In a cavernous space in DUMBO, Kambui Olujimi has laid out the foundations for an elaborate fantastical tale of love and dissension. Consisting of sculptural objects and twelve large-scale, hand-stitched silk tapestries, Wayward North outlines the abstract narrative of Iku and Nailah within the structure of constellations. Each tapestry represents one month, providing a rhinestone rendering of actual star patterns from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, and various images of the mythical tale stitched in silver thread.
While tapestries have traditionally been used to communicate historical chronicles of triumph and bravery, Olujimi uses this platform to create an imaginary tale complete with an iconography and logic entirely its own. This myth begins unfolding chronologically in the month of February, where we meet the protagonist Iku, and ends in January with a rendering of ominous dark clouds. Each textile is accompanied by text that assists us in deciphering the meticulous depiction of eccentric objects, animals, and scenarios. From ice cream trucks to a hippopotamus with a forked-snake tongue, scenes of pregnant women performing aqua-aerobics, renderings of protest acts, towering rectangular monsters, and other intriguing oddities—the imagery succeeds in amusing and bewildering. Also on view are objects and drawings that reference the tapestries’ imagery – handcuff necklaces, seismic sketches, box kites, blurry Polaroids – further contextualizing and reinforcing Olujimi’s personal iconography.
Although the text reads as a cohesive narrative, it makes little sense to the outsider. The seemingly insightful statements are curious, yet fairly enigmatic, as in September Sky: “The Bootlegger distills that memory embedded in your breath, transforming it into an elixir that is up for sale after seven days;” and in December Sky: “Nailah reveals a new technology that allows memory to be shared between people without removing memory from its originator.” However strong its inner logic, the narrative remains abstract and cryptic to the viewer. Though this is, in fact, Olujimi’s ultimate intent. In investing constellations – an irrefutable constant in our landscape – with personal myth, he prompts us to do the same. His imagery and text serve as triggers that impel us to re-imagine our past, present and future. By constructing an altogether new realm and rules of engagement, we are thus provided the opportunity for relief from the rigid structure of our surroundings.
Images: Installation views, Wayward North, 2010. Courtesy Art in General, New York