Terrains of Possibility: Lagos

In his 2009 essay Space is the (non)place: Martians, Marxists and the Outer Space of Radical Imagination, scholar Stevphen Shukaitis writes, “For even if it is not possible literally to step outside the world or existing reality, the capacity to imagine other possible worlds creates a terrain where it becomes possible to work towards the creation of another world”. In recent times, the imagining of alternative realities and narratives of existence has become increasingly relevant in addressing the shortcomings of contemporary society, particularly with respect to oppressive policies and environments which actively contribute to the marginalisation and repression of divergent ideas and voices amidst constant calls for social, economic and political reforms. The events of the past year have brought to the fore the need for mapping out landscapes of alternative possibilities that primarily center the needs and development of the people beyond socio-political posturing and empty promises. Amidst promises of a better future, developmental goals and Afro-futurist rhetoric it is important to interrogate the unfolding histories of past and present and their contributions to future-making. 

As such, Terrains of Possibility aims to dialogue with present-day and past events in hopes of imagining new worlds. The importance of memory as an approach to yet-to-be landscapes, bodies and societies cannot be understated. The exhibition poses the question ‘To what extent is the creation of individual and collective identities influenced by the actions of today and yesterday?’ ‘How do we imagine the making of new bodies and landscapes from the reading of current actions?’ The future as a constantly evolving present. If Nigeria’s and by extension Africa’s tenuous relationship with history is anything to go by, we realise the cyclical nature of events in which we seem to constantly go around in circles, stuck in a never-ending loop of corruption, oppression and apathy towards the general populace and marginalised peoples.

Terrains of Possibility invites six African and diasporan artists — Kelani Abass, Karl Ohiri, Puleng Mongale, Valerie Amani and GLOR1A — to dialogue with issues like identity-making, history and rememory, the nature of work, gender and sexuality among others which explore present-day realities in mapping out new textures, realities and worlds. What does it mean to exist in the present as descendants of the past? How do bodies form and exist in the now? and What might possible futures look like? The exhibition hopes to function both as recollection and imagining. 

In thinking about the experience of place, anthropologist Steven Feld explains the lived body ‘as an ecstatic/recessive being engaged both in a leaping out and a falling back’. This notion of simultaneously leaping out and falling back serves as a starting point for the exhibition.

This exhibition is inspired by contemporary artist Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum’s  ‘Leaping Out’ a part of essays featured in the ‘African Futures’ publication edited by Lien Heidenreich and Sean O’toole.