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First edition of the new Lagos Biennial to open in October

Lagos Biennial

Living on the Edge, the first edition of the Lagos Biennial of Contemporary Art will take place from October 14 to December 22, 2017 in six venues across Lagos, Nigeria.

The exhibition featuring over 40 international artists from 20 countries, will be curated by Folakunle Oshun, Amira Paree, and the Perpetuum Mobile collective. An academic conference co-ordinated by Erin Rice (Freie Universität Berlin) and Akor Opaluwah (Nottingham Trent University) at the University of Lagos will accompany the exhibition, along with a film programme.

The biennial is organised by the Akete Art Foundation, a not-for-profit cultural organisation founded in 2016 with the main objective of promoting contemporary art in Nigeria.

Curatorial Statement

To re-think. To re-imagine.

The former suggests a logical mental exercise, while the latter reaches to the fringes of fantasy. Art, for too long, has proffered beautiful but unrealistic and unachievable solutions to the issues of society; asking more questions than it answers. Should art remain in its most essential form, whether or not it achieves a tangible goal? Does it become necessary to examine the role of art in society especially in the dimension of large-scale biennial interventions? The city of Lagos in its peculiarity as a commercial center and melting pot for diverse endeavors and cultures holds a reputation for spewing out whatever does not add up materially. A historical slave and trade route, Lagos developed the culture of gate-keeping and taxation – where foreigners were welcome only to the reach of their pockets. In an attempt to juxtapose the historical and contemporary realities in this dynamic space, it would be natural to place the spotlight on the current expressions of these ancient values which have invariably become urban culture. The danger would be to subsist in a bubble and alienate ones reality from a global politico-economic climate which is submerged under the currents of capitalism. It may be savvier to investigate the realities of the losers in societies around the world – the unseen majority who are pushed to the brink of their existence; in both political and cultural ramifications. This by far offers a more realistic starting point for conversations set to engage the city of Lagos in years to come.

The vision is not to mystify or demystify, but rather to embark on a journey to explore multi-faceted scenarios which will undoubtedly question the very essence of our humanity, spirituality, and the interconnectedness of the universe. If we were to take a portrait of the world, would it be life-giving? Would it be a collage of despair? The greatest challenge of this exercise would be to solicit the interest of local communities who are a key to the eventual plausibility of the continuum.

In essence, art will be put to the ultimate test; can it save the world or at least make an attempt? The narrative of the biennial, which shares its title with the 2012 project of Mozambican artist Mário Macilau, is expanded to accommodate the geographical, spiritual, and most importantly, the psychological ramifications of living on the edge.

Folakunle Oshun
Artistic Director
Lagos Biennial 2017

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