Passing Through: radical acts of empathy, crazinisT artisT
from the series: Rituals of Becoming, crazinisT artisT (Va-Bene Elikem K. Fiatsi) and Ric Bower, 2017, pigment print, courtesy the artists and Gallery 1957, Accra
Over a period of five years, Va-Bene Elikem Kofi Fiatsi (aka crazinisT artisT) has been living and presenting as a woman, as a performative artistic statement in Ghana. Two exhibitions held at Gallery 1957, in Accra, over consecutive years have sought, to explore Fiatsi’s practice. For the second exhibition Fiatsi collaborated to create a body of large-scale performative images using motifs borrowed from European painting tradition, the compositional arrangement of Ingres’ iconic Valpinçon Bather (1808), for example, is borrowed and placed in front of the backdrop of a Ghanaian building site. The elegant lines of Fiatsi’s black muscular back contrast with Ingres’ white, fleshy and female model; the reenactment of the pose controverts the Enlightenment hierarchies of ideological and racial superiority, that were used as philosophical justifications for European colonial expansion into Africa. The nine remaining works that resulted from the Fiatsi/ collaboration, are black and white photographs, taken in quick succession, of Fiatsi washing. They are knowingly redolent of Degas’ intimate portrayals of women at their ablutions.