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Ekene Ijeoma. Photo by Kris Graves.
Ekene Ijeoma. Photo by Kris Graves.

November 9, 2020, 6:00 pm

Speaker: Ekene Ijeoma
Respondent: Dayna Cunningham

During this lecture, Ekene Ijeoma will explore new forms of justice through art.

Ekene Ijeoma is an artist, professor at MIT, and the founder and director of the Poetic Justice group at MIT Media Lab. Through both his studio and lab at MIT, Ijeoma researches social inequality across multiple fields including social science to develop artworks in sound, video, multimedia, sculpture and installation. Working from data studies and life experiences, and using both computational design and conceptual art strategies, he reframes social issues through artworks that embody and empower overlooked truths within systems of oppression.

Current works in development by Ijeoma and his lab Poetic Justice include A Counting, a series of phone and internet based artworks, and Black Mobility and Safety in the US, a series of public lectures, conversations, and panels. A Counting is an ongoing series of video-based and sound-based voice portraits of US cities which explore the linguistic and ethnic inequality in the US Census by counting to a hundred with a different language for each number. In Summer 2020, three editions were launched for New York City, Houston and Omaha in partnership with the Museum of the City of New York, Brooklyn Public Library, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and Bemis Center for Contemporary Art.

Black Mobility and Safety is a two-semester public series launched in Fall 2020 at MIT Media Lab, that explores the systemic inequalities of living while Black in the US. The series includes lectures and panels on birthing, breathing, sleeping, eating, and walking (Fall 2020 semester); and learning, voting, driving, working, and loving (Spring 2020 semester). Guests for the Fall 2020 semester include Hank Willis Thomas (Artist), Hugh Hayden (Artist), Professor Arline Geronimus (University of Michigan), Professor Cooper Owens (University of Nebraska-Lincoln), Marcus Franklin (Environmental Advocate), Linda Villarosa (New York Times), Tricia Hersey (The Nap Ministry), Professor Ashanté M. Reese (UTA), Omar Tate (Honeysuckle), Professor Elijah Anderson (Yale), and Topher Sanders (ProPublica).

In 2018, Ijeoma presented Pan African AIDS as part of Germ City at the Museum of the City of New York. The commissioned series of sculptures explores the hypervisibility of the AIDS epidemic in Africa and the hidden one in Black America by morphing the image of Africa into America at the rate of HIV infections in Black America. In 2017, Day for Night Festival commissioned Deconstructed Anthems, an ongoing series of sound-reactive installations and music performances that explore the inequality in the American Dream by repeating and removing notes from the “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the rate of mass incarceration in America. The work was later presented at the Kennedy Center and the Arts Club of Chicago.

His work has been commissioned and presented by museums, galleries and other cultural institutions including Contemporary Art Museum of Houston (Beyond CAMH, ‘20), The Kennedy Center (Heartfelt, ‘19; Arts Summit, D.C, ‘17), Museum of the City of New York (Who We Are, ‘19; Germ City, ‘18), Arts Club of Chicago (Deconstructed Anthems, ‘19), Fondation EDF (123 Data, ‘18), Pratt Manhattan Gallery (You are Here ‘17), Neuberger Museum of Art (Landed, ‘16), Annenberg Space for Photography (New Americas, ‘16), Museum of Modern Art (Design and Violence, ‘15), Design Museum London (Designs of the Year, 15), Istanbul Design Biennial (‘15), and Storefront for Art and Architecture (Measure, ‘15).

Ijeoma’s practice has also been supported by grants, fellowships and residencies including Creative Capital (‘19), Map Fund (‘19), Wave Farm (Media Arts Assistance Fund, ‘18), The Kennedy Center (Citizen Artist, ‘17), Santa Fe Art Institute (Equal Justice, ‘17), California College of the Arts (Vibrant Cities, ‘17), Urban Design Forum (Forefront, ‘17), New York Foundation for the Arts (Architecture/Environmental Structures/Design ‘16), New Museum (Ideas City Detroit, ‘16).

He’s been featured in What Can Design Do’s 31 Designers Fighting for a Better World, GOOD’s GOOD 100 “tackling pressing global issues,” Adweek’s Creative 100 “visual artist whose imagination and intellect will inspire you,” and GDUSA’s People to Watch “who embody the spirit of the creative community.”

Ijeoma graduated with a BS in Information Technology from Rochester Institute of Technology and an MA in Interaction Design from Domus Academy. He has lectured and critiqued at schools including Yale, Harvard Law School, Columbia, New York University, School of Visual Arts, and The New School.