By Tajudeen Sowole
Stuck to her museum-style presentation of concepts, Victoria-Idongesit Udondian takes the floor and walls, among 12 other artists currently showing till May, 24, 2016 at Fisher Landau Center for Art, Long Island City, N.Y in a group exhibition.
In a fictitious theme of Nigerian Pavilion, Udondian, a Lagos-based artist, funnels her thought about boundaries that impede creativity, distilling a sub-theme Out Of The Box. Framed within an imaginary Nigerian Pavilion at 56th Venice Biennale, the featured artists include Raven Smay, Ego Goodsire, Kirbeh Get and Doundi Victoriana who practised within and outside Nigeria. She describes the artists as those "who push the conceptual and material boundaries of local and global artistic standards."
The group show in which Udondian is presented her Nigerian Pavilion concept is Columbia University 2016 MFA Exhibition and features colleagues: Jenny Cho, Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels, Devra Fox, ektor garcia, Cy Gavin, Ilana Yacine Harris-Babou, Mike Hewson, Brooke Holloway, Cary Hulbert, Bryan Jabs, Coby Kennedy, Tali Keren, Rola Khayyat, Jonah King, Emily Kloppenburg, Pablo Montealegre, Filip Lav, Justin Dale Olerud, Meredith Sands, Michael Stablein, Jr., Rachel Stern, Alex Strada, Cameron Welch and Jiwoon Yoon.
Presenting Out of the Box for her MFA theses at the Columbia show appears like Udondian is on a familiar journey. Ahead of her applying for the MFA, she produced quite a number of works, at her residencies in Europe and Africa, that focused on trajectory of African fabrics/textiles, and presented in installations. For a period of four years, Udondian engaged the African fabric theme across Africa and Europe, and returned to Lagos where she hosted Open Studio. At the well-attended event she shared her experience with art connoisseurs and other community of art enthusiasts in Lagos.
For the Columbia MFA exhibiion, the theme is different, but the presentation appears familiar. Udondian explains that the 'Box' in the context of the presentation, "represents multiple forces and pressures that restrict the creativity of many Nigerian artists today." She lists the forces to include "identity, traditional canons, artistic conventions and the shadow of Africanness."
Excerpt from Udondian Artist Statement: "Through socially engaged work, Smay calls attention to the darker side of transnationality for African artists marked by their national identities as they attempt to navigate the global art world. Goodsire, on the other hand, explores the multilayered cultural, political, ethnic and religious identities present within the bounds of modern Nigeria itself.
“His conceptual and serial photographic projects, which straddle the line between fine art photography and photojournalism, question the unity and existence of a national identity at all. Get, with his design-based conceptual practice, imagines a different future or Africa through the rendering of impossible architectural spaces, while Victoriana’s art fashioned from globally sourced second-hand clothing revels in materiality and bodily presence.
"Outside the Box showcases artistic practices that expand the range of materials, ideas and techniques available to future generations of artists working in Nigeria—and “Outside” it. This project is made possible through individual supports and the National Gallery of Modern Art, Lagos."
Among Udondian's pre-MFA projects was her concept of second-hand clothing theme, in South Africa where she stumbled on a lost tradition of native fabric.