- Cambridge, USA
Igùn is an ongoing investigation into a 17-year artistic decline (1897-1914) in Benin Kingdom—following the 1897 British colonial invasion. During the invasion, British colonial officers torched Benin city, deposed the Oba (King), stole over 3000 cultural objects from the royal palace, shipped the objects off to England for sale to private and institutional collectors. The 1897 invasion ushered in an interregnum (1897-1914) which was characterized by an artistic decline, because the absence of an Oba (also considered “the sole commissioner of the arts”) would have limited the amount of commissions available to artists. As a consequence, most Benin artists sought out other occupations in satellite towns, outside Benin City.
Although post-invasion colonial reports allude to an “already thriving tourist industry” precipitated by increased colonial patronage, there is currently a dearth of visual documentation to identify objects created during the 17-year artistic decline (1897-1914).
To visualize objects that could have been created during this era, synthetic prototypes were generated using a StyleGAN trained on a dataset of looted Benin bronzes. Prototypes IV and V were exhibited at Curatorial A(i)gents.