CURATED BY IRENE CAMPOLMI
In the First Place is the title of the 2022 edition of W&T, which proposes a reflection on what emerges and exists in the first place, rethinking current narratives and positionality as a key aspect in the definition of systems of power, knowledge and identity. Questioning divergent temporal and spatial constructions and recognizing multiple voices, presences and positions, the program thinks of word, speech, sound and music as ways of traveling through time and space, proposing new perspectives and readings about the spaces we inhabit - physical or metaphorical, and the relationships we establish between geographies, resources, different species and ideas. The festival theme unfolds through various projects scattered around the city of Ponta Delgada and at vaga, the headquarter of W&T.
vaga presents a collective show featuring the work of Anishinaabe/French artist Caroline Monnet and Laura Ortman, Ghanian/ British artist Larry Achiampong, Inuit artist Uyarakq and Nigerian/Norwegian artist Linda Lamignan.
Entering vaga's atrium, one encounters two flags displayed in the shape of an arrow by Larry Achiampong. The title of the work, Pan African Flag For The Relic Travellers' Alliance is part of a multi-disciplinary project called Relic Traveller, which builds upon a postcolonial perspective informed by technology, agency and narratives of migration. Achiampong chooses to focus on Pan African colors that speak symbolically to various African diasporic identities: green, black, and red, which reflect the land, the people and the struggles the continent has endured, while gold represents a new day and prosperity. The two flags presented here are just samples of a larger design selection, but each flag design features 54 stars that represent the 54 countries of Africa. Achiampong has configured these Pan African colors into symbols and forms suggestive of various elements: community, ascension, motion and squadron. Through this work, Pan African Futurism - namely, the idea of a union of African nations- is not framed as a utopic vision but a project that can only happen if the hidden tremors of Western colonial history are acknowledged.
Uyarakq’s work also addresses forms of acknowledgment of neglected histories, indirectly criticizing how postcolonial discourse tends to overlook concrete structures to support and improve Indigenous rights. Deviced in the form of postcards, a souvenir that everyone could take home as a memory of the exhibition, the work criticizes how postcolonial discourses have, in some cases, appropriate histories and identities to represent them.
The show continues inside with two audio-visual installations: Exquisite Score by Caroline Monnet in collaboration with Laura Ortmann and Water Get No Enemy by Linda Lamignan in collaboration with Gyeongsu, Serena Coelho and Itohan Emonvomwan.
Taking place across various landscapes and locations, Exquisite Score is the result of a correspondence that Caroline Monnet and Laura Ortmann maintained for months from their respective homes in Montreal and New York during the pandemic. Through exchanges of letters, which also included images drawn from previous projects, audio recordings of everyday objects, and musical excerpts explicitly composed for the occasion, the two artists explored, metaphorically and materially, the topography of the land that stretched out between them. Monnet uses visual and media arts to demonstrate a keen interest in communicating complex ideas around Indigenous identity and bicultural living through examining cultural histories. She has made a signature for working with industrial materials, combining the vocabulary of popular and traditional visual cultures with the tropes of modernist abstraction to create unique hybrid forms.
In the last room, we encounter the installation Water no get enemy, a collaboration between Nigerian Norwegian artist Linda Lamignan, Nigerian German artist and videographer Itohan Emonvomwan, Gyeongsu and Brazilian artist and designer Serena Coelho. The title is inspired by a Fela Kuti song informed by a Yoruba proverb, which is a hymn on animism, a philosophy claiming that all things in nature are alive and animated and thus capable of influencing humans on many levels. Taking into account this animistic perspective, Lamignan takes a closer look to the pineapple, a fruit cultivated in the Azores Islands, in particular San Miguel, to explore its history as a native plant originally exported from Brazil during the colonial period by the Portuguese and imported into Azores and Nigeria, where it also became a strong part of the export industry. Collected as a rarity, uprooted from the native soil and transported to a strange land, for some, the pineapple became a sign of wealth for the elite and rich in Europe, and for others, a symbol of colonial domination and identity appropriation. Water no get enemy seeks to rethink its colonial and capitalist legacy by looking into the plant and fruits’ other abilities.
The pineapple becomes a living testimony of colonial abuse, appropriation, erasure, and recontextualization by being extrapolated from its Brazilian native territory, where the fruit is endemic to the land in the first place. The travels and histories embodied by the fruit across its transatlantic journey also becomes an opportunity to create a map of the artists’ biographies and personal stories. From Nigeria to Brazil, they find a point of encounter and connection in the Azores from which they retell another side of history, erasing the border between reality and reflection and moving away from linear storytelling. By weaving projections and lights in, we fill the space with fragments of memory, emotion and imagination. Altering surfaces with colored light and perceived depth. A way to transform the room and, in turn, to transform ourselves.