The I Am A God (2016) installation was first shown at Hybridia (2016) exhibition at DSArts. Below is a text written for the press release by Murad Khan:
14 – 17 April 2016
DSArts, 2 Stoke Newington Rd, London N16 7XN
DSArts will present the first solo exhibition of London-based artist Kamile Ofoeme, comprising of works dating from his first year of study at Goldsmith’s University to the present day. Ofoeme’s multi-disciplinary practice uses audio, visual and performative means to interrogate notions of identity, race and perception, hoping to raise awareness and spark discussion around these themes. Works exhibited will encompass a variety of media, including fabric and text as the central installation, along with a key video piece.
Ofoeme is particularly concerned with a concept he terms hybridity, a combination of cultural, social, and racial elements relating to the notion of a ‘third space’, as discussed by the political geographer Edward Soja, which might be utilised to establish spaces of agency for minorities. Ofoeme sees the way in which to resolve this need for agency as through a recognition of the need for a hybrid space, in order to re-rationalise and re-introduce minority experience to otherwise separate spaces, seen in this exhibition through the mixture of so called ‘low-brow aesthetics’ – such as street art and graffiti – with the white cube gallery context. Hybridia is thus an imagined space, a new lens, striving to provide an alternative view of the world we inhabit, where Ofoeme aims to take the initiative in defining and contextualising our current paradigm.
The works displayed are centred around an investigation into subjectivity, both of language and of space, where Ofoeme diverts from a tired fascination with the aesthetic, focusing instead upon utilising the material to reconcile and question varying concepts, from notions of culture and race, intertwined with the semiotic considerations of Derrida, to gesture and the language this represents.
Ofoeme’s textile based works deal with a semiotic analysis of the relationship between text and meaning, and the way in which that meaning might be altered with respect to the space it inhabits and our own subjectivity. Ofoeme plays with our traditional understanding of certain phrases, extracting text from hip-hop songs in order to situate them in an alternative context, intent upon observing how the text operates removed from those spaces which they traditionally inhabit and considering their function and message in this new environment, especially in relation to audience subjectivity.
Semiotic inquiry is also at work when it comes to the medium, with Ofoeme’s considered use of batik fabric, a material often seen as a cultural signifier for certain forms of African dress and culture, which in fact finds its roots as a Dutch wax fabric, born of an attempt to mass- produce cheap imitations of Javanese fabrics after the Dutch colonisation of Indonesia. Thus, Ofoeme invokes a need for reflection upon the material, endeavouring to find a place in the space he establishes, and providing a starting point for dialogue on its meaning.
The video work on display is concerned with ideas of hybridity, representation and space, alongside expressing the language of gesture, where Ofoeme explores the idea of racial hybridity through instinctively choreographed rhythmic hand gestures. In using hands detached from the body he gives rise to questions concerning the language these gestures produce, and whether we can form a distinct lexicon around them. Space plays a role in the framing of the piece, not only in the way in which the hands leave and enter the space, but the room they occupy, and the seemingly rhythmic intervals they create within that.
In sum, Ofoeme sees Hybridia as a concept running parallel to speculative fiction ideas put forward by Afrofuturist artists, a lens by which we can start to raise awareness, begin discussion and, ultimately, re-rationalise our experiences in an endeavour to create new understandings and the space to house them. ‘Hybridia’, alongside his founding of Hybrid Collective (a group to further examine and diversify perspectives on such issues) represents Ofoeme’s preliminary foray into establishing this space.