In collaboration with Tiwani Contemporary, Ed Cross Fine Art is delighted to present The Middle Passage: Alice in Wonderland, the first solo exhibition in London by the interdisciplinary artist Nathalie Mba Bikoro.
A series of photo etchings depicting a new Alice travelling through Wonderland is an evolving body of work which explores concepts of identity in relation to gender, matriarchal and patriarchal relationships, anthropology and the mythologizing of the African continent through time using a visual narrative of appropriation. In a recent piece of writing by the artist Nathalie Mba Bikoro about her own work she begins 'Identity does not belong to anyone'. This statement sits at the centre of Bikoro's work as she explores through her photo-etching and performance art questions of ownership and identity in the depiction of contemporary realities. Bikoro's creation of a form of 'wonderland' (inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) plays with a sense of time, space and location through the use of a fluid and changing narrative. The work provides the audience with images and landscapes, which appear familiar but deny the desire to categorise. The figure of Alice is seen through the photoetchings encountering new environments, people and things. The work is inspired by the artist's own life growing up between Africa and Europe and engages directly with important academic debates around the appropriation of imagery and the representation of different identities within visual culture. The photo-etching series is an on-going living body of work that has no set order or structure. Clues to the journey are provided through the use of repeated imagery and encounters between the figure Alice and other characters in the narrative including her father, her mother (seen represented by a goat) and the sacred fool. Images used in the work come from many different places including colonial archives, popular culture and the artist's own photography. The artist's live performance art forms part of the series as each exhibition is accompanied by a live performance piece.
This exhibition explores the creolisation of identities making comment on the fractured nature of the human condition and its constructions. The narratives seen in the work investigate historical and visual stereotypes in art history and visual culture and how these influence our current societies and interactions. The artist explores counter-historical narratives and geopolitical imaginaries. The piece Flags (2012) presents a new stage, disrupting ideas of territorial belonging as nations are mixed, undefined by their geographies, ethnicity, language or their colour. The artist represents this through the creation of a series of flags made from sewn together sections of African Wax Hollandais fabric. Produced in Holland and India the fabric was originally made to celebrate the coming independence of African nations in the 20th century. The fabric is often assumed to be produced and made in Africa and lends itself well to act as a conduit to enable audiences to examine assumptions about origin, authorship, nationhood and belonging.