03. December 2021
– 06. February 2022,
Museum Folkwang, Essen
… I’d rather stand is the first institutional solo exhibition by Olu Ogunnaike (*1986) in the German-speaking world. The British artist is a fellow of the residency programme Neue Folkwang Residence, which the Museum Folkwang and Neuer Essener Kunstverein initiated this year. During the five-month residency, Ogunnaike developed several works that he is now presenting in the exhibition ... I'd rather stand as a spatial installation.
In the exhibition space, eighteen chairs, each made of different industrial steel, stand around an imaginary table. The chairs, however, lack a seat. Olu Ogunnaike uses them as a support material for charcoal silkscreen prints showing photographs of so-called "pioneer plants" that he took on the grounds of the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex. Pioneer plants are shrubs and trees that are the first to grow in destroyed and barren environments. He attaches the printed seating surfaces to the exhibition walls. On the wall in front of the exhibition space, whole, intact chairs are mounted, the surfaces of which Ogunnaike prints with a photograph using a UV colour printing process. The photograph shows various plant species in front of the chimneys of the old coking plant at the Zollverein colliery.
In his installations, graphics and performances, Olu Ogunnaike interrogates, among other things, the historical and social properties of materials and places. Again and again, he extracts a complex history from materials and at the same time inscribes new ones on them. He arranges the works conceptually and connects the individual elements as if in a spider's web. In the exhibition ... I'd rather stand he concentrates on the material steel, inspired by the regional history of steel and coal production in the Ruhr area. The central motif is the table, which – equally mundane and complexly coded – is a symbol of social gathering: the table offers a space of possibility for social utopias, for the dissolution of hierarchies and the negotiation of new seating arrangements. The spatial installation that Ogunnaike constructs at the Museum Folkwang revolves around the question of what it means to choose to 'stand rather than sit' at a table that represents a particular social system.
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