A polyglot in artistic media, and former Gropius-Bau artist in-residence, masterfully delves into complex systems and histories with through range of media.
Otobong Nkanga (Nigeria, 1974) was Gropius Bau’s artist in-residence in 2019 and this exhibition reflects her tenure. Nkanga is a polyglot in artistic media and articulates herself here with everything from paintings and sculpture to room-filling installations. On entering, you are brought directly into Taste of a Stone, an installation that doesn’t fail to deliver on the artist’s characteristic explorations of economic and ecological processes and the exploitation and movement of people and natural resources. Recalling a zen landscaped garden, its bed of calm white gravel, neatly hemmed in with a metal border, holds boulders, plants and a textile that speak to displacement, adaptability and a colonial language of domination over the natural world.
Two works incorporate performances by Nkanga, including the excellent multilayered sound installation Wetin You Go Do? Oya Na, in which the artist performs monologues and choruses in numerous characters. However, it’s the breathtaking tapestry Double Plot that steals the show: the large-scale textile conjures a dark night sky picked out with the stars (as they were on the night of the 2011 uprising at Tahrir Square) as a headless figure looks on. Nkanga’s masterful handling of any media to delve into complex systems and histories adroitly surfaces intersections that we should all be reflecting on.
Otobong Nkanga: There’s No Such Thing as Solid Ground at Gropius Bau, 10 July – 13 December