the readings are followed by a group discussion of lived experience, and the power of ‘interruption’ facilitated through the singularity of the voice.
Being “African” in the so-called “Middle East”: Curating our Multiple Selves with Touria El Glaoui, Dr. Omar Kholeif and Dr. Ridha Moumni.
How does one define one’s sense of ‘African-ness’ in an age where slippages around both language and its comprehension; visuality and its contradictions, are no longer subject to the binary of a singular form of identarian position or politics. In this series of stories and provocations, speakers reflect on the evolving definition of African legacies and heritage and consider the contradictions that arise when a creative individual occupies more than a single identity.
1-54 Forum Curator
Dr. Omar Kholeif (UK/EG/SU) aka Dr. O is an author of prose and poetry, a historian of the academy and its peripheries, and a curator of vanquished and/or suppressed archives. They have worked as a broadcaster, filmmaker, editor, publisher, and a museum director in South Africa, Great Britain, the United States, the GCC and Northern Africa. Over the last 17+ years, their work has concentrated on the nature of networked image culture and its relationship to intersectional questions in the field and study of ethnicity, race, gender, and sexuality. Dr. Kholeif has curated over 60 exhibitions of visual art across six continents, and has authored, co-authored, or edited books over 30 books, which have sold more than 100,000 copies in the English language and been translated into 12 languages. Dr. Kholeif was co-curator of Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber, is the founding director of www.artpost21.com and currently serves as Director of Collections and Senior Curator, Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE. Their forthcoming monographs include, Imagine Otherwise: Sonia Balassanian (2022) and Internet_Art: From the Birth of the Web to the Rise of NFTs published by Phaidon in 2023.