‘From New York to Liverpool and Back Again’

kofi_001e.jpgReview of From New York to Liverpool and Back Again (Femmes du Futur) by Kofi Fosu at Loft Space Programme (15 April 2007 – 28 April 2007), Curated by Jo Derbyshire.
Written by June Rose Hobson.
Photographs © Tony Knox 2007. – 23 April 2007.

From New York to Liverpool and Back Again (Femmes du Futur) by Kofi Fosu is the last in the curatorial programme of the Loft Space, conceived and managed by Jo Derbyshire (15 April 2007 – 21 April 2007 (Extended 28 April 2007)).

Fosu is an artist working and living in New York (US). He describes himself as a philosopher, artist and writer. He is originally from Ghana, but settled in New York with his family, as a child. He is an established visual artist and writer and featured artist at the Eickholt Gallery in New York, as well as exhibiting in many other venues. He has a penchant for philosophical discourse on the subject of gender politics and sexual relations in contemporary society.

In the exhibition there are a series of paintings in a naïve style, which imbue the essence of the subject, rather than realistic portrayal. The palette is vibrant on each and the forms are composed in vigorous brush strokes. These depictions are vivacious, but raw, to embody quintessence of the subject. Each one fascinating and unique. They pose a curiosity to the subjects captured in each painting, as if under the microscope, each an intrinsic analysis. They have a quality of the work by the artist Modigliani.

There is a collection of painting reproductions amalgamated to form the enclosure of the sound installation. One can sit within the confines of the explosion of the array of portraits and be absorbed into the philosophic texts orated by the artist.

In the main area of the exhibition space are presented a collection of digital shorts by the artist. These combine his interest as a writer and the visual dialogue of gender and sexual politics, significantly in terms of the constructs of ethnicity and relationships. Moreover, an autobiographical analysis of the artist and the muse in the underlining concepts. Each of these digital video shorts are supported by associate artists and actresses from New York: Dawn Cherie, Carolyn Day and Nadja Hoyer-Booth.

Derbyshire invited Fosu to conclude the series of exhibitions, performances and projects during the course of the Loft Space, where arts and culture are placed within an socio-urban context. This has ran from January and will finalise in early May 2007.

This final exhibition by Fosu is intriguing and provocative on the subjects of relationships. Derbsyhire interviews the artist to understand more his influences that shape his work:

Derbyshire: What interested you in the project?

Fosu: The project originated with a suggestion by a former professor and friend. She suggested I paint the women from my past. I acted accordingly, but in doing so I examined my over all feelings about the female gender. It brought me closer emotionally to women I had known. I proceeded to reflect on our relationships. I took on the role of the female, intellectually, and explored the emotional voice of the female. This then led to my project, Horatio High-Wire Acts, a theatrical venture which featured monologues of mostly women talking about their experiences with men.

Derbyshire: Do New York and Liverpool share a sense of similarity do you think?

Fosu: A sense of similarity, yes, since they are both major cities and historically there’s that certain bond. But I haven’t been to Liverpool and so it would be unfair to fully explore whatever similarities both cities share. Liverpool as I’ve always known was the city where the members of The Beatles grew up. I had also been aware of Liverpool as a major city for the sport of football. Other than that it was Transvoyeur and my correspondence with Gaynor Evelyn Sweeney that brought Liverpool into my conscience.

New York has a tone for me which I can’t compare to Liverpool unless I lived there. People in New York have a street-wise sophistication and there’s always that immediacy to get somewhere. Transvoyeur was in fact what connected me with Liverpool. In a broader and philosophical sense, I don’t think Liverpool and New York share the same intellectual language. By corresponding with Liverpool I have found a means of inspiration that started decades ago in college. Language as expressed through communication has always been a part of my life, whether as an artist or writer. I’ve never had the chance to encourage this kind of activity here in New York. Liverpool made it possible.

Overall, living in New York is a thrill but I find it important to correspond intellectually with others from different parts of the world, much like Liverpool.

Derbyshire: How does your city speak to you?

Fosu: My city speaks to me the moment I wake up. After having lived in New York all these years, I have acquired a hardened approach to life and yet having that unique sense of sensitivity as an artist, I am able to pay attention to the smells of the city, everything from the smells particular to every neighborhood, from the Dominicans in Washington Heights to the Chinese in China Town. The city can be analyzed through different forms of art. Once you enter the outside world, one could potentially be in a film. If bargaining for produce, it could be a theatrical play. Quietly listening to the subway trains going by can be music to the ears. It’s also possible to watch the many different fashion statements which indeed inspire many designers. Standing alone at attention in a meditative state, one can imagine to be a painting. The city of New York intellectually feeds into my notion of Roland Barthe’s ‘Image, Music and Text’.

Derbyshire: Can you tell me more about you film and involvement with the actors?

Fosu: Making the digital films were a conclusion drawn from having been a fan of cinema. In the past I’ve admired film makers with an edge that pursued the precepts of art. Filmmakers like Bunuel, Cassavettes, Scorcese, Goddard, Jarmusch and Spike Lee have all inspired me to attempt to make a film of my own. Then again, during my experience in theater, many people thought my theatrical texts were like screenplays. The overall production and direction of these plays felt like a film. Having endured painting and experienced some success as a writer and director, film was the next challenge.

I had always benefited from working with either a model or muse. This was encouraged in my fine art work and the theatrical process. As a film, Cushion Pill, originally a play, was the best choice since it featured two characters. I liked the idea of working opposite an actress, not only as a director but also as an actor. The idea of communicating with other artists is and has always been an important part of my philosophy. Working with Carolyn Day was extremely challenging because we were the only ones involved in the production.

History of Flesh was my collaboration with Dawn Cherie. It was based on our discourses on sexuality and art. It was truly an organic process. I had known Dawn Cherie from an earlier production, Black Birds in Leather Pants. In both productions she expressed not only her fierce talent as an actress but also her ability to sing. In-between her trips to Israel, she and I met over the course of two years to rehearse the project.

The collaboration with Nadja Hoyer-Booth was taken from the monologue German Mistress: A Self-Portrait. It was part of the monologues in Horatio High-Wire Acts. Her mastering of German and Russian accents made her the obvious choice for the part. Much like the other monologues, this monologue was an exploration into a love relationship.

Derbyshire: How would you define your art?

Fosu: I love the dialogue between two points. This is acquired philosophically as an artist between the artist and the bare canvas. Much the same is achieved as a writer between the writer and a blank space. What then happens are the ideas that are translated onto the surface. Within the realms of my art are the ideas of intellectualizing beauty and sex. There are issues of race and gender. In my fine art, the male is almost genderless. He’s a spirit. The woman are rendered more so multi-dimensionally. This is much the case in my philosophies. I find it abominable the circumstances under which men are supposed to exist. It forces me not to speculate on what is man and what is woman? I basically concentrate on one’s existence. These existences are made up of the artist versus the muse, image, music, text, Femmes du Futur and the intellectualizing of love, sex and art.

The Loft Space Programme finishes with a publication currently being researched by Derbyshire and the release date to be announced.

For further information on the artist, Kofi Fosu, go to:

For insight on the concept and programme of the Loft Space Derbyshire go to: www.joderbyshire.co.uk