To celebrate the culmination of his six-month London residency in 2014, funded by the Canada Council for the Arts, artist Stephen Fakiyesi returns to London to exhibitHow to Speak to Power? at the Acme Project Space with British artist Harold Offeh.
In a chapter titled 'The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes',Outliers author, Malcolm Gladwell, correlates the high plane crash rates in the late 80s to the late 90s of some countries’ national airlines to a cultural legacy that disparages or otherwise does not equip its populace with an effective means by which to address and question authority and authority figures.
The “loss” rate for the worst performing airlines in the study was attributed to “human factors”. Such “human factors” stem from a culture of timidity and suppression; and have real world consequences, like the inability of a first officer to speak plainly and boldly to a superior officer or to Air Traffic Control - contributing to a staggering 17 times greater rate of plane crashes than the global standard.
The point of all this goes well beyond aviation to suggest, like the inability of these pilots to be heard, that entire segments of society are voiceless - and cannot right themselves - until they and we acknowledge the importance of their cultural legacy in effecting their (and possibly our) involuntary action or inaction, and take the appropriate steps to fix it.
The two artists presented in this exhibition, Stephen Fakiyesi, and Harold Offeh, use play and humour in their art work, as disarmingly as a court jester, to suggest strategies that give voice to the voiceless and that makes visible the imbalances of power which often goes unnoticed in regular social interactions. In so doing, they point to a more equitable balance of power within the world at large.
Offeh presents two videos, Services Rendered and Freshen Up. Both works examine Offeh’s exploration of the dynamics and power relations of the toilet attendant. Services Rendereddocuments Offeh’s attempts to take on the role in various contexts. While Freshen Up reconfigures found footage of African toilet attendants singing in bars and clubs.
Fakiyesi presents Rock with You, from his 2014 residency, a series of photographs of the artist performing Michael Jackson moves alongside statues in east London. Also included isObama Masks, a photo-based performance in which the artist sells Michelle and Barack Obama masks on the streets of Toronto just prior to the 2010 US presidential election. A final piece, Stacks, is an interactive work which invites the audience to build house-of-card structures out of oversized playing cards that feature African kings and queens in various stages of resolution.
Closing Event: Sunday 1 February, 3pm to 6pm. An opportunity to meet both artists and discuss their work in the gallery.