Academic journal article African Studies Review

Fold Crumple Crush: The Art of El Anatsui

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Fold Crumple Crush: The Art of El Anatsui

Article excerpt

Susan Vogel, dir. Fold Crumple Crush: The Art of El Anatsui. 2011. 53 minutes plus 28 minutes of shorts. English. U.S. Icarus Films. $29.98.

Fold Crumple Crush: The Art of El Anatsui, written and directed by the scholar, curator, filmmaker, and photographer Susan Vogel, offers an intimate look into the life of the Ghanaian/Nigerian visual artist El Anatsui. The film features interviews and commentary from him, his colleagues, and collaborators. There are also ample scenes of the ordinary daily activities of this highly celebrated artist, whose work is known internationally. In addition to the featured documentary the video offers twenty-eight minutes of eight shorts that offer more focused and condensed versions of the larger film and are perhaps ideal for use in a classroom setting.

The film opens in Venice, with Anatsui talking with others about the many people who were needed to help him produce the piece that is to hang at the front of the Palazzo Fortuny during one of its Biennales. It then takes the viewer with Anatsui as he walks along a dirt road in Nsukka, Nigeria, where he has lived since he was twenty-nine years old. The first segment, titled "Back to Nsukka," also includes scenes of Anatsui choosing materials for his artwork from a number of places, including tire shops and the local alcohol distillery, making phone calls, visiting an Internet café, and being photographed along with his creations by a British photographer. These scenes feature voiceovers from Anatsui and his colleagues from the University of Nigeria/ Nsukka, where he teaches, and are also interspersed with shots of Anatusi's creations hanging in galleries and close-ups of the works. The resultant composition makes for a rich display of movement, mirroring Anatsui's description of his personal life as characterized by displacement and nomadism.

The second section, "Into the Studio," is devoted to interviews with Anatsui's studio manager and assistants, who talk about working with him as well as the details of the designs that they produce in a kind of piecework fashion. The viewer learns the names of several of the individual patterns that will contribute to the final tableaus and witnesses, for example, the painstaking assembling of sections made from gin bottle caps that Anatsui collects from local distilleries. Finally, it shows Anatsui directing the arrangements of different blocks of patterns into a tableau that will be reworked until the artist is satisfied that it is ready for public display. …

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