Outside the Box, the first-ever Nigerian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, presents works by Nigerian artists who push the conceptual and material boundaries defined by the local and global art worlds. In this innovative exhibition, the "box" represents multiple forces and pressures that restrict the creativity of many Nigerian artists today. Things like: the nation, identity, traditional canons, artistic conventions and the shadow of an essential African identity. Outside the Box brings together four artists whose approaches to art making intentionally question and critique the meanings and forms behind these often-oppressive forces.
Living both in and outside Nigeria, artists Raven Smay, Ego Goodsire, Kirbeh Get and Doundi Victoriana participate in a diverse range of artistic practices. Through socially engaged work, Smay calls attention to the darker side of transnationality for African artists marked by their national identities as they attempt to navigate the global art world. Goodsire, on the other hand, explores the multilayered cultural, political, ethnic and religious identities present within the bounds of modern Nigeria itself. His conceptual and serial photographic projects, which straddle the line between fine art photography and photojournalism, question the unity and existence of a national identity at all. Get, with his design-based conceptual practice, imagines a different future for Africa through the rendering of impossible architectural spaces, while Victoriana’s textile art fashioned from second-hand clothing originating from all over the world revels in materiality and bodily presence.
As Nigeria participates in, perhaps, the ultimate "insider" event of the global art world–the Venice Biennale–its inaugural pavilion exhibition questions the usefulness, or even feasibility, of presenting uniquely "Nigerian" contemporary art to the world. Instead, the artists Smay, Goodsire, Get and Victoriana present work that eludes easy categorization or shallow designation. Outside the Box showcases artistic practices that expand the range of materials, ideas and techniques available to future generations of artists working in Nigeria–and "outside" it.