May 4, 2015

Art Blogger of The Week: Chika Okeke-Agulu, Princeton, USA


Do academia and blogging go together? Yes they do, according to Chika Okeke-Agulu, who teaches African art history and theory at Princeton University. This January he published his newest book Postcolonial Modernism: Art & Decolonization in 20th-Century Nigeria at Duke University Press. But he's also a fervent blogger (and Tweeter) and does so with a great eye for the interstices of arts and politics. Especially Nigeria is high on the list of Okeke-Agulu's interests. 


Art scene
"My blog focuses on Art. Life. Politics. So, I imagine my “art scene” quite broadly. I am as invested in the art world in Nigeria, where I was born, as I am in the art scenes of African countries and the global art world. So, despite that my underlying interest is Africa and the African Diaspora, there is no way I could be invested in the politics and ethics of art, not simply on questions of aesthetics, without paying attention to the dynamics of art globally and reflecting on how our world works. How do Nigerian artists imagine their relationship with the nation and with the world? How do the actions or inactions of governments and non-governmental agents impact the lives of people, including artists?  In what ways might political and cultural nationalism reflect on formal choices, tone and scope of critical discourse of African and African Diaspora art worlds? What does art have to do with life? These are a few of questions that condition my reflections and perspectives on the art world. But also, as far as trends go, I am curious about the impact of the new art centers established by artists and curators across the continent on local art worlds. Their roles in providing artists access to the international art scenes and their fraught relationships with that immediate art environments, for me, speak to the larger issues of globalization." 

Blog
"I started blogging in 2007 primarily because I realized that as an art historian and university teacher there were so many things going on in the (art) world that I could not address or comment on, due to the peculiar, restrictive contexts of academic forums. More precisely, I needed a platform from which I could, at the time, comment on the controversy around the African participation in the 2007 Venice Biennale. I could not wait for the next academic conference, nor did I think that a scholarly paper was the best way to engage with the controversy. So, I started my blog.

Blogs make the limitations of standard art writing forums—art magazines, journals, newspapers, and books—quite obvious, though is cannot, realistically, fully replace them. It complements them. The thrill of being able to comment on an exhibition the very day you saw it; to take on a controversy that is perhaps too salty for paper publications; or to say something about breaking art world news is undeniable. But also, the times call for new forms of art writing that can reach audiences without access to normative art writing. Blogging is a major part of the democratization of knowledge and information exchange; but that means that we have to live with a great deal of really bad and incompetent art writing." 

Money 
"No, I do not have plans to monetize my blog. I suspect blogging adds some non-quantifiable value to my work as a scholar and critic, and provides me an audience none of my books or published essays could ever reach. Blogging is my way of taking a walk in the busy street just outside of the gate of art academia."

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