Frieze: Zak Ové, The Mothership Connection, 2021
Presented by Gallery 1957
British Trinidadian artist Zak Ové pays tribute to African and Trinidadian identities through the cross-cultural dispersion of ideas and the reinterpretation of lost cultures and mythology through the repurposing or reimagining of modern and second-hand found materials. Working with ideas around the emancipation of self through the culture of carnival and masquerade, Ové explores themes of storytelling and their ability to convey and reframe history, myth and legend.
The Mothership Connection reinterprets old-world artisan culture, interweaving elements of Pacific Northwest Totem making with architectural features that reference buildings where the contribution of slaves and indentured labour to their creation is remembered and honoured as part of an important multi-racial interlacing of histories that make up modern-day society.
The future is a common theme in Ové’s work, often depicted through ideas of space travel or a circular return from a point of departure, and through Afrofuturism. The Totem has a construction akin to a rocket, a future vehicle for Afrofuturist space travel and references the knowledge of the Dogon tribe and their unique relationship with outer space.
The base references the Djenné mud mosque of Mali, the trunk is adorned with luminous tribal masks and etched Veve symbols, as found within African Diasporic culture in Haiti. Near the top, the sculpture’s shape and design change to echo masonic architecture with columns and triangles appearing along with a ring of Cadillac lights in reference to Western design and consumerism. The penultimate layer takes elements of Washington’s Capitol building with its arches grouped around a sphere. The head of the Totem is a super-sized female Mende tribal mask with internal permeating lighting. The Totem is bestowed with a radiant pulse and heartbeat, becoming a literal and figurative beacon to the future.
About the artist
Zak Ové (b. 1966, London) is a British Caribbean artist with a multi-disciplinary practice across sculpture, film and photography. His work is informed through the history and lore carried through the African diaspora to the Caribbean, Britain and beyond, with particular focus on traditions of masking and masquerade as a tool of self-emancipation. Ové’s artworks explore the interplay between old world mythology and ‘potential futures’, a space where he reinterprets present existence into the fantastical. His work is a celebration of the power of play and the spirit of imagination in the blurring of edges between reality and possibility. In this way, Ové seeks to re-write a history for the future through heralding the past in a new light. Ové’s work features in a number of museum and private collections. He curated the acclaimed exhibition ‘GET UP STAND UP NOW: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers’ (London, 2019).