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chin(A)frica on view at the Institute of Fine Arts Duke House
Installation view.

NEW YORK, NY.- The fall Duke House Exhibition, chin(A)frica: an interface, investigates new parameters in which identity and geopolitics are formulated through recent expansive exchanges between China and African countries over the past decade. The exhibition features works by four artists, two Chinese and two African nationals, who have reflected upon recent cross-continental relations and immigration.

Held in the James B. Duke House, where the Institute of Fine Arts is located, the exhibition plays off the building's historical significance, decorative and architectural style, and the Institute’s engagement with contemporary art.

The exhibition features a still from Hu Xiangqian’s video The Sun (2008), a work inspired by the unprecedented presence of African immigrants in the southern Chinese city Guangzhou, where the artist was trained for many years. In it the artist tans himself to darken his skin, a gesture that suggests the blurred distinctions between conceptions of blackness and the Asian other. The work contrasts with another performance in the series, Self Portrait as Mao Zedong (2013), by the Cameroonian artist Samuel Fosso. Fosso transforms himself to enact several iconic portraits of Mao; in which his facial features coupled with a dissonant element such as a red armband reading “Africa” conjure up a Mao who oscillates between an inspiration for liberation movements in the “Global South” and an embodiment of a new, quasi-colonial ambition.

The exhibition also includes works by artists He Xiangyu and Edson Chagas. In his half-fictional, half-documentary video work Wuqiao (2018), He Xiangyu follows a group of young Africans recruited to learn acrobatic skills in a circus town near Beijing. The work explores their training, integration, and religious practices, as well as the cultural and social mechanisms that led to their displacement. The Oikonomos series (2011) by Angolan artist Chagas presents self-portraits in which the artist’s face is completely covered by a variety of packaging materials bearing lingumarkers of commercial entities present in Angola--such as one from a Chinese fertilizing company.

chin(A)frica: an interface juxtaposes contemporary art practices from China and Africa in order to explore contested issues like identity and race by incorporating a geopolitical context not directly mediated by the West, nor dictated by its colonial legacy. The exhibition will be accompanied by a round table discussion and a screening program that seeks to challenge conventional debates on identity politics and self-representation from and beyond these bilateral positions.

Organized by Duke House Exhibition 2017-2018 curators Xin Wang and Megan Ashley DiNoia.

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chin(A)frica on view at the Institute of Fine Arts Duke House

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