In his projects, Leo Asemota often presents photography, moving image, performance, sculpture and drawings in sequential progressions that evolve throughout the duration of an exhibition. Since 2005, the artist has been working on The Ens Project, a multifaceted work that examines the Kingdom of Benin and the Edo people’s rich culture of art and ceremony. The Edo’s time-honoured annual Igue rite of the head; Victorian Britain’s history of invention, exploration and conquest; the British sacking and looting of the former Kingdom of Benin; and the essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by the German theorist Walter Benjamin have all formed a part of his study.
Expanding on this triangulation of culture, history and reason, Asemota travelled to Benin City to observe the Igue rite and its subtleties as a stimulus for ideas that could push his project further. The Intrinsic Tendency of The Ens Sign (2019) is a multimedia installation comprised of drawings, photographs, sculptures and eventually a video work. Evolving over the duration of the biennial, the ‘live’ artwork will start with drawings and sculptures presented on pedestals reminiscent of the richly embellished carved wooden agba ceremonial stools from the Kingdom of Benin. Following the presentation of these works will be a filmed performance by The Handmaiden, described by the artist as a creative being and the central figure in The Ens Project. The Handmaiden has appeared once in a live work at The Tanks at Tate Modern (2012), using the avatar of Sir Giles Gilbert-Scott, the architect who built the Bankside Power Station, now Tate Modern. Prominent materials used in the artwork include orhue (kaolin chalk), coral, palm oil and calfskin vellum; crude oil from the UAE will be introduced for the SB14 project.