Critics’ Picks

View of “Direction, Direction?”, 2023.

View of “Direction, Direction?”, 2023.


Ndayé Kouagou

63 Black Prince Road
April 14–May 27, 2023

Ndayé Kouagou’s exhibition “Direction, Direction?” is part inner monologue, part influencer-speak. The artist riffs on our tendency to overthink decision-making and to embrace superstition (tarot readings, flipping coins) to predict the future.

Central to the exhibition is the film A coin is a coin, 2022, which is set in a production studio with two light tripods framing the scene. The artist, clad in a dynamically proportioned yellow-and-gray suit, takes on a nonbinary identity to blur possible boundaries and deflect attention from any linear or binary influences that could thwart the decision-making process. Speaking with a dubbed female voice of actor Salber Lee Williams, the artist, facing the camera, addresses the audience with a solemn message: “If you were looking for direction, this is definitely not the place—look elsewhere.” Meanwhile, LOOK ELSEWHERE, lettered in a white graphic design by Axel Pelletanche, flashes across the screen almost like a warning. Over the course of the following five minutes, Williams delivers Kouagou’s stream-of-consciousness ramblings, often peppered with motivational phrases such as “Change is key. Key to where, though?”

While its soundtrack commands the space, A coin is a coin is tucked in the back corner of the gallery. The immersive wall installation Directions, 2023, features aluminum plaques inscribed with quotes drawn from the video. Six smaller wall pieces are scattered throughout. Like Directions, they feature highlighted phrases— “FROM ME?”, “I KNOW, shocking!”, and, succinctly, “WHAT?”—that have been mounted on PVC over colorful swaths of fabric that have been slightly crinkled and coated in resin. Their stand-alone presence confirms that beneath all hollowness of influencer culture, tarot readings, and coin flipping, we all have a guiding inner voice, which, if we are prepared to listen to it intently, will tell us where we need to go.