From Longhouse to Highrise: The Course of Empire
Dele Adeyemo

A woman, dressed in a pantsuit resembling a disco ball, stands on a plinth. Spotlit, she is performing for an audience in a darkened environment.

Dele Adeyemo, Detail of From Longhouse to Highrise: The Course of Empire, 2023. Courtesy the artist.

Link to the artwork: https://longhousetohighrise.github.io/

From the vantage of the coloniser, the course of empire flows overwhelmingly in the direction of progress and enlightenment. The expropriations and divisions of land find justification in the myth of a linear path of development that is deeply ingrained in the Western psyche and the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves.

This imaginary is epitomised by the American landscape painter Thomas Cole’s series The Course of Empire, 1833–36, that illustrates five phases in the progress of civilisation: The Savage State, The Arcadian or Pastoral State, The Consummation of Empire, Destruction, and Desolation. The series reveals a paranoid fantasy that lies deeper still, that civilisation is accompanied by destruction. History must follow inescapable phases of development—a self-fulfilling prophecy that will inevitably leads to catastrophe.

The university campus, the shining beacon of the enlightenment institution in North America, perhaps more than any developed geography, highlights the complexities of this historic narrative. In the United States in the nineteenth century, millions of acres of Indigenous land were sold to endow fledgling land-grant universities. The territory of North York followed a different history and yet it too bears witness to the teleological imaginary of the land as it was violently transitioned from a home to First Nations Peoples such as the Huron-Wendat, to a site of settler agricultural production, through to its position as the location of the higher education institution of York University. This project is a critical response to the fiction of linear development contained in the origin story of North York contained in the publication From Longhouse to Highrise: Pioneering in our corner of North York.

Through this territory, we are asked to consider what it means to be caught in the course of empire? The project comprises a multidimensional archive of space; a sonic soundscape containing voices from within and in proximity to the university campus paired with architectural projections of the territory reveal the entangled histories of the land, development, and resistance to the catastrophe of empire.

— Dele Adeyemo

 

Dele AdeyemoDele Adeyemo is a Scottish / Nigerian artist, architect, and critical urban theorist based in London and Lagos. Dele’s research and creative practice explore the architectures of racial capitalism and the contemporary lifeworlds that exist in their midst. Paying tribute to the radical acts of everyday Black life in Africa and the diaspora through drawing, film, sculpture and installation design, Dele constitutes a trans-disciplinary praxis that encompasses these embodied cultures of movement and their circulation to mobilise what he calls “the Black radical spatial imaginary.”

Dele’s projects have been presented at the 18th Venice Architecture Biennale, 2023; the 13th International Architecture Biennale of Sao Paulo, 2022; the 5th Istanbul Design Biennial, 2020; and the 2nd Edition of the Lagos Biennial, 2019. Most recently, he has presented the solo exhibitions Licor-Mãe, 2023, at Sismógrafo, Porto; Residues of the Sweet Purge, 2023, at Capel da Boa Viagem, Funchal; and Wey Dey Move, 2022, at the Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam.

Dele is the recipient of the inaugural JAE Fellowship, the Canadian Centre for Architecture & Andrew Mellon Fellowship, and Het Nieuwe Instituut’s Research Fellowship. Dele was awarded a CHASE-AHRC scholarship for his PhD doctorate entitled “Last Dark Continent,” which he is currently completing at the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

 

Dele Adeyemo, From Longhouse to Highrise: The Course of Empire, 2023, is commissioned by the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU), Toronto and curated by Felicia Mings, curator.

The AGYU’s digital art commissions are generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts through its Digital Strategy Fund.

 

See also

Digital Art Program Stream

Digital Art Program Stream
commissioned series
2023 +

From Longhouse to Highrise: The Course of Empire

From Longhouse to Highrise: The Course of Empire
digital commission
2023

The Tourist

The Tourist
digital commission
2023

Zhang and Jama in conversation

Zhang and Jama in conversation
conversation
29 Sep 2023

Trans-epistemic Mapping: Dele Adeyemo

Trans-epistemic Mapping: Dele Adeyemo
Streams~
1 Oct 2022

Circulation and Hybridity

Circulation and Hybridity
Panel discussion
15 Dec 2020

Frameworks and Futures

Frameworks and Futures
panel discussion
10 Dec 2020

Tabita Rezaire

Tabita Rezaire
conversation
10 Dec 2020

Toolmaking

Toolmaking
panel discussion
24 Nov 2020

When all my friends are online at once

When all my friends are online at once
keynote lecture
17 Nov 2020

… this is not made of language but energy

… this is not made of language but energy
discussion series
Fall 2020

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