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‘I get inspiration from everything and anything around me’

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Bolatito Aderemi-Ibitola is a multimedia artist working primarily on time-based art. Her work focuses on the intersections of race, gender, and ethnicity. Earlier in 2018 Bolatito emerged as the winner of the ART X Prize with Access, which included N1million cash grant and a solo presentation at ART X Lagos 2018. Bolatito will present “Scraps from Mama’s Floor” at the fair this November, her first solo show. She talks about her journey into the world of Arts in this interview with GuardianWoman.

Tell us a little about yourself? 
My name is Bolatito Aderemi-Ibitola. I am an artist working in time-based leading, for me, often times, that means video, digital, theatre performance arts. I was born in Lagos, although I did most of my schooling in the States, I have been living and working in Lagos for the past few years. I am a vegan.

Your work focuses on the intersections of race, gender, and ethnicity. What informs your practice?
Certainly, those three aspects inform my practice. I think of it like making object poetry, visual treaters etc. For example, what is going on around me, why are things the way they are, what aspects of our history, of policies, of socialization has brought forth some certain things. How can I talk about it in a way that makes sense and easily enterable for whoever is listening? For me, number one thing that influences my practice is legibility, I want everyone to be able to kind of enter into the work, and feel like they are a part of it.

How did you hear about the ART X Prize with Access?
I knew about the ART X Prize from the very 1st edition in 2016, I heard about it on Instagram mainly, and I was really surprised to find out what the ART Prize to be given is, and I have been following ART X since then.

ART X focuses more on emerging artists and people who have been working in the arts for at least 5 years and is opened to artists who are hoping to advance their career in a way and I thought it was great for me to give it a shot and to apply.

How does winning the ART X Prize with Access competition feel?
It feels wonderful. I am excited, I am happy. Not just because of the grant to carry out this big project that I have been hoping to do, but also because of the access to the community that I am now involved in. It is truly instrumental for young artistes like me to be able to get their foot in the door of the arts sphere and be able to show their work in reputable spaces like ART X Lagos.

Where do you get your inspiration?
Certainly, from everything and anything around me. I think about the quotidian of everyday, the simple things and simply asking questions like, why things are the way they are. I am very inquisitive. I’d sometimes like to argue with people not because I believed the things I am arguing for, but because I wanted to hear different ideas. For me that’s almost like what I do with my arts. Let me say something with my arts and hear what people are saying. My inspiration comes from a conglomeration of a lot of things, like people will say everything in the past has brought us to this point. Take for example, looking at Iron, there is a history behind it, the design, the colour, the shape etc. You can interrogate by asking questions about how this came to be, for example, could we have invented something else to press clothes that will be more convenient for whoever etc. With my work, I want people to be able to go in and out of my work.

So, I choose to look at everyday happenings, things around me and my larger focus of subjects about things that I would like to see, sort of shaped me in a way that is better and can impact people’s lives positively. That is why I think a lot on gender, ethnicity, where we are from when doing arts.

What were the high-points of your preparation? Did you have a winning strategy?
The interesting thing about the ART X Prize with Access is that it had several stages before I finally got awarded the prize. First, we had to complete a pretty extensive application, involving submission of CVs, full proposals of what you intend to do with the money, budgets and general example of presentation of not only just you and your arts project but also the projects, your bio etc.

After completing all of that, there was another selection process, where we were cut down to three artists.
As part of the project, we were also given a small budget to present something that we will be able to show the judges to get us a little bit closer to being able to give them an idea of what our actualized end goal will be.

For me, the high point of my presentation will be going to the market to get fabrics that I wanted to use and being able to find the inspiration. I had to go to Balogun market a lot, because I really like clothes, fabric a lot. I was sourcing that out while working on this project. Also, the question and answers from the judges was something I really enjoyed because it gave me an opportunity of exploring what I had planned to say and go into different tangents and iterations of things that I didn’t automatically get a chance to do, listening to the judges and having them push back on my idea, helped me refine what I was proposing. That was great.

A winning strategy was having to consider what I wanted to do. I won’t say it was a strategy, but this really helped me. I was just like this is a project that I really want to do, help me do it, it’s going to be great.

How do you plan to maximise the ART X platform given to you as a result of your win?
ART X is trying to maximise the platform for us artists, which I think is just incredible, in the sense that, in giving us the platform and being a part of ART X, there’s already an acknowledgement on the part of the team or the organization, that this is a big platform which can help emerging artistes by bringing them out to perform and introducing them, featuring them. This will eventually not only help the artists, but the Nigerian Arts scene as a whole, because more eyes will be on the Nigerian arts scene generally. Helping one artist get to a certain place, I feel that has helped maximise the platform for the selected artists. For me, it is about doing my best, being present and doing the work that I should do, giving the time I’ve been given, and a lot of people will get the chance to see it.

Generally, as an artist, what are the challenges you have been faced with? 
My mediums are sort of still not really understood, on how they can be placed in certain arts spaces. For example, how do you put performance arts/live performance arts in galleries, how do you save multiple iterations over interactive piece in archives. How do you work on a video in a country where electricity isn’t stable? These are tactical challenges that I am dealing with as a person trying to make arts. There are also a lot of interpersonal issues going on and it’s been challenging. But I keep trying to find ways to take all of these that I’m being inundated with and produce something that can touch people’s lives through works that can provide a mirror for them, let them look back at themselves through the pieces and say “what is this moving in me?’ and so on.

Art X Lagos showcases wonderful art pieces from renowned artists, how exciting is it for you to be a part of this year’s edition.
I am extremely blessed, I’m so thankful for the wonderful opportunity, not just for myself as an artist but for the mediums that I am working in, performance arts, video arts etc. Winning such a large prize is a validation that is needed for this sort of work that I’m producing.

This platform is a confirmation that this artwork is appreciated. I’m grateful for this. Being showcased alongside big names as Yinka Shonibare and others is just so amazing. This just sincerely elevates the work and putting me in a sphere and conversation with these artistes, is of note and very exciting.

You will be displaying a solo presentation of your winning interactive art project, “Scraps from Mama’s Floor” at this year’s ART X Lagos, what should we expect from this presentation?   As usual, I’m working with collage, aesthetic. For me I will like to take things from discrete spaces and bring them together in a way that is cohesive and still holding the integrity of where they came from. You will see a mesh of different platforms, different things, bringing you into the project, being captured as part of the art piece. In thinking of my mother and the way she used to make clothes for us, and the remnants we got from her, myself and my sister, the scraps that were left behind, what that did for us and reminding us as young people on how it contained us, the thoughts of who she was a person, and how this trained us as we evolved into womanhood.

What people will see in the more literal sense is like a video piece. We will capture the videos of the attendees of the fair and select them and show them on the screen along with the video pieces that I’m also creating as part of the work. I’m really excited to see it play out on the large screen and see what that would feel like or that would do to the audience in ART X Lagos and engaging them with the work.


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