By reclaiming narratives and generating space for collaboration, what can the world of Digital Art learn from Bolatito Aderemi-Ibitola? Her immersive installations fused with theatrical performance and augmented realities reveal how New Media art can be used as a catalyst for social change.

Emma McGarry |  Ed Cristina Brooks  | 22 January 2021

Boltatito Aderemi-Ibitola, Blue Pt. 2 (2019), Virtual Reality Composite Video, Commissioned by Gasworks, London @ Courtesy of the artist

In 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement erupted, resurging amid a series of worldwide lockdowns. As such, transnational protests have undoubtedly intersected with global art practices: both translating into the online sphere. But how is the Digital Art world reacting to the movement? Many art institutions are being challenged to decolonise their structural narratives and in response, Black artists across the globe persevere in using New Media practices to share authentic histories and perspectives. This context gives rise to the transdisciplinary work of Bolatito Aderemi-Ibitola.

Bolatito Aderemi-Ibitola, Wash Me Clean Until I Am Whole Once Again (2017), Performance @ Courtesy of the artist

In her latest residency, La Manutention (2020) at Palais de Tokyo in Paris, Aderemi-Ibitola fused Digital Art with the performance for the Our World Is Burning (2020) exhibition. Before the cancellation of the event due to the coronavirus pandemic, the artist proposed the latest iteration of her four-part visual treatise, Black Bodies (2016 – ongoing). The on-going series consists of physical performance, augmented reality figures and immersive installations; this time referencing the birth of quantum mechanics and the late 19th-century physics theory called the ultraviolet catastrophe. In Black Bodies – Event Horizon (2020), she bridged science, New Media CGI figures and physical performance art, often treating the concept of dark matter as a symbol for Blackness.

Bolatito Aderemi-Ibitola, Moving Still. How Do We Go From Here (2016), Devised Theatre Production/Workshop, Commissioned by Z/KU Zentrum für Kunst and Urbanistic @ Courtesy of the artist

Using physics as a theme throughout her series, the performance installation Black Bodies – Dark Matter (2016) served an entrancing dark realm within the confines of the German art studio, Z/KU Zentrum für Kunst and Urbanistic in Berlin. In both of these iterations of the discourse, dark, spectral beings from another world navigate through improvisational soundscapes. Brought to existence through augmented reality in Black Bodies – Event Horizon, these mysterious performers exerted audience sound and testimonies in combination with theatrics regarding dark energy, dark matter, time and space. In doing so, Aderemi-Ibitola re-envisioned social and scientific constructions of Blackness.

olatito Aderemi-Ibitola, ABRASAX MANDINGO PUNANA! Trace Hall XXX (2016), Performance Installation, @ Courtesy of the artist

The same year, the artist presented her ABRASAX MANDINGO PUNANA! Trace Hall XXX (2016) performance installation; set within a nightclub, the setting provided a subversive context reminiscent of the Berlin fetish club scene permeated with Digital Art. In her reimagined version, Aderemi-Ibitola displayed digital projections of her augmented-self dancing across the walls: personifying her reinterpretation of Black stereotypes. The afro-centric house and trance sounds of Lagos-based DJ Afrologic pulsated through the walls, radiating the energy and mechanisms of an authentic club environment to form an equally transient experience. Participants then danced to African music while communicating physical strength to reclaim both space and narrative through New-Media-infused performance: producing a state of consciousness beyond constructions of Blackness or performance of gender. 

Bolatito Aderemi-Ibitola, [Elements of] Black Bodies – Event Horizon (2020), Augmented Reality Performance Installation @ Courtesy of the artist

Despite the cancellation of the Black Bodies – Event Horizon performance due to the pandemic, Aderemi-Ibitola remains motivated to realise the chapter and has created downloadable elements of the residency on her website. 

Across her works, Aderemi-Ibitola discusses social, systematic and structural issues that transcend coronavirus restrictions. Moreover, she makes clear that extensive, intersectional dialogue is crucial in stimulating societal shifts concerning traversing race, gender, and identity. Is it possible that through the art of intense re-education and uncovering illuminating dialogue, can the world of New Media art play a role in activating and amplifying such critical conversations?  

About the artist

© Courtesy of the artist.
Artist Website

Bolatito Aderemi-Ibitola (b. 1993) is a Nigerian transdisciplinary artist working largely with time-based art, interactivity and performance. Born in Lagos in 1993, she migrated to the US in 2000, where she eventually studied performance at the Tisch School of Art, New York University. Aderemi-Ibitola now lives and works in Nigeria as a devised theatre practitioner, performance studies scholar and teaching artist. After winning the Art X Prize in 2018, Bolatito Aderemi-Ibitola has gone on to work as an artist in residence with Gasworks, London (2019), crazinisT artist, Ghana (2019) and most recently Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2020). She has also exhibited at Arebyte Gallery, Zimbabwe (2020), Art Summit, Nigeria (2019) and Lagos Biennale, Nigeria (2017).

Past Shows and Fair booths

Solo Shows

2018, La Republique, France

2017, Rue14 Studios, Bogobari, Nigeria

2017, [a]FA Lagos Legacy lab – Austrian School of Applied Arts, Legacy Lagos, Nigeria

2016, Devised Theatre Production, Savvy Contemporary, Germany

2016, African Artist Foundation, Lagos Photo Festival, Nigeria

Group Shows

2020, Powerplay, Arebyte Gallery, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

2019, The Future of Art: Is Collaboration, Art Summit, Lagos, Nigeria

2019, Charlie Wote – Street Art Festival, Ghana

2018, Digital Instillation, ART X Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria

2018, Festival Theaterformen, Hannover, Germany

Residencies

2020, La Manutention, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France

2019, Gasworks, London, United Kingdom

2019, crazinisT artisT, Ghana

2017, The World Next Door, Khoj Artist Association, India

2016, Zentrum für Kunst und Urbanistik Openhaus, Germany

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