Adejoke Tugbiyele’s Hybrid Forms and Second-Skins

Adejoke Tugbiyele (b.1977, New York, USA) is an award-winning, queer, black artist. Her work often comments on human rights issues around the world, and her own identity as a queer woman of Nigerian descent. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York where she continues to make artwork and engage in advocacy projects.

Adejoke Tugbiyele, Photo Courtesy of the Artist

Tugbiyele describes her practice as ‘hybrid’; reflected in both her approach to making and the physical forms that manifest in many of her works. On one hand, her practice is multidisciplinary; continuously ‘presenting alternative forms of expression that can be universally understood’. On the other, hybrid forms quite literally appear in a myriad of Tugbiyele’s drawings, sculpture and performance works. She explains: ‘Hybridity frees the mind from the boundaries and limitations of gender and sexuality, and from the human body in general. It takes us into the spiritual realm, where we can begin to imagine new ways of perceiving and being in the world. Hybridity also makes us more aware of the two-spirit nature of humans and therefore the potential ability to tap into different energies, spontaneously’. Sculptures such as ‘Drama’ (2018) play with the juxtapositions between natural and man-made objects, with (often androgynous) ‘bodily’ features such as the use of oil funnels for breasts, or gas pumps for hands, which are interwoven into a contorted, twisting form.

Adejoke Tugbiyele, Drama, 2018. Courtesy of the Artist and Sakhile&Me Gallery.
Adejoke Tugbiyele, Kidnapped, 2015. Courtesy of the Artist and October Gallery

Some of Tugbiyele’s crafted objects enter into a performative practice which, she revealed, often operates as a way to ‘queer dominant spaces and narratives pertaining to race, gender and sexuality’. She further suggests: ‘Through performance the body can engage architecture with movement and begin healthy discourse on how space itself affects our psyche and imagination. Sometimes, the key to collective transformation is going beyond the first-skin of the body, into the second-skin’. Finally, she reminds us, ‘performance is rooted in the idea of transformation across cultures’.

This is perhaps best evident in a performance that took place at Somerset House in 2017 entitled ‘Shifting The Waves’. During this, Tugbiyele performed with the intricately woven work entitled ‘Love Boat 2.0’ (2017) which was bound to her back. In motion, the work comments upon ‘movement as a mode of survival’ and raises questions such as: ‘How are we affected by past and present migrations both physically and psychically, locally and globally? What lessons can the vessel teach us about resilience and courage in the face of threats to mind and body? How can we honor the strength it takes to shift, when transient spaces begin to feel more safe than the home itself?’. When eventually removed from her body, ‘the work is forced to perform as sculpture – the implication is not transient space but rather stillness – at rest, at home’.

Adejoke Tugbiyele, Love Boat 2.0, 2017, Courtesy of the Artist and October Gallery.
Adejoke Tugbiyele, Same Sex 2.0, 2017, Courtesy of the Artist and October Gallery.

As with ‘Love Boat 2.0’ (2017), many of Tugbiyele’s other sculptures are made from palm spines from West African brooms, which are often used across cultures as a symbolic act of cleansing negative energy from society. For example, Tugbiyele recalls that in contemporary Nigerian politics, one finds the waving of traditional brooms a significant symbol during an election period and in African-American culture ‘jumping the broom’ has often been used as a symbolic gesture at traditional wedding ceremonies to celebrate black love – and here, all variations of that.

Solo Performance, EagleBull, The Melrose Gallery

Words: Adejoke Tugbiyele (she/her), Daniel Fountain (he/they)

Tugbiyele is represented by October Gallery and more information about the artist can be found here.

Recommended

A round up of things to visit, watch, read, and apply for in March…

PACITA ABAD THE SKY IS FALLING, THE SKY IS FALLING (1998) OIL, PLASTIC BUTTONS AND BEADS, ON STITCHED AND PADDED CANVAS, 300 X 270 CM. WORK COURTESY THE PACITA ABAD ART ESTATE. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY PIONEER STUDIOS, MANILA

Visit

Life in the Margins the first UK exhibition of Filipino American artist Pacita Abad (1946 – 2004) – is in its final month at Bristol’s Spike Island. Abad engages with diverse cultural traditions of art making to explore the experience of immigrants and the transnational modern world. Abad’s ‘trapunto’ paintings are real highlights, which the artist made by quilting canvases and layering them with textiles and decorative objects.

There’s still time to catch the fabulous Unbound: Visionary Women Collecting Textiles at Two Temple Place. Through a celebration of seven pioneering twentieth century textile collectors, this exhibition explores the sociopolitical role textiles play in cultural histories from the 18th Century to the modern day. Don’t forget Enam Gbewonyo’s performance in the gallery on 15th April!

Unbound: Visionary Women Collecting Textiles
25th January 2020 – 19th April 2020
Enam Gbewonyo

Fabric: Touch and Identity brings out the sensorial and sensual qualities of textiles, fashion and fabric, featuring work by Raisa Kabir, Alice Kettle and a new installation Ogi no mai / Japanese Fanfare by Reiko Sudo. The show at Compton Verney in Warwickshire and opens 14th March-14th June.

Watch

Jes Fan in Flux, a short film of the artist discussing the creation of organ-like glass sculptures filled with fat, testosterone, and oestrogen, and the ways in which Fan’s experience of transitioning inform his art practice.

Jes Fan in Flux

Keep an eye out for Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am at art house cinemas around the UK. The documentary sees the legendary author leads an assembly of her peers, critics and colleagues on an exploration of race, history, America and the human condition.

Make sure to catch Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire in cinemas. Set in late 18th century France, this film follows Parisian artist Marianne (Noémie Merlant) and her memories of painting ‘the lady on fire’, the portrait of covent girl Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) and their passionate story that explores love, power, gaze, and authorship.

Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel in Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Apply

Call for Contributors: Curating, Care, and Community seminar, part of the British Art Network’s Early Career Curator Group, coordinated by Tate and Paul Mellon Centre.

Mother Art Prize is open until 14th March. This is the only international open call for self-identifying women and non-binary visual artists with caring responsibilities.

Apply to be part of the Peckham Craft Show until 31st March. This years Peckham Craft, dedicated to curating an exhibition of handmade objects, opens on Thursday 30th April until Sunday 3rd May.


If you would like to share an event, film, exhibition, performance, or news about an application to be included in our next issue, please email decoratingdissidence@gmail.com