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Lagos - Berlin Residency 2020Lagos_GUF footprint: from 2012-2014 by Global Urban Footprint

Interview with the artist Monaí de Paula Antunes

Due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, the Berlin-based artist Monaí de Paula Antunes was not able to travel to Lagos in autumn 2020. Therefore, her residency was turned into a digital one. In the interview, she talks about the project and the challenges and experiences during her digital residency last year.
Monai de Paula Antunes 2020 © Monai de Paula Antunes

1. What are your major impressions of your place of residence during this program? Do you have an unforgettable experience?

Once my residence shifted to a digital format, I personally adjusted also its time frame, knowing that the original period between September 16th and October 31st would make sense if I was in presence in Lagos, but from abroad I should count with longer response times for my impulses with the community and my own understanding of what was happening “on the other side”. Therefore I could say my residence started much before the official beginning date and has never really ended, as I am still in communication with the people involved in the project and happy to assist 16/16 in the final steps for the implementation of their own community radio.
It’s strange to get to know a place without ever being there, and I am thankful I was working with a sonic format, which gave me a sensorial opportunity to experience Lagos, a bit more freed from the conforming of social media. The most unforgettable experience has been the engagement the some people took to the project, really using their phones to record and register bits and pieces of their daily lives, from everyday work hours to the #ENDSARS protests.

2. How does the global challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic affect your work and what are your artistic responses.

I always believed radio to be a multifarious medium and matter for arts and creativity, and the challenges of 2020 has made this more evident to a lot of people. Despite the tragic circumstances, the current crisis has elevated my work and its relevance to other people, communities and places.

3. Your research and experiment seems to want to fill the lacuna that has always existed between the fields of Art and Science, if you are to give this pseudo-discipline a term, what could it possibly be?

I think there is a term for this already: Arts & Sciences Collaboration (AS), but you are right to phrase my practice more as a pseudo-discipline. A&S leans more towards technology and sciences meeting for a practical, solution-oriented goal. I guess what I am doing is much idler. It is science in what it is –research. It looks for negentropy, new models and technologies for such. It is art because it doesn’t follow scientific rigor, there are many things I consider scientific experiments but that actually I wouldn’t be able to do anywhere else but in the realms of the arts. I’ve been calling it artistic research and I see the term more and more around, even in the academia.

4. Your project aims at decolonizing Radio as a powerful tool of information dissemination, with the evolution of your project, where do you see the radio/public relationship in the nearest future?

The trajectory of contemporary art, from the late1950s until now, is for me the story of art becoming the public program, and the other way around. We have seen phenomena such as the invention of curatorship, performance, participatory and generative arts, public art, land art… For me they are all ways in which art has been moving towards outside of the four walls of institutions. The public program remains that little part of the budget dedicated to education, whereas the “serious stuff” is still what happens in the exhibition itself, but I think that will be soon very different. We see already with 2020’s and the current restrictions to public access to exhibitions spaces things taking new shapes. Although there are tremendous efforts to implement VR environments and online repositories that essentially recreate spaces and the art world as we know, I have hopes that an inevitable emancipation is occurring under the current circumstances, and radio, in its complex and heterogeneous materiality and cultural manifestations is a great vehicle to flow vigorously in this powerful stream.
Workshop Berlin-Lagos Residency 2020 © Monai de Paula Antunes
5. At the joint window exhibition titled Transpositioning On Air Processing Archives held at SAVVY Contemporary, did the public response meet your expectations, and what were these expectations?
I think Transpositioning On Air: Processing Archives was the title of the radio show in two parts that SAVVYZAAR (SAVVY’s radio) broadcast featuring me and Afope, namely, the artist-in-residence (very kind of them to include me, by the way). The window exhibition was called INSIDE/OUT: Processing Archives. I think the public response was greater than I could expect, the timing and format of the exhibition were a real gift and I spent many hours of the short period of the exhibition documenting and observing – it was really inspiring and I felt realized to have been able to offer something to the people walking by and connecting online, as well as for promoting sounds and voices from Lagos into the streets of Berlin.

6. What has been your challenges doing a radio project through a digital residency? What has been your best moments and what does the distance mean to you?
As my residence went from taking place in Lagos - Nigeria to happening digitally (a lot from my home with two small children), it obviously took a whole different shape than I expected. I was lucky my project was from the beginning about experimental radio-making, also incorporating elements from social media. It was easy to adapt it to a remote format and the biggest challenge was to engage people on participating without the direct contact. A series of workshops was thought in order to raise people’s enthusiasm towards the project and radio-making in general, and definitely the most difficult part of the experience was to talk and share knowledge to a crowd without knowing much of their interests and backgrounds and having little interactions due to the online format. I would suggest that in another occasion, even if I am connected to the audience via Internet, some or most of the participants are gathered in the same space to attend to the program, and not each one individually from their personal devices.
The fact that SAVVY Contemporary in Berlin – which was not essentially committed to the development of my residence – embraced my circumstances and my project improved significantly the residency altogether. By offering me the possibility to exhibit together with Afopefoluwa Ojo, SAVVY gave me some chance of physical exchange and the great opportunity to have an embodied outcome of the work developed in collaboration with 16/16 and the people of Lagos.
7. We all are certain—to varying extents—the future of archives lies in modern technology, what do you think are the limitations to this inevitability?
People should keep in mind questions of navigation, space, distribution. Even if modern technology automatizes processes, enhance accessibility, expand memory… we should continue to reflect on how experience connects information and how sometimes malicious or tendentious fundaments of distribution take whole worlds into one direction. There must be a diversity on models upon which technology is developed, otherwise we continue to neglect stories, no matter how sophisticated and all-embracing our archives become.