I am a Lagos based new media artist working with sound and video, and the co-founder of Video Art Network Lagos, which is a newly formed collective that promotes video art and its practices in Nigeria. How long have you lived in Lagos?How does your location impact your art?
My location (Lagos) defines my art. It does not only inspire me, but it also provides most of the materials (sounds and videos) that I work with. I have lived in Lagos for 3 years now. Prior to moving here, I have been a regular visitor to the city.
What do you find most inspiring and what do you find most frustrating about the city?
Lagos as a whole is a very inspiring space, but I do find its bus parks most inspiring. The bus parks are connecting points for a majority of Lagosians commuting from one place to the other using the commercial buses. It is where the multi cultural diversity of the mega city is fully exhibited, and also the melting pot of Lagos sounds. The bus park is a major location for my field recordings and a very important aspect of my Lagos soundscape project, since I believe it defines Lagos in totality.
The traffic jam (or Go-slow, as its known here) is probably the most frustrating thing about Lagos, not just for me but the majority of Lagosians. It is a major feature of the city and is practically unavoidable.
What projects are you currently working on?
I'm currently working on the Lagos soundscapes project. The Lagos soundscapes is an ongoing sound project that explores Lagos as a vibrant African Mega city. The basics of the project involves recording and collecting sounds that are definitive and sum up the character and vibrancy of Lagos. Sound plays a vital role in the composition of the city and one of the first observations about Lagos is the intensity and omnipresence of its soundscape. These field recordings are used creatively in installations and sound art.
I'm also working on "50", which explores the nation Nigeria in retrospect, with 50 words that will be randomly selected from a pool of words generated online by the Nigerian public over a period of time. I intend to project these words as texts on a national monument for Nigeria's 50th independence celebration.
Has the city changed since you lived there? How so? How do these changes impact the soundscape project?
Yes, the city has changed. Lagos is one of the projected mega cities in the world, and there are major renovations and new constructions currently going on in a bid to upgrade the city’s public infrastructure. Some of these changes are displacing the present soundscapes and may lead to their extinction. For example, when the newly introduced buses finally replaces the commercial Danfo buses (yellow painted old VW transporter buses) on all the major bus routes in Lagos, the verbal maps chanted by the Danfo bus conductors will cease.
The verbal maps are the acoustic cartographic mapping of Lagos by its bus routes and destinations, and by bus conductors. These verbal maps are proofs of authenticity, without which Lagos would sound like any other city in the world. Lagos is not the only city in the world where there are loads of intractable traffic, hawkers, generators and loud street music going on ceaselessly. Yet, it is probably the only city in the world with these peculiar verbal maps. The new buses make use of digital panels to display their routes and destinations.
Its not just the verbal maps that will be affected. Newly renovated roads do have signs forbidding hawking, and this will eliminate the hawkers who also contribute to the Lagos soundscapes with their announcements of the goods they are selling. Basically the Lagos soundscapes will be redefined by these constructions and upgrades.
A Lagos state of mind: explores the Lagos energy...its hustle and bustle, as recorded at Obalende one of its major bus parks.
Are there other artists that you find inspiring or whose work you admire? Who are they and why do you admire their work?
There are a lot of artists that I admire their works and get inspiration from. But I will mention two here. I particularly like the works of the South Korean based Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries. Their verbal narratives and the minimalist approach to their works is something I do admire. I saw their works for the first time at the MFA Houston ( Exhibition of contemporary Korean Artists in December 2009) and I have been fan since then.
Fela, a Nigerian musician, is another artist I find his works very inspiring and I am currently examining his works on Identity, of which I will be interpreting some of them in my future video works.
Are there any artists you are currently collaborating with on projects? Or are you looking for someone to collaborate with on a project?
I’m working on these projects alone for now, but I’m currently finalizing the details for a proposed installation called ‘Dinner for two’ with my creative partner Smooth Nzewi. The art work will be examining the relationship between the G8 and Africa.
As an artist, I am open for collaborations with other artists, especially for my upcoming project 'Babel'; a sound and sculpture installation that will explore contemporary cultural cooperation in terms of globalization.
To visit Emeka's profile and learn more about his art click here.