Critics’ Picks

Kapwani Kiwanga, Koki Dorée, 2015, sequin fabric, salt, rope, conch shell, dimensions variable.

Paris

Kapwani Kiwanga

Galerie Jérôme Poggi
2 rue Beaubourg
October 22–November 28, 2015

Kapwani Kiwanga’s exhibition “Continental Shift” is concerned with the intersection of geology and imagination. The Strait of Gibraltar, which is ground zero for the eventual collision of Europe and Africa’s tectonic plates, features in a projected video, Strata (all works 2015), capturing electric colors dancing across the stalactites of a sound and light show at St. Michael’s Cave in the Rock of Gibraltar—a cavern once believed to connect to Morocco. Kiwanga also presents materials from archives and natural-history collections related to the strait, including proposals to construct an “Afrotunnel” connecting the continents. Often conceived to enable economic exploitation and resource extraction in Africa, such unrealized projects serve as starting points for Kiwanga, but her works depart from those anthropocentric ambitions. Several pieces, such as the collage Subduction Study, overlap microscopic or photographic imagery of rock samples from each side of the strait, in aesthetic operations that mimic eons-long geologic processes of tectonic convergence.

Kiwanga is interested in the ways that historical processes and events are made into symbolic forms, and the artist’s gestures read as displacements of explicit geopolitical content onto natural materials. The most affecting piece on display is from an earlier body of work, not directly tied to Gibraltar but equally concerned with patterns of migration: Koki Dorée is inspired by Haitian Vodou ceremonial flags devoted to Agwé, a spirit associated with the sea. Suspended from the ceiling by a rope anchored to the ground in a carved salt block, a panel of shimmering blue sequins is draped like an evening dress, its spectral body hovering at average human height. A conch, the emblem of Caribbean slave rebellions, is poised in the folds, hauntingly beautiful.