Antawan I. Byrd, Hansi Momodu-Gordon, Tosin Oshinowo named curators of 2nd Lagos Biennial

Antawan I. Byrd

The Àkéte Art Foundation is pleased to announce the curators for the 2019 edition of the Lagos Biennial: Antawan I. Byrd, Hansi Momodu-Gordon, and Tosin Oshinowo. For the forthcoming edition, the three curators will collaboratively devise the biennial’s curatorial framework encompassing exhibitions, performances, publishing projects, and public programmes.

“The three curators come from diverse backgrounds with a wealth of international experience across the fields of contemporary art, architecture, and design,” states Folakunle Oshun, the biennial’s founding director. “All three curators have strong ties to the Lagosian arts and culture sector. Oshinowo is currently based in Lagos and is a lead architect at cmDesign Atelier (cmD+A). Through her architectural and design practice, she has established herself as an innovative thinker and leading authority on the city’s built environment. Meanwhile Byrd, an assistant curator of photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, and Momodu-Gordon, an independent curator based in London, have both lived and worked in Lagos during pivotal points of transition in the city’s contemporary art sector. Both were curators at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos and have worked consistently with some of the city’s leading artists and institutions. I’m excited that the three curators have decided to focus on the intersections of art, architecture, and urbanism for the 2019 edition. Through this focus, the second edition of the biennial is poised to engage pertinent socioeconomic and political issues stemming from the astonishing shifts in the city’s spatial elaboration over the past two decades. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they develop,” Oshun notes.

The three curators were formally introduced to the Lagosian public on Saturday, November 3, 2018 during a kick-off event attended by the press and members of the city’s arts community; the event was held at the Omenka Gallery in Ikoyi, Lagos. As announced at the outset by Oyinda Fakeye, the biennial’s project manager, the convening was designed to allow the curators to introduce preliminary ideas and propositions related to the next edition in order to get feedback from the public early on – prior to consolidating their plans.

The curators will continue to develop the programme for the 2019 edition through the end of the year, before sharing additional details in early 2019. However, they have already landed on a title for the forthcoming edition, How to Build a Lagoon with Just a Bottle of Wine? The title is adapted from the poem, “A Song For Lagos” by the Nigerian writer Akeem Lasisi. During the kick-off event, the curators framed the title as a provocation for artists and the public to meditate on the history and present makeup of city’s built environment. For the curators, the title conjures the impossible or herculean, which speaks to the city’s “can-do” spirit in the face of seemingly insurmountable social, political, and economic obstacles just as it alludes the nascent state of the biennial itself as a platform.

How To Build a Lagoon with Just a Bottle of Wine?

We live in, and in relation to various kinds of environments. Architecture and the built environment shapes urban experience, impacting our sense of belonging and understanding of heritage. This physical environment is formed of the material remains of ‘visions of the future’, left for new generations. Climate change is a serious threat to our natural environment and is warming our planet. Rising sea levels and increasing extreme weather events are changing the ways people can and will live. The conditions of a particular political environment allow for atrocities such as the Atlantic Slave Trade to seem normalised or to become too easily forgotten, just as particular social environments can act to suppress or support a person’s sexual orientation or gender identification.

An environment can be made up of living or non-living things, of concepts and belief systems. Environments are natural or man-made, and are increasingly inhabited and navigated through digital and virtual media.

With an estimated 21 million inhabitants, Lagos ranks among the largest cities in the world and is the most populous in Africa. In recent decades, the city’s built environment has expanded exponentially through large-scale land reclamation initiatives, major industrial and luxury development projects, new transportation infrastructures, and sprawling housing settlements. This steady growth has transformed and amplified Lagos’s distinctive history as a cosmopolitan hub, and incubator of cultural and technological innovation. Yet such rapid change continues to raise pressing questions, facing cities across the globe, about the impact of urbanisation on conceptions of citizenship, the role of information systems, the sustainability of natural resources, and socio-economic equality.

The forthcoming biennial titled, How To Build a Lagoon with Just a Bottle of Wine? will take the city of Lagos as its epicenter and point of departure for a broader investigation on how contemporary artists, designers, and other creatives, are responding to the challenges and possibilities of environments today. Inspired by lines from Nigerian writer Akeem Lasisi’s poem “A Song For Lagos,” the biennial’s title calls to mind the lagoons and waterways, that founded the city; the centuries-long histories of trade that have transformed Lagos; and daily herculean and inconceivable activities that support our burgeoning metropolis.

The second edition of the biennial will open up conversations and invite reflection on environments across group and solo exhibitions, installations, and public programmes.

Antawan I. Byrd

Antawan I. Byrd is Assistant Curator of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, and a PhD candidate in modern and contemporary art history at Northwestern University. His dissertation, Interferences: Sound, Technology, and the Politics of Listening in Afro-Atlantic Art, examines how artists in Africa and the African diaspora combine sound and visual technologies to address mid-twentieth century politics.

Byrd was co-curator of Kader Attia: Reflecting Memory (2017) at Northwestern’s Block Museum of Art, and an associate curator for Telling Time, the 10th Bamako Encounters Biennale of African Photography (2015). He edited the biennale’s publication (Kerher Verlag, 2015), and co-curated [Re]Générations: Une exploration des archives des Rencontres de Bamako, which received the 2017 Award for Curatorial Excellence by the Arts Council of the African Studies Association. Byrd was a curatorial assistant for J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere: Moments of Beauty (Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, 2011), and a Fulbright fellow at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos from 2009-2011. His writing has recently appeared in Sanlé Sory: Volta Photo (Steidl & The Art Institute of Chicago, 2018), Recent Histories: Contemporary African Photography and Video Art (Steidl & The Walther Collection, 2017), and “Platform Africa” (Aperture, May 2017).

Hansi Momodu-Gordon

Hansi is an independent curator and writer. She is founder of Future Assembly, a platform for artists’ development and experimentation; and has extensive experience working with international artists including Sonia Boyce, Ellen Gallagher and Abraham Cruzvillegas. Her recent projects and collaborations include co-curating UNTITLED: art on the conditions of our time, New Art Exchange (2017- touring); curating ‘Concerning Symmetry’ selected artists’ moving image from the Emile Stipp Collection (2016); producing ‘Promised Land’, Culture+Conflict (2016), and publishing her first book ‘9 Weeks’ with Stevenson (2016). Hansi has developed projects with Chimurenga’s Pan African Space Station at The Showroom (2015) and at Autograph ABP (2015).

As Assistant Curator at Tate Modern (2011 to 2015) Hansi worked on contemporary exhibitions, commissions, live events and acquisitions research for Africa and the Diaspora. Hansi previously held curatorial positions at Turner Contemporary and the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos. Her writing on contemporary art has been published by the Fowler Museum, UCLA, Tate, The Walther Collection, Rencontres de Bamako 10th edition, Aperture, Contemporary And (C&), Frieze and other leading arts publishers.

Tosin Oshinowo

Tosin Oshinowo is a registered Architect in federal republic of Nigeria and also a member of the Royal Institute of the British Architects. She has been lead Architect at cmDesign Atelier (cmD+A) since 2012. CmD+A is an architecture design consultancy practice based in Lagos and is best known form the Maryland Mall, which opened in June 2016.

Her interests are in architectural history and socially responsive approaches in architecture design and urbanism. Her written work includes an article on ‘the reclamation of public space in Lagos’, which was published in October 2012. She also started a column in 2017 for Omneka Online titled the Afromodernst: Identity, Architecture & Sexuality, a bimonthly article exploring cultural issues to do with African Identity in a modern context. This was a spin-off from her TEDx Portharcourt talk on ‘the the identity of an African Building’ in November 2017.

She enjoys collaboration projects with other creatives, for example, the ‘Angles and Muse’ artist foundation, done with acclaimed Nigerian artist Victor Ehikhamenor. The process was documented by Netflix’s ‘Amazing Interiors’ and was the only African project filmed for the series, which aired in June 2018.

Tosin was nominated for the EbonyLife TV Sisterhood Awards for Entrepreneur of the year in 2017 and also received a recognition from leading Ladies Africa as one of 100 most inspiring women in Nigeria 2017. She won the 3rd City People Real Estate Awards for Architect of the Year 2017. In January 2018 she joined the Board for The Lagos Theatre Festival with the British Council.

Read more about Lagos Biennial