Shonibare CBE: Radical Hybridity
Curated by Victor Wang
25 August – 11 October 2020
M WOODS Art Community, LongFu Building, Temple Galleries, 9th
Opening: 25 August
M WOODS is proud to première two
film works in our Temple Galleries by the influential British-born Nigerian
artist Yinka Shonibare CBE (b. 1962).
Yinka Shonibare CBE, who was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the
British Empire) in 2019, has spent three decades exploring the European
colonial impact on African identities and their diasporas. Rather than taking a
fixed position on visual identity and cultural representation, Shonibare CBE opens
up a space of cultural hybridity and duality in his practice.
The films are shown within
the museum’s specially reconstructed Ming dynasty temples that were originally built on
the museum’s current site in 1452 by the Jingtai Emperor of the Ming dynasty.
These temples were the only ones in the city to accommodate both lamas and
Visitors are invited to view Shonibare CBE’s films Odile and Odette (2005) and Addio
del Passato (2011) within this unique setting and context of the rebuilt temples, thus combining tradition, Chinese history and contemporary art. The period during
which the temples were built was also itself a significant one in terms of
cultural migration and cross-pollination in a Chinese context.
This première also marks the first project in a new series of
programming and initiatives at M WOODS that will reconsider aspects of
post-colonial theory, diasporic knowledge and Black intellectual thought in the
context of China and East Asia.
delighted that M WOODS have chosen to show my films at this prescient time”. Says
artist Yinka Shonibare CBE. “This will be the first significant presentation of
my films in China, in such a unique setting and I’m happy to contribute to the
wider important conversations on post-colonial affects and diasporic influence
within this context.” (Yinka Shonibare CBE)
(M WOODS Art Community: Longfu Building, Temple Gallery)
About the Artist:
[Photo credit: Yinka Shonibare CBE, 2014, Photo: RA Marcus Leith]
Yinka Shonibare CBE
Yinka Shonibare CBE (b. London, UK, 1962 -) studied Fine
Art at Byam Shaw School of Art (1989) and received his MFA from Goldsmiths
College, London, (1991).
His interdisciplinary practice uses citations of Western
art history and literature to question the validity of contemporary cultural
and national identities within the context of globalization. Through examining
race, class and the construction of cultural identity, his works comment on the
tangled interrelationship between Africa and Europe, and their respective
economic and political histories.
In 2004, he
was nominated for the Turner Prize and in 2008, his mid-career survey
began at Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; touring to the Brooklyn Museum,
New York and the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington
D.C. In 2010, his first public art commission Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle was
displayed on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London, and was acquired by
the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.
In 2013, he was elected as a Royal Academician and was
awarded the honour of ‘Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ in the
2019 New Year’s Honours List. His
installation ‘The British Library’ was acquired by Tate in 2019 and is currently on display at
Tate Modern, London.
His work is included in notable museum collections
including Tate, London; the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian
Institute, Washington D.C.; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Guggenheim Abu
Dhabi; Moderna Museet, Stockholm and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
About the films:
Odile and Odette (2005-2006) is a film made in collaboration with the Royal Opera House. Here,
Shonibare CBE re-imagines a classical episode from Tchaikovsky’s Ballet Swan
Lake, where the lead roles 'Odile' and 'Odette' engage in a close dialogue of
gestures and movement. Odile and Odette are characters which embody “good” and “evil”
and are traditionally danced by a sole prima ballerina. The artist transforms
this classical part into a complex and subtle interplay between two dancers in
which the duality of the characters is played out in racial difference.
Mirroring each other’s expression on either side of an ornate Baroque frame,
Shonibare CBE suggests that their movement is both estranged and united. The
dancers perform a passage from the ballet in a studio stage set to silence, the
rhythm of their pointe shoes creates the only soundtrack to the film.
from one side of a “stage set” but using two cameras, the doubling effect is
further played out as the dancers switch side of the mirror frame and creates a
visual environment where the viewer is privileged to see the work performed
from both sides of the 'mirror'. The film's narrative and construction suggest
that both characters are one and that their complex relationship is both
co-dependent and formed by each other.
a recent interview Shonibare CBE said: “What I find interesting is the idea
that you cannot define Africa without Europe. The idea that there is some kind
of dichotomy between Africa and Europe - between the ‘exotic other’ and the ‘civilized
European’, if you like - I think is completely simplistic. I am interested in
exploring the mythology of these two so-called separate spheres, and in
creating an overlap of identities.”
Addio del Passato (2011) is the title of an aria about betrayal, love and loss from Verdi’s opera
La Traviata, sung by the dying heroine Violetta. In this film Shonibare CBE
alters the characters so the aria is performed by a black singer in the guise
of Frances Nisbet, the wife who Nelson betrayed and abandoned during a lengthy
affair with Lady Hamilton. Here Nisbet agonizes over her own life and Nelson’s
absence, even envisaging his death in a series of tableaux (the Fake Death
Pictures) that occur outside the immediate action of the film, as though giving
form to her tortured thoughts and daydreams.
Addio del Passatois Shonibare CBE’s first investigation of Nelson’s wider human story; more
typically he views Nelson in a purely metaphorical sense, as a cipher for
empire. As an artist he works with aesthetics, metaphor, politics; indeed, his
headless and faceless figures are purposefully not “individuals” with whom we
could identify as people. As such, despite its obvious artifice, the level of
emotional intensity and engagement offered by Addio del Passato is unexpected, breathtaking. Like Un Ballo in Maschera (2004), this work
features what at first seems to be the looping of the film. However, this is
not a loop, but an actual live replaying, the singer beginning her song and her
walk through the house and landscape again. In this case the repeated action
implies an endless cycle of sadness and despair that amplifies the potency offeeling
and sense of hopelessness. The film explores the concept of
destiny as it relates to themes of desire, yearning, love, power and sexual
film was shot in the magnificent surroundings of Syon Park, just outside
London, which is the ancestral home of the Duke of Northumberland. Originally
built in the sixteenth century, it was extensively remodeled in the eighteenth
century by two of the most renowned designers of the period to reflect
contemporary fashions - Robert Adam working on the house and Capability Brown
on the landscape. This location extends Shonibare CBE’s reference to the
aristocracy and the trappings of wealth.