The Power Plant

In/Tension with Oluseye

NOV 21 2023

“By pulling from Yoruba spirituality and culture and bringing that into my practice,” says Toronto-based artist Oluseye, “its almost like I’m publicly sharing my own learnings and my own experience.”

In episode five of In/Tension, Neil Price interviews the British-born, Nigerian-Canadian artist, who emphasizes the importance of his West African heritage in his multi-media projects. This conversation highlights the significant role of travel in Oluseye’s practice, the essential skills for a career in art, and how found objects dubbed “diasporic debris” offer room to reclaim lost histories.

Courtesy Oluseye

Courtesy Oluseye

Working across sculpture, installation, performance, and photography, Oluseye integrates “diasporic debris,” a term he coined to describe the objects collected during his travels across the Atlantic, into his ongoing explorations of Black being. The strategic use of these found items or “debris” is intimately connected to his fascination and interest in Black Diasporic identity, migration, and Yoruba spirituality.

Oluseye’s work aims to give voice to the voiceless, functioning as material representations of often unacknowledged histories, narratives, and peoples. As the artist explains, “I'm creating these talismans, [and] I consider each talisman…to be a person. So suddenly these lives that…we don't know of, or we [have] forgotten…I'm trying in my own way to acknowledge them.” Through redeploying these discarded objects, Oluseye hopes to capture a sense of reclamation—not only for the stories embedded in the items themselves, but for the greater histories (and perhaps even bodies) that they represent.

Across his multidisciplinary projects, Blackness is presented as divine, fluid, and unfixed. It exists not as an easily identifiable material characteristic, but as an abstract concept unbound by time, space, or location. By effortlessly combining past and present through the use of “diasporic debris,” Oluseye allows for these spiritual and physical dimensions of life to transcend binary categorization. In this new territory, he creates space for unacknowledged histories—narratives that conjure notions of our collective humanity and universal truths—to live unimpeded by colonial oppression.

Oluseye has presented work at a range of prominent national and international institutions, including The Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto; Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto; Buffalo AKG Art Museum in Buffalo; Gallery 151 in New York; and Art Twenty-one in Lagos, Nigeria, among others. In 2023, he was recognized with the Toronto Arts Foundation’s Breakthrough Artist Award and has received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts as well as the Toronto and Ontario Arts Councils.

In/Tension, produced by The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, is a limited podcast series of intimate, thought-provoking and accessible conversations with emerging, mid-career, and established contemporary visual artists across Canada. In/Tension aims to shed light on the breadth of the Canadian contemporary art scene and provide a platform for diverse artistic voices to dive deep into their creative intentions and facets of their practice.

This project is supported by a Digital Now grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.

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