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<eyebeam><blast> localization/mistaken identity

I guess I should give everyone a brief introduction to what was
purported as "my local situation".  Once we get over the digital orgasm
of the myth arising out of the pitfalls of digital connectivity, we
realise that all this still matter.

After being described as perhaps the most undersold, under celebrated
artist in the new Brit. scene, I gave the matter some thought and here
it goes as a general introduction into my work as well.

Many reviewers are very interested in naming me as a Nigerian artist,
some often acknowledging that I live in London.  I guess there is a lot
of mileage in being a contemporary African artist these days, very much
as it was being a Latin American artist in the recent past.

But hey, aren't we supposed to have gone past the stage of the hybrid
identity?  Are we not now, in the wake of that bad phrase called
"globalisation" in what I would call connectivity land? Fragmented and
confused identities, lost souls that recollect on, within and through
various membrane cathodic interfaces that is our very own jealously
guarded abyss.

A bit more background, or confusing information depending on your
connection.  Let's talk about a review last year of the work that I
presented at documenta X by Roseanne Altstatt that is archived at
It is interesting to note in the article, and I suggest that you
download it to read, that firstly Altstatt makes the distinction
between  the first two video pieces that are encountered.  The first "is
a video by Mathew Ngui that records the process of a person...." while
the in the next video piece "Oladélé Ajiboyé Bamgboyé's three-monitor
video installation features real people in his homeland. Seen through
the eyes of a Nigerian, the video is meant to provide an alternative to
the western camera's typically voyeuristic view of Africa".

You will have to forgive the rather lengthy quotes, but my aim will soon
become clearer.  I would like to ask about what qualifies as "real
people" and "homeland", because that is what is being disputed now and
will continue within cultural theory? Does anyone care anymore about the
artificiality of the seductive digital image, which cannot be anything
but artificial?

If we then accept that the video image is artificial, and that "real
people" do not exist, at least within gallery installations, then
perhaps it is interesting to comprehend Alstatt's last bone about my
installation, namely that:

"Works by non-western artists...are often displayed prominently at the
entrances to Documenta's main buildings.  In Bamgboyé's case however,
the placement is counterproductive, as it is impossible to hear what the
speakers in his videos have to say whilst people go through the

I think it is fair to say that the installation provoked a lot of
frustration in an audience that driven by what Catherine David called "a
lingering desire for nostalgia", in as much as they were confronted at
the entryways of the Documenta halls, with video clips that were somehow
autobiographical, but pseudo documentary yet which defy meaning since
the camera doesn't linger on any plane or angle for any significant

In fact the effect could even have been described as a video backdrop,
conveniently placed for the audience to take in or ignore while on their
planned "documenta route".  One then realises that the purported aim of
prominently displaying the latest "prized African artist" in the eye of
the world, in this case is a failure.  To make matters more confusing,
months later in a video symposium in Amsterdam, I was told by Okwui
Enwezor that Steve McQueen had to interrupt a panel debate, to point out
that I was indeed born in Nigeria, but grown up in Britain, in order to
correct the misconception that the work in documenta was made by a
western anthropologist.

Seems like a case of mistaken identity to me.  But would you also credit
the fact that during the 80's in Glasgow, working in relative isolation
before the popularity of Photography as art, my contemporaries included
Christine Borland, Douglas Gordon and Roderick Buchanan?  Fed up of the
parochial nature of the art scene in Glasgow, I defected to Berlin via
the Künstlerhaus Bethanien for a year before visa problems eventually
meant residence in London for the last 5 years.  Sprinkled within this
time are fruitful periods in Canada at the Banff Centre...

So here it comes, what is non-western about my practice? Why does
Alstatt feel the need to label me as a Nigerian, when I hold now a
British citizenship.  Does the virtue of having been born elsewhere
leave traces that ensure that one can always return to the authentic
"homeland"?  Or rather is it not impossible to return, yet one never
truly forgets, even though one doesn't feel to fit into the new adopted

Many questions and not enough answers, but what I would say is that to
return to the beginning, in a recent forum at the Centro Atlantico de
Arte Moderno, in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Charles Merewether in his
lecture titled "In a time of Translation" proposed the post-hybrid and
post-identity model based on the ethics of Levinas.  In his talk, which
I will try to find an electronic version soon, Merewether talks of the
need to move beyond the 80s hybrid model and somehow go beyond identity,
but somehow try to fit in difference as well.  In full agreement, I
posed the question that I for one, have always had a problem with the
Levinasian model of Self, Other and Supplement, since it is always the
Supplement that gets left behind in the reasoning.

What if one is the Supplement, the one that lives, as Okwui Enwezor puts
it in a lecture of the same title, "Between worlds"?  What would one's
aesthetic be?  Would it be, as I would suggest that of the "mistaken
identity?" Ultimately can the supplement ever be equated with the gboyé
London, 4/20/98 9:01:51 PM.

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