David Uzochukwu In The Wake
I have a recurring daydream. Bodiless, I float in outer space and watch from a distance as the sun swallows up the Earth. Everything that has ever breathed or been built now burns away. I recognize the thrumming of life just before it returns to its disintegrated and silent state of origin. The dream is a strangely calm chance of recognition of all that would have been worth saving.
Similarly, I am drawn to moments of reflection in my photographs. With self portraiture as starting point, my aim is to recognize myself in others, and to have them see themselves in me. IN THE WAKE in particular speaks of destruction and rebirth. Digitally stripping places from clear historic and geographic markers, and bodies from the confines of their social reality, I imagine what core remains when layers of our everyday are dissolved one by one.
With characters visually submersed in landscapes, separation between their inside and outside melts away. Vulnerability permeates it all. Webs of dark smoke up in the air and deep in one’s lungs: in the words of Judith Butler, the potential of being hurt is an undeniable connection between humans and other ecosystems, one that can and should not be overcome. The strength in being fundamentally endangered is an intrinsic entanglement that calls into question ideas of one neatly defined self. Rather, every self expands into its relations to its environment.
The series is also informed by reflections on the construction of nature – and how tales of its entanglement with bodies have been as romanticized as dangerous. What is this ideal state supposedly preceding culture? Who profits from the idea of untouched wilderness - and thus of the opposing concept of civilization? How has it assisted the construction of Blackness and the exploitation of what is perceived as other? How can Black people think of themselves as complete outside a white matrix, when we are constantly tethered by social reality, and thrown back onto images of Blackness conjured by whiteness? If the fire’s touch has seeped beneath skin, how can you escape it?
IN THE WAKE is set after the blaze, and refers to a space in which these constraints have been left behind. Through fantasy, I want to visualize that bodies and their environments extend into each other, and that being fundamentally hurt and fundamentally whole are not mutually exclusive states for either of them – they hold intrinsic worth. Soot drifts through the air, sticks to skin, mingles with Blackness. Yet, the figure in A Hollow Burn floats far above the fire. The character in Wildfire has long inhaled it, the fire will continue to burn within and dark whips adorn their head – but their gaze is propelled forward, meets the viewer. None of us should have to burn. Since we do, let the ashes paint a clear picture of our belonging. Everybody is a means of the universe to witness itself.
About the artist
David Uzochukwu is an Austrian and Nigerian artist. Growing up in Luxembourg and Belgium, Uzochukwu delved into self portraiture at age thirteen, and began developing a largely digital practice. It lead to vivid collaborations with artists FKA twigs and Iris van Herpen among others, as well as a commission for the World Wildlife Fund. Their self portrait series A FAMILIAR RUIN was included in group show Dey Your Lane! at Bozar (2016). Further exhibitions include Photo Vogue Festival (2018, 2019), and The New Black Vanguard at Rencontres d’Arles (2021). Uzochukwu was nominated for an ICP Infinity Award in 2019, and named „One to Watch“ by British Journal of Photography the following year. Uzochukwu’s first short film, GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG, premiered at Max-Ophüls-Preis in 2021, while their first film installation is in development at CPH:DOX’s lab. Uzochukwu is based in Berlin, pursuing a BA in Philosophy and Cultural Studies.
Sally Mann, Blackwater, 2008-2012
Fabrice Monteiro, The Prophecy, 2013 - 2020
Rinko Kawauchi, Hanabi, 2001
Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Wonder Beirut, 1998-2006
Lisa Oppenheim, Smoke, 2021
Daisuke Yokota, Matter / Burn Out, 2016
Carla Rippey, Immolation, 2009-2019
Christian Marclay, Fire, 2020
Brent Stirton, Burns Capital Of The World, 2013
David Uzochukwu, In The Wake, 2015-2020
Mark Ruwedel, LA Fires, 2017-2020
Mak Remissa, Left 3 Days, 2014