Critics’ Picks

Samuel Baah Kortey, _Chris-Sis s2e8Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes, 2022, artificial flowers, gold leaf, metallic thread, and coffee stained-paper casts mounted on 5-ply plywood, 39 3/8 x 21 5/8 x 7".

Samuel Baah Kortey, _Chris-Sis s2e8Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes, 2022, artificial flowers, gold leaf, metallic thread, and coffee stained-paper casts mounted on 5-ply plywood, 39 3/8 x 21 5/8 x 7".

Accra

Samuel Baah Kortey

Compound House Gallery
Untamed Empire, Spintex Road
June 24–August 27, 2022

A mellow light emanates from inside a cavernous installation, thrumming with the sound of choral hymns. The walls are swathed with cast-paper reliefs of human faces whose craggy features imbue their setting with a cavelike feel. Knives are staked into walls, alongside letters from schoolchildren. In one corner, a small army of resin-cast figures, posed as if crucified, albeit lacking crosses, hangs suspended upside down, as if the animal flesh in a slaughterhouse scene had been replaced with human bodies. Above them, artificial roses bloom from the ceiling.

The overloaded symbolism of the installation Chris-sis s2: A Wizard's Dungeon 00BC—Forever (all works 2022) is not the only overwhelming thing about Samuel Baah Kortey’s solo show “Chris-sis: Feast of the Sacred Heart.” The inaugural exhibition for the newly founded Compound House, it has the dingy, mildew-tinged smell of a place rarely accessed by humans. Coffee-stained paper-relief paintings are framed to imitate the stained-glass murals often seen in cathedrals. Their titles—for instance, Chris-sis s2e5: Before God Came to Kill Us; Chris-sis s2e8: Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes—mimic those of streaming episodes, with a bluntness that further undercuts the reverent awe these types of windows are meant to inspire. Chris-sis s2e0: Solemnity of the Sacred Heart gives the iconic image of Christ the head of a pig, rendered in coffee stains and cattle blood, while in Extras: The City & Me, 00BC—Forever, eight photographs represent the body of Christ as a traditional Ghanaian stew.

The irony underlining this “feast of love,” and the violent, repulsive, and antagonistic twists of this exhibition, is no accident. Baah’s subversive gestures open up a dialogue on the contradictions of Christianity. We are led to critically reflect on the visual representations of the coexistence of love and cruelty and the ambivalence this juxtaposition births. Baah’s work observes how dominant belief systems—whether parasitic modern religions or politics—have gradually supplanted critical thinking with veneration, thus affecting their adherents’ capacity to participate, question, and make independent judgments as part of their communities.