Ebun Sodipo: A Journey Through the Debris of Images

Back in Basel, and now in its last week, Vitrine presents the first exhibition in Switzerland of emerging artist Ebun Sodipo, who works across performance, film, sculpture and collage, and narrates constructions of a black transfeminine self after slavery and colonialism through visual assemblages. ‘On the Edge of a Sheen Cut’ presents a new body of wall-based sculptural works in resin and mylar showing images from the artist’s visual archive. The archive is an exploration into what she describes as her own formation of personal narrative, self-possession and the aestheticisation of compositional materials that reflect ideas around transformation, desire and sexuality.
by Lara Morrell
Lara Morrell
Ebun Sodipo

Could you tell me about your genesis as an artist and your background?

Maybe it’s good idea to start with when I started being creative, which was through reading, especially fantasy. Then, I started writing my own fantasies, I think I was 11 or so at this point, I started writing a little novel about a sci-fi world. I think I’ve been really interested in imagination and storytelling from then on. Then, at school when we had the option to choose our GCSEs, I’d spend some time in the art room during my break and was drawing. The teacher was like, “Oh, you should do the GCSE.” I was like, “Okay, I’ll try it. I’ll see.” It went really well and I did it for A level too and then I though to myself maybe I want to be an artist and take it forward and see what happens. Then I did my foundation, and then went to Camberwell College of Art, UAL, and then took two years away from making work and then started making work again in 2018, 2019. Now I’m here. Regarding my background, I grew up in half in Nigeria. Well, I say half, 11 years in Nigeria, and then the last 18, almost 19 years in the UK.

You’re a writer, as well as an artist, could you expand on the role of storytelling in your work?

I think at the moment my writing practice is very much part of my visual image practice or my art practice and performance practice. It’s been a while since I’ve written a standalone piece of fiction or text or poetry. Everything’s been feeding into making performances or physical work, let’s say. I consider myself a writer and artist because I use words a lot and I’m interested in the narrative, imagination and storytelling.

Could you tell me more specifically about the work that you have presented at Vitrine in Basel?

With the series of works, they follow on from the VO Curations 2022 show and they explore a method of visual collaging, and using the still images in my archive. I’ve used them to make video work as you saw, and then also alongside performances. I wanted to keep on using the material in the archive outside of these two avenues, I started making collages and at first I had to also write notes and try to think about how to get an audience to write a pathway through the images and the text to reach a certain point or to feel a certain thing. That’s still my main concern, well, at least one of my main concerns with image work, my image work is thinking about how to allow the audience to take themselves on a journey through the debris or deluge of images. With the work in the show specifically, I think I was thinking a little bit about desire, but also thinking about the ways that one is perceived and the ways that one responds or has a posture of response in relationships. There’s a few works across the show that deal with that. Then, also I think it’s about exploring some sensations or emotions that reoccur in my life. There’s little moments like that, but also technically I wanted to explore more transparency and layering in the work. There’s works that are really bare and you can see the surface, then there’s others where they’re layered on top of each other and the image really transforms the one underneath, thinking again about how to put the image in relation to each other so that a journey can be taken through these different node points in the work.

How does the juxtaposition of images in you work go about?

Sometimes it’s quite spontaneous. It’s quite intuitive a lot of the time. Sometimes I have an idea or I want to start with particular emotion or a particular tone, colour or texture. I look through all my images to see something that corresponds and pings right, but then I either keep that structure or those rules, soft rules to construct the full image, the full work, and other times it is a lot more intuitive. I’ll be going along, maybe in search of something else, and then I’ll be like, “Oh, I really want to use this image,” and then I put that in. Then I don’t randomly take, but respond to whatever’s happening in this collage that I don’t quite know what’s happening. I’m just like, “Okay, that feels right, because that works.” There’s a relationship building there, and so sometimes it’s the relationship being built as I’m making it, and sometimes I’m more artificially constructing them. I try to respond to the body and its directions to certain images to be able to tell. I don’t know. Go forth on different paths to a particular place.

What are you working on at the moment? What’s next?

I’ve got a performance in Dublin, next year, it’s part of a festival there and the performance explores my relation to this woman that I found who lived in 16th century Lisbon in Portugal and was an enslaved woman, but also a trans feminine, trans woman ancestor where she names herself as a woman, even though there’s an inquisition she moves around town as a woman. She performs sex work. Also, she may have been a spiritual healer, but she has this strength and display of agency that I’m really interested in.

Also, thinking about what it means to explore the life of a woman who lived so far back. What does this mean as a story that I’m trying to tell? Am I telling it to find proof of existence? Or is there a different relationship that I’ve been trying to build with a figure that is supposedly disappeared and now I found them? What kind of emotions am I exploring in that? What can it do for me and what can it do for other people? I’m writing the script and working with a set and a sound designer and a director to bring it all into fruition. That’s the big thing that I’m working on now.

Describe yourself in three words and your work in three words?

Curious, easygoing, sympathetic / shiny, humorous and impactful.

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