The 2016 Commissioned Artist is Kapwani Kiwanga, appointed by the Focus curators, Julia Grosse and Yvette Mutumba, and The Armory Show. The Armory Show launched its distinguished Artist Commission in 2002, extending its commitment to supporting artists’ development by providing a global stage for their work. In this capacity, Kiwanga will inform the visual identity of the fair by contributing to the design of the official fair Catalogue, realizing an on-site commissioned project and producing a limited edition artwork with proceeds benefitting The Museum of Modern Art in New York.
“We are delighted that Kapwani Kiwanga has agreed to be the Focus Commissioned Artist. Through her artistic practice Kapwani connects historic narratives, struggles and archives with very contemporary moments. She grows and contributes to an understanding of not only entangled (post) colonial histories, but also of the importance of looking back as an artist to be able to form and comprehend the present. This is very similar to our approach with Contemporary And C,” says Mutumba.
Born in Hamilton, Ontario and currently based in Paris, Kiwanga has a versatile practice that often takes shape through video, sound and performance, relying on ephemera and collective history to form the bases of her approach. As a trained anthropologist and social scientist, she occupies the role of a researcher in her projects. Her methodology includes assembling narratives and establishing protocols, to observe culture and its characteristic propensity toward mutation, sometimes intentionally confusing truth and fiction in order to unsettle hegemonic narratives where marginal discourse can flourish. Afrofuturism, the anti-colonial struggle, collective memory, belief systems, vernacular and popular culture are but some of the research areas that inspire her practice.
In her films, installations and performances, which revolve around notions of belief and its relationship to “knowledge,” Kiwanga employs documentary modes of representation, various material sources, and testimonies in a quasi-scientific approach. She is interested in different approaches to the role of artist, explored most notably in her Afrogalactica trilogy project (2011–ongoing), for which she has invented and occupies the character of an anthropologist from the future who explores across vast fields of knowledge relating to Afrofuturism, hybrid genders and African astronomy.tion include: Focus: Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean (2015), curated by Omar Kholeif; Focus: China (2014), curated by Philip Tinari; Focus: USA (2013), curated by Eric Shiner; Focus: Nordic Countries (2012), curated by Jacob Fabricius; Focus: Latin America (2011) and Focus: Berlin (2010).
African Perspectives will provide a glimpse of international artistic production from contemporary African viewpoints: emerging curators, artists, galleries and art spaces that connect scenes and markets through global networks. From Lagos to London to Launda – and presented together for the first time in one location – this year’s Focus will examine the artistic developments and manifold narratives arising from African and African Diasporic artists, emphasizing geographic fluidity and global connections.