Goodman Gallery presents One soul, one memory, an exhibition by the Berlin-based Portuguese artist Grada Kilomba, which marks her debut solo presentation in the UK, following her acclaimed large-scale installation and performance, O Barco | The Boat (2021), at Somerset House in 2022, a 32 meters sculpture memorialising the Middle Passage.
For this exhibition, Kilomba presents a series of new works, using the boat as a metaphor to explore cyclical violence and the relationship between narrative, power and repetition. “When history is not told properly, its barbarity repeats itself” the artist states.
At the center of the exhibition is 18 Verses (2022), a sculptural installation, revealing the silhouette of a shipwreck, alluding to the dramatic migrant routes that cross the Mediterranean waters today, echoing images, gestures and sounds that insinuate a sense of historical repetition.
Carefully displayed in the gallery room, and involved black fabric, the work is composed of burnt wooden pieces, engraved with a poem written by the artist, and a multichannel sound piece. This work explores the material duality of ancient techniques and contemporary sound technologies, as the wood goes through a traditional process of burning, and is immersed in a sonorous landscape where human breathing negotiates its own space amidst the sound of the wind and waves.
In a gesture of affection and warmth, each verse of the poem is translated into several languages: Yoruba, Kimbundu, Creole from Cape Verde, Portuguese, English and Arabic from Syria - evoking a timeless yet present narrative between old empires and postcoloniality. The burnt wooden pieces are mantled in long meters of fabric, used as symbolic water or as an imaginary female entity, guardian of the verses. The use of fabric in Kilomba’s ouevre is a common visual metaphor, which, in this exhibition, is used to explore issues of identity, displacement, water surveillance, and violence.
The poem, from which the exhibition title borrows the verse One soul, one memory, extends itself into the gallery rooms as written words, in a new series titled the sounds of the water (2023). This will have its public debut in the exhibition, and reproduce some of Kilomba’s most piercing pieces of writing.
Another key work in the exhibition is Kilomba’s seminal piece Table of Goods (2017), exhibited for the first time in the UK, which comprises a unique composition of soil, coffee, sugar, dark chocolate and cocoa - the materials that fuelled the slave trade. The work seeks to memorialise centuries of labour and deaths that took place on the plantations and reminds us that the exchange of these goods remains inextricably linked to our colonial past and present.
Grada Kilomba is a Berlin-based Portuguese artist, whose works draws on memory, trauma, gender and post-colonialism, interrogating concepts of knowledge, power and violence. “What stories are told? How are they told? And told by whom?” are constant questions in Kilomba’s body of work.
Performance, staged reading, video, sculptural installation and sound pieces all become conduits for Kilomba’s unique practice of decolonial storytelling. Kilomba holds a Doctorate in Philosophy from the Freie Universität Berlin. She has lectured at several international Universities.
Kilomba’s work has been presented at La Biennale de Lubumbashi VI (2019); 10. Berlin Biennale (2018); Documenta 14 (2017), Kassel; 32. Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo (2016). Her most recent exhibitions include Norval Foundation (Cape Town, 2022), Somerset House (London, 2022), Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Finnish National Gallery (Helsinki, 2022), Palais de Tokyo (Paris, 2021), Castello Di Rivoli Museo D’Arte Contemporanea (Torino, 2021), Yebisu International Festival for Art & Alternative Visions (Tokyo, 2020),
Kilomba’s work features in public and private collections include: Tate Modern Collection, London; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Hartwig Art Foundation, Amsterdam; Rennie Collection, Toronto; Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, among others.