Turner Prize recipient Yinka Shonibare adeptly works in a variety of medium–– sculpture, digital chromogenic prints, installation painting, screen prints, and film–– and weaves into the work narratives of art history and colonialist history to nuance and deepen the thematic content.
Quoted from the artist’s site, the ‘BODY/PLAY/POLITICS’ exhibit at Yokohama Museum of Art in Japan (2016) pulls together the work of six artists to portray “a world cohabited by people with all sorts of skin colors, ethnicities, religions, gender norms and lifestyles, where the colors, forms, or behaviors of individual bodies are not inherently vested with specific meanings, over the course of millennia many value judgments and hierarchies have arisen in societies and are all too often linked to tragedies of history.”
The artist is known for his use of Batik cloth. This brightly colored ‘African’ fabric was inspired by Indonesian design, mass-produced by the Dutch, and sold to the consumer colonies in West Africa. In the 1960s the material became a new sign of African identity and independence. The textile evidences the web of nations that together knitted the race and culture identities of today. Numerous sculpture series are garbed in this cloth, including the installation work, End of Empire (2016) where teeter-tottering mannequins act out power hierarchies embedded in national historiesfor the exhibit TOUS, DES SANG-MÊLÉS (ALL, MIXED-BLOODS) at the Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne.
Context for this collaborative show with sixty international artists, as quoted from the artist’s site: “Under the co-patronage of French historian Lucien Febvre and his book We are all mixed-bloods: a manual on the history of the French civilization (1950), and that of Stuart Hall, founding father of Cultural Studies, this exhibition highlights the fictional dimension of the concept of cultural identity. Our curators have build an exhibition around different proposals that raise questions and shed light on what relates and sets us apart, on transfer of knowledge and future, on power and resistance, on individuals and communities… “