"On Screen: Global Intimacy" brought together 10 artists from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the United States whose works investigate the transnational reach of globalization. Working primarily in video, they project images that traverse national boundaries and highlight the confluence of cultures and technologies that mark our time. These artists engage globalism as lived experience, questioning tradition and modernity.
Tumelo Mosaka curated the exhibition, which was organized by Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The exhibition and programming were sponsored by Frances P. Rohlen Visiting Artists Fund/College of Fine and Applied Arts; Illinois Arts Council; Krannert Art Museum Director’s Circle; Krannert Art Museum Council; the School of Art and Design Visitors Series; and the Center for African Studies (with support of the US Department of Education Title VI grant).
Additional support for the exhibition was provided by the H&R Block Foundation and the Missouri Arts Council.
Globalization is frequently assumed to have negative impact when associated with developing nations. Some scholars view this outside influence as a corruption of culture. At the very least, it is considered a threat to fragile and vulnerable local and traditional cultures. Such views tend to fix and essentialize culture as a static commodity, and disregard centuries of historic encounters that demonstrate the global outreach of humanity across continents. Since early civilizations, people have moved across and within geographical borders in search of better living conditions. Recently, the frequency of travel, the accessibility of technology, and the availability of information has compressed time and space in ways that allow for human interconnection to occur more remotely.
The exhibition On-Screen: Global Intimacy brings together ten artists—from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and the United States—whose works investigate the transnational reach of globalization. Working primarily in video, these artists project images that traverse national boundaries and highlight the confluence of cultures and technologies that mark our time. Using visual narratives that range from the literal, to the imaginary, and to the abstract, the artists engage “globalism” as current reality. In doing so, the works call into question facile distinctions between tradition and modernity, resilience and restraint, empowerment and subjugation. They reveal a myriad of connections and relationships that emphasize similarities as well as differences. In their play with time, space, sound, and symbol, the films evince deeply sensorial “landscapes” of the transnational, which require us to rethink conventional definitions of national, community, and personal identity.
The exhibiting artists draw from their diverse identities and histories to explore competing and contradictory claims about the homogenizing force of globalization. The video piece by Alex Hernández Dueñas turns the simple act of taking a bath into a poignant commentary on the disparities of wealth and control over resources in cities where resources are limited. Tiong Ang’s dreamlike video of three men returning home from a day’s work speaks to issues of class and race. The men, isolated and alienated from their surroundings, stare past the camera in an almost trancelike state into the far distant rural landscape. Achilleká Komguem trains his lens on a chaotic intersection in urban Africa; though lacking a traffic signal—the ultimate regulating tool of modern urban planning—the chaotic flow of traffic remains, miraculously, collision-free. Andrew Dosunmu draws inspiration from the nomadic, marginal lives of gypsies (gitanes), who forge ties with various cultures and traditions regardless of territorial boundaries. Hank Willis Thomas and Kambui Olujimi respond to the social violence that is prevalent in contemporary society. Using toys to simulate real-life scenarios, their work critiques the Western media’s treatment of violence as entertainment. Donna Kukama performs repetitive mundane actions from daily life, which become discreet, transgressive actions addressing absence as much as the presence of time. Fatimah Tuggar’s digital works juxtapose scenes from Africa and America; technology is used to emphasize the experiences of individuals who traverse multiple locations. Keith + Mendi Obadikeconstantly work across media to examine institutional boundaries of power and their limited capacity to control individual subjects. Using poetry, music, theater, and the Internet as their media, they explore new ways of engaging viewers.
These artists operate across social divisions of race, class, and gender, and envision an intimate reality that challenges the uniformity of “globalism.” Such ideas about nationhood and identity become fragmented and uneven because of the process of translation and of appropriation. What is consistent among these works is the subversion of Western power by previously marginalized artists. Dominant western artistic practices are being challenged as developing nations across the world become increasingly technologically and economically advanced. These nations’ socio-economic and political presence can no longer be undermined. Artists from these regions wrestle with how they are viewed and positioned within the art historical discourse and international scene. On-Screen: Global Intimacy situates the dialogue about globalism within an evolving locality, where the outcomes are nothing but an accumulation of countless local actions. Hence the exhibition explores these social interactions as an influence that shapes communities and defines their citizenship.
Tiong Ang (b. 1961, Indonesia)
Tiong Ang was raised and educated in the Netherlands. Most of his works incorporate footage taken during his nomadic travels throughout the world. His work has been shown in many international exhibitions including the 2001 Venice Biennale in Italy. He has exhibited in numerous galleries including the Florence Lynch Gallery in New York and the Lumen Travo Gallery in Amsterdam. Ang lives and works in Amsterdam.
Andrew Dosunmu (b. Nigeria)
Andrew Dosunmu was born and raised in Nigeria and educated in England. He began his career as a design assistant at the fashion house Yves Saint Laurent and worked as a creative director before pursuing a career as a fashion photographer. Dosunmu also has worked in the music and film industries as well as in television where he directed the South African television series “Yizo Yizo” among many other programs. Dosunmu lives and works in New York.
Alex M. Hernández Dueñas (b. 1982, Cuba)
Alex Hernández Dueñas studied art at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana. He has completed several international residencies and has exhibited at a number of venues including the Museo Rufino Tamayo in México; the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam in Havana; and the Brooklyn Museum in New York. He also has participated in the VIII and IX Bienal de La Habana in Cuba. Hernández Dueñas lives and works in Havana.
Achillekà Komguem (b. 1973, Cameroon)
Achillekà Komguem received his visual arts degree from the University of Yaoundé in Cameroon. He is also the recipient of the 2004 UNESCO Visual Arts Award for promoting the arts and culture in his country. His work has been included in numerous national and international exhibitions. Besides his fine art career, Komguem also oversees a bilingual art journal called DiArtgonale. Komguem lives and works in Cameroon.
Donna Kukama (b. 1981, South Africa)
Donna Kukama received her Master’s of Arts degree in the public sphere at Ecole Cantonale d’Art du Valais (ECAV) in Switzerland. Her works largely are performance, video and sound installations that explore social relations. She has participated in numerous exhibitions including the Dak’Art Biennale in Senegal; La Villa Dutoit in Switzerland; and the Pretoria Art Museum in South Africa. Kukama lives and works in Pretoria, South Africa.
Mendi + Keith Obadike (each b. 1973, United States)
The duo of Mendi Obadike and Keith Obadike creates music, art and literature. They work across genres exhibiting and performing at various institutions including the New Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; the Yale Cabaret in New Haven, Conn.; and the Whitechapel Gallery in London. Mendi received her Ph.D. in literature from Duke University and Keith obtained his M.F.A. degree in sound design from Yale University. Mendi + Keith live and work in New York.
Kambui Olujimi (b. 1976, United States)
Kambui Olujimi received his B.F.A. degree from Parsons School of Design. His work examines popular cultural icons and their histories. He has exhibited in galleries and museums around the country, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Olujimi lives and works in New York.
Hank Willis Thomas (b. 1976, United States)
Hank Willis Thomas was raised in New York and received a Master’s of Arts degree and an M.F.A. degree from the California College of the Arts. His work explores the impact of branding assigned to cultural symbols. His work has been included in several exhibitions around the country, including at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem; the High Museum of Art in Atlanta; and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Conn. Thomas is the recipient of several awards and lives and works in New York.
Fatimah Tuggar (b. 1967, Nigeria)
Fatimah Tuggar received her M.F.A. degree from Yale University and has since exhibited internationally at venues such as the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and the Bamako Biennale in Mali. She works predominantly with digital photomontage, juxtaposing scenes from Africa with those from the West. Using technology to collapse these differences, Tuggar comments on the complexity of living between cultures. She lives and works in North Carolina.
Working primarily in video, they project images that traverse national boundaries and highlight the confluence of cultures and technologies that mark our time.