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Leandro Muniz

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Igi Ayedun: on the indeterminate shape of desire

We invited Leandro Muniz to write about the latest exhibition by Igi Lola Ayedún, artist and founder of the HOA gallery in Brazil. In the hatching of a dream, the materialization of the fantasy that has surrounded the artist in these last 6 years of artistic research is present.


A forked structure of the Nile River is printed on the carpet that covers the floor. From there, golden stakes emerge with images engraved on them. A curtain separates and produces an interior space. On the walls, paintings in irregular formats and cement objects with embedded glass eyes alternate. Finally, after passing through an ogival-shaped portal, we find a video made with artificial intelligence in which black people speculate about the origin of the universe and their own future. All in different textures of blue: dense and ethereal, material and virtual, ancestral and future.


Eclosão de um sonho, uma fantasia [The hatching of a dream, a fantasy] is Igi Ayedun’s second exhibition at the HOA gallery, of which she is also a founder. It was curated by Tarcisio Almeida and brought together works carried out over 6 years of research and production. A certain diversity marks the set of objects, which in addition to reflecting on their biographical information – the multiplicity of the artist’s practices as a gallerist, editor, her long career in the world of fashion and her repertoire in Carnival samba schools –, shows us how research into the histories of materials, matter and its codifications, is metabolized in the work, giving it a sense of openness to indeterminacy.

Starting with blue, Ayedun works with variations of lapis lazuli and indigo, pigments that were important materials within various economic routes in Africa before colonization, in addition to having acquired certain symbolic meanings, such as protection and healing in various cultures of the continent and their diasporas. Interest in blue involves both investigating the historicity of this color and its physical-chemical possibilities, as well as its commercial circulation and social uses. In terms of perception, the leading presence that blue has in the exhibition generates the sensation of an aquatic or tangible celestial continuum, as if we were walking on water or on the atmosphere that surrounds the planet. Sometimes, a feeling of immateriality is present due to the pigments that come off the surfaces of the paintings, their obsessively constructed textures, or what appears to be the work of fungi and insects that continually transform matter for their survival.

The paintings are made on silk – another important element within the economic routes on the continent – which is prepared using ancestral techniques and not those traditionally used in the history of Western painting. The corn paste guarantees the structuring of the fabrics, forming irregular silhouettes that emerge from the wall like small bodies that express movements and impulses projected by desire, comfort or discomfort, will or calm. Thus – although clearly in an abstract way – these paintings are marked by the presence of the body, both by the indexes of the thousands of gestures of the artist on the surfaces and by the relationship of their presence with respect to our bodies, how they reflect us. and they project thoughts and sensations, record gestures and movements, while at the same time differentiating themselves from us, proposing other cues for entry and interpretation.


My use of the first person plural in some moments of this text is deliberate, with the intention of reflecting another movement of the exhibition. Although it is crossed by a series of biographical elements – such as the presence of glass eyes in the cement pieces, which refer to the monocular condition of the artist and at the same time generate a reflection on the act of seeing itself; the characters in the video, who clearly look like her; the other stories that we are weaving here, as well as a polyphony that conglomerates the set of pieces, both because they speak in different tones (from the lowest to the highest, from the most emphatic to the most calm) and because of the opening performance, which in fact was done by several people. In addition, of course, to the multiple voices, ghosts and stories as eloquent and obvious as they are diffuse and mysterious in this blue world of the project.

Ayedun also works with text and uses communication as one of her strategies to express ideas. Her writings have the same syncopated diction that we see in the textures of her paintings. Just as there are accumulations on the surfaces and deformations on the edges, in each part and in the whole multiple references coexist, which do not necessarily synthesize each other, but collide in the contrasts between monochromes and narratives, personal statements and social analysis, speculations about the future and the acknowledgment of history.

How can we give shape to the different voices in our heads and let them inhabit the world? How do we respect the silence of the enigma of things, their origins and their future? How do we make chaos eloquent? These are some of the questions that arise when seeing the variety of pieces. Unlike a certain line of contemporary art production in which research into the history of materials reduces them to a narrative exclusively of use, and also unlike a part of contemporary production that consumes materials thoughtlessly, without taking into account their social and historical burden –two sides of the same coin of social history, in which certain bodies have the privilege of excess, while others were marked by lack–, one of the central points of interest of the exhibition is the multiplicity of stories that the materials contain, but also those that we do not yet know how to narrate.

If we have irregular shapes, an occupation of space that emphasizes asymmetry and a variation of languages, techniques, formal solutions and even themes, it is perhaps because, in the artist’s production, the acknowledgment of this history implies the need to also understand desire and its high instability. Something like: “I want to talk about the cosmos, but also understand myself as a body and subjectivity”; “I want to understand the economy that objects imply, but also admire them for their possibilities and surfaces”; “I want to create a chorus of voices, but also preserve my own timbre”, in a dissolution of these dichotomies, in favor of transits and connections between all these poles.


The research on the African contribution to technology not only establishes a critique of the whiteness that has dominated research on the digital world, artificial intelligence and other devices that condition our lives today, but also an exaltation of a series of inventions and learnings as old as the present of African traditions, in terms of construction of space, image, forms of sociability and existence.

We also see this alternation of forces in technological and temporal transitions. The research on the African contribution to technology not only establishes a critique of the whiteness that has dominated research on the digital world, artificial intelligence and other devices that condition our lives today, but also an exaltation of a series of inventions and learnings as old as the present of African traditions, in terms of construction of space, image, forms of sociability and existence.

There is an “Atlantic philosophy that oscillates between the rhythmic swaying of the samba school barracks and the management of a techno-spirituality,” Almeida writes in his presentation text. In the Eclosão de um sonho, uma fantasia, we see materials that have history, but are not determined by it. On the contrary, they seem to acknowledge it to produce forms that are configured according to other desires, different from the usual narratives about that past. This implies a predominance of images and signs of flow: whirlwinds, floods, flowing waters and the movements of the stars. A commitment to discontinuity versus stability; the materialization of desires versus the application of previous projects. For a group that belongs to those who have been historically oppressed, this is not just a deliberate act, but a practical exercise of freedom within the alignment of time, of times; it is acknowledging the historicity of things to open up their meanings.



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