Centre for Contemporary Art Lagos opens The Progress of Love

Centre for Contemporary Art Lagos opens The Progress of Love, on view 13 October 2012–27 January 2013, an unprecedented transatlantic collaborative project between art institutions in three cities and two continents: CCA, Lagos; The Menil Collection, Houston and The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, St. Louis. This multifaceted exhibition will explore the changing modes and meanings of love in today’s global society.

Valerie Oka, A Piece of Me, 2011. Mixed media. Courtesy of the artist.

Where contemporary African art is concerned, curatorial endeavours over the past two decades have focused extensively on interrogating recent political developments, primarily within the contexts of subjectivity and identity formation, citizenship, environmentalism and urbanism. These issues have been approached predominantly in the context of post-independence euphoria and its disillusionment, particularly in African countries that have experienced civil strife, voluntary and forced migration and even societal disintegration. While exhibition projects exploring these concerns do well in critically broaching many of the topical concerns and contemporary realities in various regions, they have also tended to result in skewed narratives that frequently, though inadvertently, result in “Afro-pessimism” or situations wherein the continent is positioned as an emblem of perennial crisis. What then might a critical engagement with the subject of love offer us as an intervention?

The presentation of The Progress of Love at Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos will explore the question or problem of love through a series of unfolding events and of works in a range of media, highlighting performative artistic practice that has yet to receive adequate presentation or critical engagement within the field of contemporary art in Nigeria or, more broadly, in West Africa. The performance work of Jelili Atiku (Nigeria) and Wura-Natasha Ogunji (USA) will explore the subject of love within the contexts of familial bonds and personal memory, while performative installation works by Temitayo Ogunbiyi (Nigeria) and Valérie Oka (I) coerce viewers into interactive projects that take the technical and ephemeral dimensions of romantic emotions as subjects of inquiry. The moving image forms an integral aspect of the exhibition through the works of Zanele Muholi (South Africa) and Andrew Esiebo (Nigeria), with their insightful and topical documentary projects as well as Adaora Nwandu’s (Nigeria) short films foreground lived experiences and fictional stories from the perspective of same-gender love confronting a continent that considers such affections taboo. Inspired by personal experiences, family ties, tradition, technology, and local literature, these works express joy, loss, absence, pain and difference; they invoke memory, challenge prejudice and articulate togetherness in lyrical and at times satirical ways.

The Progress of Love at CCA, Lagos opens up a dialogue through presentations that challenge the audience to expand their positions, rethink their preconceptions and prejudices and engage in the multiple ways in which love affects their life. The growing visibility of the role of the performative in contemporary art is in itself akin to a political act. With a younger generation of local artists breaking free from the historical dependence on painting and sculpture, live art provides new possibilities and flexibility for transgressing media boundaries and opening up a space for articulating complex ideas about their experiences and daily realities—a space where art converges with life impacting the way we critically engage and actively explore love today.

The Progress of Love is curated by Bisi Silva at CCA, Lagos and by Kristina Van Dyke at the Menil Collection and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts. The exhibition will be documented by a fully illustrated catalogue that includes essays by curators Kristina Van Dyke and Bisi Silva and Francesca Consagra, Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings, and European Paintings at the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, (former Senior Curator at the Pulitzer Foundation); Elias K. Bongmba, Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University and Banning Eyre, Senior Editor at AfroPop.org. The exhibition will be accompanied by a dynamic series of events including films, lectures, panel discussions and gallery talks with curators. In addition, a series of web-format exchanges will strengthen the connection between the three presentations.

The presentation by Wura-Natasha Ogunji in Lagos is supported by a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. The Progress of Love is being underwritten at CCA, Lagos by the Menil Collection and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.

Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos
9 McEwen Street
Sabo, Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria
T 234 702 836 7106