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Sam Keogh, Lagos Biennale 2024

Sam Keogh is included in the 4th Lagos Biennale. Themed REFUGE, Lagos Biennial 2024 addresses the concept of the nation-state and critically reflects on the exhibition site, Tafawa Balewa Square.

The 4th edition of the Lagos Biennial takes place in the heart of Lagos on the grounds of Tafawa Balewa Square, a site named in honour of the first Nigerian Prime Minister. The venue hosted Nigerian independence celebrations in 1960 and was a key site for the Festival of Black Arts and Culture FESTAC ’77, notably hosting a concert of the great musician and activist Miriam Makeba. The Biennial occupies this historical space, linked to entertainment in the colonial period as a racecourse and to political, cultural and commercial events after Independence, to reflect on its possible meanings concerning political allegiance, territory, sovereignty, regionality, notions of belonging, encounter, and alliance. It moves the cursor away from a history of ‘universal’ exhibitions and biennials towards experiments in non-conventional modes of exhibition making, shifting from the idea of the work as an end towards generative models and prototypes that continue to activate possibilities in the world.

Curated by Egyptian art historian and educator Sarah Rifky and Lagos Biennial’s co-artistic director Kathryn Weir, CAPTCHA will reflect on the strategies of taking refuge in plain sight. 

The exhibition will include Keogh's video work 'The Island' (2021), in which his avatar leads the viewer through the technicolour cartoon dreamscapes of the massive online video game Fortnite. 

In the game, 100 players are parachuted onto a deserted island where they must scramble for resources and fight to the death, a task made more urgent by ‘The Storm’. The last one alive is the winner. The whole island sits in the eye of this storm which incrementally contracts, forcing players into confrontations with each other. Keogh’s narration draws connections between the game’s mechanics and the environmental impacts of its increasing membership. As islands and archipelagos around the globe, which still today evoke a colonial imaginary of pristine and uninhabited nature, are threatened by rising sea levels and ever more frequent extreme weather events, Fortnite’s popularity continues to rise. As a result, the game’s infrastructure grows, and ever greater numbers of dedicated banks of servers are stacked into the data centres which are now often built into artificial floating islands off the coastlines of northern Europe. While millions of online gamers on ‘The Island’ hit ‘play again’ to test their individualist survival skills in the face of climate collapse, ‘real life’ outside increasingly replicates its dynamics as eco-fascist, survivalist positions gain currency.


Sam Keogh, The Island (still), film, 28 minutes, 41 seconds

Sam Keogh, The Island (still), film, 28 minutes, 41 seconds