Oh what a feeling, aw, fuck it, I want a Trillion
by Awol Erizku
Seven hoops to shoot at once, pinned sturdily to the wall behind. They do not waft down with gravity, but suggest the upward propulsion of the ball teetering at their pinnacle. This sporty column may be read as a sculpture crafted from found objects, its meaning extending beyond the game that begot them: a holy waterfall of weeping halos, or Miss Havisham’s disintegrating, holey veil. But these hoops are fashioned carefully; their plaits are gold-plated, the spoiling textile glitteringly encased.
Whatever inferences we make, it is difficult to ignore the hoops’ suggested trajectory. The nets chart the imagined development of knee-high toddler to towering all-star, trading in a miniature backyard backboard for a full-sized court, and banking a trillion – dollars, points, fans – along the way. Yet the implausible number suggests that the gilded lace is a mirage, teasing us with an unrealisable glory. The faltering cadences of the work's full title recount multiple attempts at shots across different times and places, the broken syntax hurling the echoes of the sports arena back to us in syncopation.
Words by Elizabeth Brown
Oh what a feeling takes its title from a line in ‘Picasso Baby’, a typically braggadocio track by Jay-Z. The rapper namechecks a group of artistic heavyweights, boasting that he has both the cash to afford their work and the creative talent to rival it. In a nod to Da Vinci, his bravado is packaged up in a bipartite structure divided according to the golden ratio. One instance of homophonous wordplay involves the popping of ‘cannons’, slang for handguns, and/or the shutter-snapping of a branded camera. By setting his paparazzi-plagued present alongside past violence, Jay-Z constructs a pair of parallel narratives, of missed opportunities and hoop dreams.
Awol Erizku’s Oh what a feeling pops canons of yet another kind, making a sport out of subverting art history. Donald Judd’s stacked slats are knowingly referenced and cheekily redesigned. Where Judd would opt for an even ten, Erizku goes for lucky seven. Where Judd would seek equality for his identical objects, the downward motion implicit in Oh what a feeling creates a hierarchy. Erizku snubs autonomy and purity, giving us several nets of cultural references to fall through. The aim is not to wrong-foot us, but to celebrate ambiguity and interpretation. Just as we admire the skill of Jay-Z’s puns, we may share the satisfaction of Erizku’s septuple slam dunk.
Words by John Wadsworth
More to discover
Tahirah Hairston has written about Awol Erizku for Vulture, as has Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi for CARLA Magazine. Antwaun Sargent has interviewed the artist for Complex and The Fader, as has Paul Laster for Whitehot Magazine.
Posts about Erizku's photographs for Beyoncé's maternity shoot include those by Lola Mosanya for BBC, Fan Zhong for W Magazine, and Yohana Desta for Vanity Fair. You can view the artist's Tumblr page here.
Question of the day
Always. An artist's intention is worthless and insignificant compared to a viewer's interpretation of the same work. It becomes their own.
– Eric A. Anderson, game developer and world-builder for the Myst series, Obduction, and The Witness (via The Brief →)
I would say yes. Even documentaries, which attempt to explain or show reality, are seen through someone’s eyes.
– Leah Hayes, bestselling graphic novelist and musician (via The Brief →)