It is a bittersweet feeling knowing that the residency is coming to an end. It has been 4 weeks of learning, hard work, forming relationships and exploration. It was a pleasure to share a studio with fellow artist-in-residence Natani Notah, and learn about her practice and community. I am leaving with a new friendship and profound respect for her as an artist.
It was exciting to participate in the First Friday, opening the studios to the public to see the culmination of our work. I initially proposed to have floating sculptures of monuments that would be placed on one of the lakes at the grounds, as I wanted to interact with the space at the grounds. However I revised my plans around week two and opted for a 12FT silhouette of the Statue of Liberty, hand sewn out of over 20 Ghana-Must-Go bags. The resulting structure is an interactive work that encourages the viewer to enter (through the tarp zipper on the sides) and partake of the conversation around the work.
I hope to continue the project by adding interactive elements/activities within the structure itself, to encourage the viewer to contemplate the African migrant crisis from a different perspective. While considering border imperialism, national monuments as power structures and bodies at risk.
I also began a second project at this residency, which considered the journey by African migrants to Europe. I used “Dunlop slippers”, which are colourful slippers worn in West Africa (especially by people of a lower class). It was interesting to realize that the slippers float, and I connected hem together and placed them at the Water Garden on the grounds. For me, this work symbolises the journey of African migrants that journey through Northern Africa to make it to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea. Interestingly enough, when I was installing the works a woman passed by and commented “Looks like someone lost their slippers.” Although an off handed comment, it ran deep. Thinking of all the ‘lost’ slippers, ‘lost’ bodies, ‘lost’ futures.
With my time at the ISC Residency at Grounds for Sculpture I have learnt that speaking out to these issues, creating awareness and influencing policy reform are what I seek to do with my work. To be given this opportunity, to be heard, to have this platform to speak to this crisis, has been very encouraging and motivating. As an artist, I am motivated to continue to make work that highlights the social, economic and political frustrations in Africa. As an African immigrant, I am encouraged to continue to advocate for better policies and influence change within my communities.
Thank you to the International Sculpture Center and Grounds for Sculpture for making this possible.
By Layo Bright