Material Effects – Contemporary art from West Africa and the diaspora

Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, East Lansing, MI, United States
06 Nov 2015 - 03 Apr 2016

Material Effects – Contemporary art from West Africa and the diaspora

Zohra Opoku, Post No Bill, 2013. Image courtesy the artist.

The exhibition Material Effects brings together artists from West Africa and the diaspora whose work examines the symbolic, economic, and everyday value of objects and materials—man-made or otherwise—in our commodity-driven yet increasingly digitized world.

Inspired by currents of renewed artistic and scholarly interest in the poetic relationship between things and humans in contemporary society, Material Effects features existing and newly commissioned works of video art, sculpture, performance, and installation art.

Presented across two galleries at the Broad MSU, the exhibition is anchored by a video work by Antje Majewski that spotlights the reflections of pioneering sculptor and performance artist Issa Samb on the intrinsic qualities of objects. Samb’s insights link the contemporary works on view with a socially conscious, avant-garde tradition dating back to the 1960s and 1970s in which notions of improvisation, temporality, and hybridity came to define a radical African aesthetic. Building on this lineage, Ibrahim Mahama transforms used jute sacks into a large-scale, site-specific work that investigates the material remnants of Ghana’s commodity markets. Zohra Opoku delves into the rich history of West African textiles to comment on the formation of individual and societal identities. Through the close study of the natural world and its resources, Otobong Nkanga maps personal and collective memories of place, while Jelili Atiku and Bernard Akoi-Jackson use their bodies in concert with found and fashioned objects to spark discussions about institutional power and contemporary socio-political issues.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated brochure featuring an essay by curator Yesomi Umolu.

Artists featured in the exhibition include: Bernard Akoi-Jackson, Jelili AtikuIbrahim Mahama, Antje Majewski, Otobong Nkanga, and Zohra Opoku.

Opening and Reception: Friday, November 6 , 6pm


Friday, November 6 , 6–6:30pm
Material Effects Member Walkthrough, 
Be among the first to view the Broad MSU’s newest exhibition Material Effects before it opens to the public! As a special benefit of your membership, please join us for an exclusive tour with exhibition curator Yesomi Umolu. Members only.

Friday, November 6, 6:30–8pm
Material Effects Public Reception and Performance by Bernard Akoi-Jackson: Untitled (Vestige:Systems.BLOCKS.Standards)
The public reception will include a performance by exhibition artist, Bernard Akoi-Jackson. Embodying the persona of a fictive “African” royal, Akoi-Jackson and a team of collaborators solicit audience participants to engage in actions that unravel the tensions inherent in our daily submission to institutional, ideological, and aesthetic authorities.

Saturday, November 7, 11am–3pm, Education Wing
Family Day, Presented by Farm Bureau Insurance
First Saturday means Family Day at the Broad MSU! What are your favorite things? Join us as we examine how our relationships with objects can be expressed through art in Material Effects! Don’t miss a special Family tour at 1pm.

Saturday, November 7, 2–4pm
Material Effects Performance: Jelili Atiku: Red Day (In the Red series #17)
Jelili Atiku will lead a troop of performers from exterior spaces into the galleries as they perform choreographed and spontaneous gestures that elicit collective reflection on global disputes and crises. An artist-led workshop held in conjunction with MSU instructor Kellyn Uhl’s Dance Improvisation course will culminate in the creation of a new site-specific installation that bears the physical and psychological residue of the performers’ actions.

Saturday, November 7, 5–6:30pm
Material Effects Artist Talk
Artists Bernard Akoi-Jackson, Jelili Atiku, and Ibrahim Mahama are joined by London-based independent curator Osei Bonsu and exhibition curator Yesomi Umolu to discuss their individual practices and contributions to Material Effects.

Tuesday, November 17, 7pm
Altered Tour: Material Effects
Join Rita Kiki Edozie, Professor of International Relations and African Affairs in MSU’s James Madison College as she gives an altered tour of Material Effects. Edozie will contextualize works within the broader framework of politics, economy, and global development in West Africa and its surrounding regions. The Altered Tour series at the Broad MSU invites scholars and experts across a multitude of disciplines to give guided tours of exhibitions through a non-art centered approach.



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