top of page

Alienation. Determination. Hybridization.

Updated: Jun 10

Josèfa Ntjam’s ‘Futuristic Ancestry: Warping Matter & Space-time(s)
Josèfa Ntjam’s ‘Futuristic Ancestry: Warping Matter & Space-time(s)’

Fotografiska: so hot right now. They put together quite the little trio of exhibits, serving up a big ol’ helping of tasty, decadent art. I’m starving!

If art is a microscope, Josèfa Ntjam is a brilliant mad scientist. She focuses her kaleidoscopic lens on a petri dish bubbling over with a curious brew of African mythology & history, science fiction (with plenty of ETs), anti-colonial liberation narratives, plus her own life & research into molecular biology & quantum physics, all mixed under a blacklight. In short: a doozy (in a good way)! The combination makes for an immersive, eye-popping poetry, & one of the most iconic iterations of Afrofuturism that this little art monster has yet seen.

It’s funny, you would think a photography museum would be rather limiting — photos in staid frames on the wall, that sort of thing — but Fotografiska is continuously finding ways to expand the exhibition possibilities of photography, & Futuristic Ancestry, with its collages, life-size cutouts, & incomparable video installations, takes the idea of “photography” to an entirely different level — an alien planet, even. The individual images are so beautifully layered they achieve a rare transcendence: wiggly florescent cellular veils are superimposed onto historical images of the Black Panthers & the liberation movement in Cameroon, Ntjam’s motherland, connect the oppression of the Earth & the stripping of Her resources to the oppression of indigenous African peoples (the two are historical & political bedfellows, after all). The addition of an extra terrestrial narrative to this, avatars reciting freedom-oriented philosophical treatises in dense, lush poetic monologues, makes for a mouth-watering presentation. It’s truly one of a kind.

Take the elevator down & you’ll be transported to ‘Human / Nature’, a lovely complementary survey that had me gulping for air — the flowers! the trees! the whimsy! the wonder! I was particularly taken with a mossy grotto that functioned as a room-sized frame for a large-scale backlit photo of a family made into silhouettes of white light by Inka & Niclas: ghosts of light wandering the abundant purgatory of the forest that surrounds them, we join them for a moment of pause. The unity of the human form with nature’s wild vistas as well as the ability to shape & mold those vistas are the overriding themes of the exhibition, explored in one fabulous iteration after another, with hits by David Uzochukwu, Lori Nix & Kathleen Gerber, & Cig Harvey, among others. As people who create by definition, artists are wont to ask how things can be shaped by human hands — how can we mold this Earth? How does it mold us?

To mold or not to mold: enter Daniel Arsham on the top floor, a palate cleanser, a study in restraint & ethereal clarity combined with a dash of the sculptural whimsy he’s so known for. His photos, almost all in black & white or in restricted palates, are crisply balanced explorations of light, shadow & especially texture: the surface of the moon, smooth stone, the dewiness of fog & the scratchy trees that rise therein. Arsham is known for thinking about deep time, & this exhibition captures this essence with whispery quiet, it stands as a reminder that we exist within a geological clock that is always ticking. Time is a force beyond our power, something so large & so enduring that we have no other option but sweet, sweet surrender: something Arsham’s work induces in the softest of ways.

— The Art Fart

Many flavors, all complementary of one another. A feast! What will Fotografiska come up with next?

Images courtesy of Fotografiska & copyright the respective artists. ‘Futuristic Ancestry: Warping Matter and Space-time(s)’ featuring Josèfa Noam is on view through May 25th; ‘Human/Nature: Encountering Ourselves in the Natural World’ was on view from February 9 — May 19, 2024; Daniel Arsham ‘Phases’ is on view through Jun 13th, 2024.


bottom of page