Infrastructural crisis in Accra's contemporary art
(University of St Andrews)
Paper short abstract:
Contemporary art in Accra invokes a particular infrastructural imagination that speaks to political shortcomings, as well as developing around parallel spaces that supplant, complement, and challenge the infrastructural deficits of the city.
Paper long abstract:
In this paper, I explore the political relation between infrastructure and contemporary art through the work of three Ghanaian artists: Ibrahim Mahama's public and monumental coal sack sculptures, Jeremiah Quarshie's "Yellow is the colour of water" painting series, and Serge Attukwei Clottey's concept of 'Afrogallonism'. In their work, infrastructure doesn't simply become the image content of artworks, but its catalyser, asking us to rethink the urban publics of artistic creation and curation. Based on 15 months of ethnographic research in Accra on the electricity crisis and encounters with artists whose work speaks directly to various infrastructural issues, this paper explores the relation between artistic production, crisis and infrastructural forms, prompted by sculptor Ibrahim Mahama's declaration that in Ghana, "Art is born out of crisis". It analyses what satirist Bright Ackwerh calls "violent knowledge" - the realization that crisis, as a trend, in its altered relation to the real and the banality and everydayness of its violence, forces one into comical urgency and political address. It explores the "parallelism" of art and infrastructure in Ghana today, as material domains that frequently interchange and supplement one another in the context of a state deficit in the delivery of basic needs and a lack of investment in cultural capital and accessible institutions.
The art of infrastructure