Image left: Bidon arme (Loaded Drum), 2004 Romuald Hazoume right: Treebike – image from the International freecard alliance for World Environment day, 5 June 2009
An exhibition that I stumbled upon accidentally a few months ago has stayed with me. On a visit to the Irish Museum of Modern in April 2011 I came across African artist Romuald Hazoume’s very thought provoking and surprisingly enjoyable installations of ‘masks’, sculptures, documentary film and photography work.
Romuald Hazoumè, one of Africa’s most important visual artists, creates playful sculptures and masks made from discarded plastic canisters commonly found in his native Benin (a small country neighbouring Nigeria) for transporting black-market petrol (known as kpayo) from Nigeria. As can be seen in his image (above left) these jerry cans are expanded over flames to increase their fuel-carry capacity, sometimes to excess resulting in fatal explosions. Hazoume’s work richly references mask making culture from his African heritage to commenting on his country’s predicament of being caught up in the day-to-day and often unacknowledged misery of the global fossil fuel industry. His work is engaging on very many levels and to a wide audience; from children who love the use of his found objects to adults that can see the political concerns in his work, to others who see a continuation of identity expressed in local materials made into masks. ‘Hazoumé has used the cans as a potent metaphor for all forms of slavery, past and present, drawing parallels with the vessels’ role as crucial but faceless units within commercial systems, dangerously worked to breaking point before being discarded (Tate Modern, 2007)
From across this side of the planet my own work attempts to touch some of these concerns too. My long term project the hollywood diaries to transform our conifer plantation to a permanent forest has real long term energy returns as we are very shortly to discontinue use of oil for our home heating (a common and increasingly expensive form of domestic heating in Ireland) and use our never-ending supply of forest thinnings. In fact, I was startled to learn recently from my forestry contacts, that our ongoing selective harvesting to keep the forest vibrant and encourage the native tree seedlings to flourish, will mean that we’ll have 70 tonnes of wood every three to four years from our small two acres!! Crikey!
The image on the above right, Treebike, is a pointer to this month’s global day of cycling, Moving Planet lead by Bill McKibben and his global 350.org organisation to invite us all to get on our bikes this Sept 24th, 2011. I’ve always been amazed at the huge response to these events and how often the arts help mobilise such activities.
‘Circle September 24 on your calendar–that’s the day for what we’re calling Moving Planet: a day to move beyond fossil fuels…
But we won’t just be cycling or marching–we’ll also be delivering a strong set of demands that can have real political impact.”
Note: some of you might be aware that I have returned to art college to undertake in-depth research on experimental film and ecology in the last year – if you want to follow along, my research site is www.ecoartfilm.com
I’ve recently created a small film sketch on how our small conifer plantation is being transformed, comments welcome!!