Ufuoma Essi, Is My Living in Vain, 2023 / Courtesy of the artist © Magasin CNAC /⁠ Photo Pascale Cholette
Ufuoma Essi: Is My Living in Vain
Apr 7 – Oct 1, 2023
Magasin CNAC
Grenoble, France

Is My Living In Vain is the title given by Ufuoma Essi to her first solo exhibition in France. The British artist, whose work is mainly in the form of videos, films, photographs and sounds, invites the public of the Magasin CNAC  into an immersive installation with a religious atmosphere dedicated to his eponymous film, the most recent and the most ambitious to date.

Is My Living In Vain offers a look at the history and emancipatory potential of the Black Church as a space of belonging, affirmation and collective organization of the diaspora. Archive images, oral histories and shots filmed between Philadelphia and London are superimposed on the screen in a tangled thread of personal and shared memories. The film celebrates the performativity of black bodies in congregational settings and examines the sonic, political, spiritual and existential connections between two communities separated by the Atlantic.

Begun in 2017, while the artist was living in Philadelphia, this project emerges from ongoing research into the histories of performance across the Black Atlantic (translated from The Black Atlantic, a term borrowed from author Paul Gilroy). Ufuoma Essi transcribes her view of the rituality of gatherings in black churches across South London, where she was born and raised, and in West Philadelphia, where she found her vocation as a filmmaker.

This personal exhibition continues and bounces back on themes that the artist addresses in the film All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2019), exhibited at the Magasin in La Position de l’Amour, where collective experience and singing appear as modes of resistance, of repair, in the history of black feminisms.

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