I won‘t dance, don‘t ask me

The island club, Limassol
20.10.23 - 18.11.23

Mixed media on waxed envelopes 

The last interview, oil on canvas, 23x18cm

I know that music leads the way to romance
So if I hold you in my arms, I won’t dance
And that’s why I won’t dance, why should I?
I won’t dance, how could I?
I won’t dance, merci beaucoup
I won’t dance, Fred Astaire, 1935

In the framework of Limassol Art Walks 2023, The Island Club presents I won’t dance, don’t ask me, a solo exhibition by Annabelle Agbo Godeau.

Through a constellation of paintings on waxed paper envelopes, the exhibition negotiates the notion of “racial ambiguity” and its correlation with gender, focusing on the concept of “passing” and connected racist trope of the “tragic mulatta”: a female character of ambiguous racial background who “passes as white”, developing a conflicted sense of identity and eventually meeting an unfortunate, or even tragic, fate.

The classification of people and populations of mixed ethnic and racial backgrounds has evolved differently around the world, often in connection with the institution of slavery. The southern US states, Caribbean islands and several Latin American countries developed distinct terminologies for referring to people with mixed ethnic and racial backgrounds, and some of these terms were exported to Europe, often with pejorative connotations. Such classifications have also been codified in literature and film through various fictional tropes, most prominently that of the “tragic mulatta”. Tracing back to 19th-century American literature and making a key appearance in books such as Nella Larsen’s Passing (1924), the trope is most famously employed in film in John M. Stahl’s Imitation of Life (1934) and its subsequent remake by Douglas Sirk (1959).

Imitation of Life comprises Annabelle Agbo Godeau’s primary reference in the new series of paintings presented in I won’t dance, don’t ask me—a patchwork of images and text which, rather than aspiring towards a clear understanding of what it means to be “in-between”, seek out a multitude of ways of dealing with the quest of defining oneself.

La théorie du cygne noir

Galerie Hussot - La cuisine, Paris
03.12 - 14.01.2023

Container (1), Oil on PVC, 200x130cm

Container (2), Oil on PVC, 200x130cm

Ziegfeld, Oil on canvas, 22x14cm

La théorie du cygne noir, développée par Nissam Taleb, s’applique à un événement hautement improbable, défini par trois caractéristiques principales : Il est imprévisible ; il a un impact important et ce n’est qu’après son avènement que l’on tente de lui apposer une explication qui le rationalise.

« Before the discovery of Australia, people in the Old World were convinced that all swans were white, an unassailable belief as it seemed completely confirmed by empirical evidence. The sighting of the first black swan might have been an interesting surprise for a few ornithologists (and others extremely concerned with the coloring of birds), but that is not where the significance of the story lies. It illustrates a severe limitation to our learning from observations or experience and the fragility of our knowledge. One single observation can invalidate a general statement derived from millennia of confirmatory sightings of millions of white swans. All you need is one single (and, I am told, quite ugly) black bird.»1

Les oeuvres présentées dans La théorie du cygne noir proposent deux scénarios ambigus. Sont représentés ici un objet et un geste a priori ordinaires qui se métamorphosent à travers le geste pictural. Certaines parties de l’appareil de plongée prennent un aspect calligraphique, d’autres se muent en formes anatomiques. De manière similaire, l’ombre chinoise du cygne dépasse son initiateur pour prendre une vie propre et dérouter le regard.

1 Nissam Taleb, The Black Swan : The Impact of the Highly Improbable, 2007

8th Biennial of paintg : The ‘t’ is Silent

curated by Gaby Ngobo and Oscar Murillo
Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle

Catfish, oil on PVC, 230x130cm

Red herring, oil on PVC, 100x90cm

Irma Vep, oil on PVC, 230x130cm

Color chart, oil on PVC, 200x130cm

Painting, historically regarded as the ‘royal road’ of artistic practice, has over the centuries meant that the art form, alongside drawing, served as a foundation for artistic education, where such education was available. The history of western art pedagogy in colonised places across the world often reveals that the colonial government’s rule was indirectly played out in how formal artistic pedagogies were organised. The recent calls for decolonial education around the world – fuelled by the Black Lives Matter and other affiliated movements, as well as the pandemic – have inspired reconsiderations of the human condition and the politics of care. At the same time, these social movements have coincided with a new rise in representational painting that has been critiqued, in the words of artist Olu Oguibe, as “jolly, no-worries, all sunshine and flowers, ebullient wealthy middle-class representation of Blackness...

The ‘t’ is Silent
operates adjacent to this renewed emergence. Departing from the work of Jenny Montigny in MDD’s collection and Oscar Murillo’s Disrupted Frequencies, this exhibition focuses on artists and works that record time differently, works that are about painting or that think through the medium of painting as a form of journaling – of working things through and of learning anew.

“The artists featured in this exhibition face history and the present by embracing ‘trouble’ and a kind of ‘paining’ that forces one to decide, in a time marked indecision. Where objects disappear, they are replaced by feelings and energy; where they appear they are being dissected in order to uncover another world of possibilities.” – Gabi Ngcobo

Too good to be true

JVDW, Düsseldorf
08.12.22 – 31.12.22

A work of fiction, Oil on canvas, 60x50cm

The repentant Magdalena, Oil on canvas, 60x50cm

The Venus effect, Oil on canvas, 60x50cm

Paola, Oil on canvas, 60x50cm

Gender Reveal, Oil on canvas, 38x28cm

Too good to be true (1), Oil on canvas, 23x18cm

Point of terror (1971), Oil on canvas, 23x18cm

Mon oeil, Oil on canvas, 23x18cm

Inferno, Oil on canvas, 23x18cm

Peeping, Oil on canvas, 100x80cm

Hausu, Oil on canvas, 100x80cm

Old erotic magazines from the 60s and 70s, movies, extracted film stills and found footage serve as the basis and source of inspiration for her paintings. Being drawn to very staged and artificial appearing images and scenes, it is no surprise that the color blue remains dominant in many of her paintings. Her choice of colors mainly represents the night and artificial light, creating a cinematographic atmosphere that can easily be associated with a certain kind of loneliness and mysterious mood.

Godeau’s work circulate around ideas of femininity and identity, challenging the terms as the clearly defined binary concepts that society views them as. The paintings for Too good to be true deal with the perception of the other and the act of self-dramatization, resulting from consumed content and learned ideals. Whether it is a painting of a woman literally trying to wash out her eyes from the advertising and images she has consumed, or a painting of a piece of paper with a catchy slogan aimed at selling photographs of women—Godeau holds up a mirror to society with a humorous wink, questioning its notion of femininity and womanhood and critiquing the truncated portrayal of women in the mass media, which often reduces them to something consumable.

By citing these images, playing with clichés and placing them in new contexts and relations, Godeau also reflects on her own gendered gaze and interest in the representation of women and invites the viewer to do the same.

– Amira Hartmann

Die eiserne Hand

Alexandra Romy Gallery, Zürich
15.09 - 13.11.2021

How do you want her ?, Huile sur toile, 130x100cm

Die eiserne hand, Huile sur toile, 130x100cm

Destination finale, Huile sur toile, 100x75cm

Proper insertion, Huile sur toile, 16x24cm

Prothese, Huile sur toile, 24x16cm

Sans titre, Huile sur toile, 24x16cm

Good hygiene, Huile sur toile, 16x24cm

Photos : Philip Frowein

Die Eiserne Hand

1. In 1504, the German knight Götz von Berlichningen lost his right arm at the wrist during the siege of the city of Landshut. Through the thirty years following his incident, he got two iron hands built for him. The second one was an intricate prosthesis with articulated joints and bending wrist which needed to be activated with his good hand. This complex handicraft was a referance in early modern medicine in the 19th century.

2. The first wearable contact lenses were developed in 1888 by a German ophthalmologist. Made of glass, they could only be worn for a few hours at a time. The technology evolved through the 20th century finding its breakthrough in the invention of soft lenses in 1959. Improper wearing and lack of hygiene can lead to various cornea infections.

3. In the 1940’s, doctors discovered that contact lenses could be used to reshape the cornea to tempo- rarily reduce myopia. Orthokeratology is the technique in which the user wears a special lens which lightly presses the cornea in the correct shape for focused vision, the corrective effect lasting up to 72 hours. It became accessible in the 1990s.

4. An early pregnancy test protocol was invented in 1927: it consisted in injecting a woman’s urine into an immature rat so see if the animal had a resulting hormonal reaction. It’s forty years later that the first home pregnancy test was created by Margaret Crane and commercialized under the name Predictor. Looking like a miniature chemistry test, it required two hours of waiting for results with a 20% chance of false negative.

5. Final Destination is series of movies where the characters are the victims of a death curse and die one by one in various coincidental accidents where some neutral actions pile up and lead to disaster. In the third opus, two young women get trapped in overheating tanning beds and burn alive inside them.

6. In 1836, Caroline Eichler, a German inventor, upgraded the iron hand from Götz von Berlichningen to make the first hand prothesis that could be moved without the help of the other hand. She got murdered six years later by her ex-husband at the age of 34.

7.Margaret Crane never got money for her invention, and it’s only in 2012 that she got recognition.

8. The ‘tanning salon death’ is a trope which appeared as well as in early urban legend as in previous low budget horror movies. It’s used as a morality tale directly aimed at women about beauty and vanity.

9. Every night before going to bed, I wash my hands and carefully put on a red lens on my right eye and a blue one on the left. On the morning I take them out with a little sucking tool and spend the day having my eyeballs returning to their myopic, oblong shape. During the night I see more clearly than during the day.

Annabelle Agbo Godeau