A Trans-African Worldspace at the 56th Venice Biennale of Arts

01 May 2015 | by Emeka Okereke

Invisible Borders Trans African Project will be featured at the 56th Venice Biennale from May 9 to November 22, 2015 (alongside 136 artists invited from all over the world) as part of All the Worlds Futures curated by Okwui Enwezor, a renowned curator, art critic and writer. 

La Biennale di Venezia is a momentous international art event, building upon its 120 years of arts history, offering fresh perspectives and artists every two years. It has for over a century been one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world. Established in 1895, the Biennale has an attendance today of over 370,000 visitors at the Art Exhibition. Invisible Borders on the other hand is a collective of African visual artists – photographers, writers and filmmakers – concerned with reflecting on questions and implications of borders, movement and exchange as it relates to the 54 countries of Africa and its postcolonial narratives.

The presentation at the Venice is set up as a constellation of impulses, experiences, and deductions from five years of being active and on the road

This has been explored through several projects of which the most prominent is the Trans-African Road Trip. Since 2009, Invisible Borders has organized road trips across African cities and borders, and recently European cities. Taking off from Lagos, their destinations have included: Bamako, Dakar, Addis Ababa, Libreville, and Sarajevo. The journey has taken them through cities and towns known only to the wayfarer and vagrant—Diema, Ekok, Mamfe, Ferkessedougou, Bitam, Maiduguri, Kousseri, Gamboru-Ngala, Kidira, Ekok, Kayes, for instance—and through ordeals faced by illegal migrants. An “invisible border” has not, in the course of the project, suggested the absence of borders, bureaucratic bottlenecks, or corrupt officials. But it has suggested an experiment in the blurring of border-lines through movement: the rolling of tyres, the trudging of feet, the body of artists’ in constant motion.

The Invisible Borders presentation at the Venice Biennale titled A Trans-African Worldspace is set up as a constellation of impulses, experiences, and deductions from five years of being active and on the road across myriad forms of borders. It is a space-installation aimed at presenting the project as a complimentary association between process and outcome. A part of the installation is designed to immerse the visitors in the processes of the road trip through collage of images, audio-visual documentations and cartographic depictions.

Another part will focus on outcomes: specific bodies of works – photography, video and writings – realised by artists who were part of the road trips, workshops and site-specific interventions. Emmanuel Iduma writes of the project: “A Trans-African Worldspace is incepted at the moment the experience of travel across African borders intersects with an idiosyncratic interpretation of it. Artists and writers who travelled as part of Invisible Borders did not show everyday spaces—like markets, streets, restaurants, roads, and malls—as places in need of repair or development. But as places where life occurs without judgment; with mirth, theatricality, and beauty. This approach has not lessened the severity of the continent’s contradictions. It has proposed a subtler, more graceful look. Hence the Worldspace is formed by the immediacy with which the traveling artists realize that the diversity of the continent is like a sea of endless encounters, productive happenstances, and valuable collaborations”.

Artists whose works make up the Invisible Borders presentation are:

Ala Kheir, Amaize Ojeikere, Charles Okereke , Emeka Okereke, Emmanuel Iduma
Jide Odukoya, Jumoke Sanwo, Lillian Novo Isioro, Lucy Azubuike, Ray Daniels Okeugo, Teresa Menka, Tom Saater, Uche Okpa-Iroha, Venessa Peterson.

Furthermore we will present in the ARENA a feature length documentary about Invisible Borders, followed by a discussion on the State of Things in the trans-African contemporary art scene, and the critical ideas at the core of our practice. The date for this event is yet to be decided.

Note to editors

The preview of the Biennale will be held on May 6th, 7th and 8th. The awards ceremony and the inauguration will take place on Saturday May 9th, when the exhibition will become open to the public.

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