Desert X 2021 DESERT BIENNIAL 2021
Serge Attukwei Clottey | The Wishing Well
12 March- 16 May 2021
On view from sunrise to sunset
James O. Jessie Desert Highland Unity Center
480 W. Tramview Road Palm SpringsCoachella Valley
in southern California PO Box 4050 Palm Springs
CA 92263 United States
© DESERT BIENNIAL 2021
The Wishing Well is a sculptural installation of large-scale cubes draped with sheets of woven pieces of yellow plastic Kufuor gallons used to transport water in Ghana. Transforming a public park into a destination, The Wishing Well refers to the wells to which many people around the world must trek daily to access water. Europeans introduced Kufuor gallons, or jerrycans, to the people of Ghana to transport cooking oil. As repurposed relics of the colonial project, they serve as a constant reminder of the legacies of empire and of global movements for environmental justice. Sited in the Coachella Valley, whose future is deeply dependent on water, The Wishing Well creates a dialogue about our shared tomorrow.
Serge Attukwei Clottey (Accra, Ghana, 1985) explores the sociopolitical, economic, environmental, and cultural legacies of the colonial project in Africa. Using yellow plastic jerrycans known as Kufuor gallons, he creates sculptures, installations, and performances that speak to histories of colonial pillaging and its effects on trade and migration. These gallons function as material and a striking symbol in Attukwei Clottey’s practice: a reminder of the way violent pasts manifest in the everyday.
The artist and Desert X would like to thank the generous support of the Desert Highland Gateway Estates Community Action Association and SIMCOR.
Serge Attukwei Clottey (b. 1985) is known for work that examines the powerful agency of everyday objects. Working across installation, performance, photography and sculpture, Clottey explores personal and political narratives rooted in histories of trade and migration. Based in Accra and working internationally, Clottey refers to his work as “Afrogallonism”, a concept that confronts the question of material culture through the utilisation of yellow gallon containers.
Cutting, drilling, stitching and melting found materials, Clottey’s sculptural installations are bold assemblages that act as a means of inquiry into the languages of form and abstraction. Utilising flattened Kuffuor gallon, jute sacks, discarded car tires and wood pieces, he forms abstract formations onto which he inscribes patterns and text. In doing so, he elevates the material into a powerful symbol of Ghana’s informal economic system of trade and re-use. While some surfaces resemble local textile traditions such as Kente – a key reference in west African Modernism throughout the 20th century – others refer to barcodes and feature Chinese characters in reference to the emergence of new power structures in Ghana. In Clottey’s drawings, the artist explores a formalist approach, depicting disjointed figures and faces, not unlike the visions of nude women under Cubism, a European movement which drew heavily from traditional African tribal sculpture.
At the centre of Clottey’s engaged dialogue with Ghana’s cultural history is the notion of performance as a daily activity. Through his notable work, My Mother’s Wardrobe, presented at Gallery 1957, Clottey used performance to explore traditional gender roles along with notions of family, ancestry and spirituality. In a personal work inspired by the aftermath of the death of his mother, the artist staged a performance exploring the concept of material possessions honouring women as the collectors and custodians of cloth that serves as signifiers of history and memory. Clottey’s work sits at the intersection of making and action, drawing heavily on the artist’s immediate and ever-changing environment.