Dividednation alludes to the practice of divination (that is, to look into the future), using art works to make sense of the UK’s present socio-political climate. The title blends words, acronyms and text-speak to reference the tremulous times we find ourselves in: on a knife-edge, and surrounded by uncertainty that threatens our collective future. Exhibited across Primary’s galleries different strands of Achiampong’s work will interact, offering insights and challenging these concerns.
Achiampong’s Relic Traveller (2017-) offers a fluid journey from installation to video to performance. Using themes related to Afrofuturism his multi-disciplinary project builds upon a postcolonial perspective informed by technology, agency and the body, and narratives of migration. Multiple designs for the PAN AFRICAN FLAG FOR THE RELIC TRAVELLERS’ ALLIANCE flank the space creating a viewing chamber for the first three chapters of the narrative, Relic 0 (2017), Relic 1 (2017) and Relic 2 (2019). This will be the premiere screening of Relic 2, and the first time all three works have been seen together. This scenography will be inhabited by performance and public programme alongside the exhibition.
Set across various landscapes and locations Relic Traveller imagines a future in which the global West devolves to point of decline, whilst the African Union ascends into prosperity, harmony, independence, and responsibility in shaping the future of the planet. At this unspecified point in time, the African Union create the ‘Relic Travellers’ Alliance’, a programme that equips individuals with space-travelling-technology for the sole purpose of venturing outside of the African Union to retrieve vocal information left by those historically oppressed by colonisation, capitalism and globalisation.
Relic 2 follows the Relic Traveller as they bridge locations of technological, historical, social and political significance including RAF Stenigot (Lincolnshire, UK), Greenwich Foot Tunnel (London, UK), Congo Square and Bayou Sauvage, 9th Ward (New Orleans, USA). Supported by a harmonious, melancholic, synth-based score we hear once more from the Griot-like ‘Mother’ of the Relic Travellers’ Alliance (Relic 0), this time with a soliloquy relating the anthropocene with structures of imperialism.
This exhibition also combines new sculpture and text-works. Continuing Achiampong’s series of chalkboards, the artist remixes hash tags and quotes from disparate social media feeds into poignant and irreverent statements. These handwritten works provide biting quips, and tease out the ironies of socio-political solidarity forged through fleeting digital interactions. These black and white memorials line the walls of the space and provide diverse commentaries on a new floor-based installation made from materials that have become synonymous with different forms of travel: tarpaulin and ordinary plastic-weave laundry bags, and in this context, closely tied to migration from West Africa in the late 20th Century.
These works have emerged from Achiampong’s ongoing relationship with Primary, which began with a short residency as part of Work in Common in 2017. Developed through a desire to bring different aspects of Achiampong’s work together, for the first time in the UK, as a cohesive take on his work at this critical moment. The exhibition will be layered with performance, screenings and more discursive events to provide a nuanced reading of this holistic practice. Alongside this exhibition of fully realised works, Primary is working with Achiampong as he begins the research process for Dividednation. This new project focused on social housing, challenges the failure of government and local councils to keep people safe, through discussion with communities in Nottingham and London regarding issues of gaslighting, class, race and the impact of council policies on people for whom they have a duty of care.