New Work: Toyin Ojih Odutola

September 3, 2022–January 22, 2023
Floor 4

Best known for drawings that use distinctively layered mark-making to highlight topographies of skin and surface, Toyin Ojih Odutola is a storyteller who often presents her work in sprawling narrative cycles. For her New Work exhibition, Ojih Odutola takes inspiration from the speculative fiction of Octavia E. Butler and the poetry of Dionne Brand to explore a future haunted by the human-driven environmental changes that characterize this geological age of the Anthropocene. Titled Satellite, this body of work debuts twenty-one new pastel, charcoal, and graphite compositions in an immersive environment layered with the sights and sounds of everyday life in a mutated world of our own making. Set in the year 2050 in Eko — the traditional Yoruba name for today’s Lagos, Nigeria — Satellite invites us to explore the contours of African and other global futures and the new configurations of home, community, and knowledge that may emerge.




Header image: Toyin Ojih Odutola, New Work: Toyin Ojih Odutola (installation view, SFMOMA); photo: Katherine Du Tiel

Exhibition Preview

Toyin Ojih Odutola, Another Dawn Breaks, 2021; © Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Toyin Ojih Odutola, Your Face is a Love Letter (Adeseun), 2021-22; © Toyin Ojih Odutola; courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Toyin Ojih Odutola, Local News, 2021; © Toyin Ojih Odutola; courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Toyin Ojih Odutola, Groundless II, 2021-22; © Toyin Ojih Odutola; courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York


Explore the world of Satellite by Toyin Ojih Odutola.


Set in year 2050, within an Ikoyi neighborhood sky-rise of Eko—the traditional Yoruba name for Lagos, Nigeria—Satellite is a ghost story that follows Oluwaseun, an encryptor suffering from the common affliction of “self-forgetfulness.” She subscribes to a monthly memory-retention service, REMINDR, which promises to activate dormant parts of the psyche through prompts members must catalog and share.

Upon joining, a a hologram of a head is sent as an initial prompt. Oluwaseun has no clue why this is sent to her, given her character assessment, nor its connection to any of her lost or latent memories, yet she reluctantly proceeds with the program.

This hologram activates a strangely familiar presence which orbits within her small, screen-tiled apartment, interrupting her isolation. Through the course of a moon cycle, the spirit of Adeseun emerges from the hologram: revealing himself in parts, transmitting messages for her to decipher. At first, Oluwaseun is startled by his presence and why he feels so close to her, as if they are both one and the same? They circle one another in stages, ultimately merging to create a memory which imprints onto their home.

Audio Transcript

OLUWASEUN is an encryptor living in the Ikoyi neighborhood of Eko. She subscribes to REMINDR, a service purporting aid for her self-forgetfulness. The program requires subscribers to record daily logs based on prompts. As OLUWASEUN abides, the voice of the spirit ADESEUN presents himself. He invites her to join him in formulating a new memory and thus a new self out of what she believes is lost. Together, they create a place not far from where they belong.


Audio transcript of REMINDR commercial as OLUWASEUN begins her first session (front speakers):

[LAGOS PIDGIN] Una welcome-o to REMINDR—a monthly subscription. Wey go help you (to remember). You go take your first step from here. Make una come join our global community. Engo help you find your way back again.

[ALGORITHM ENGLISH] Welcome to REMINDR, a monthly subscription service for memory retention. You’ve taken the all-important first step. Join our global community to help you find your way back again.

Audio transcript of OLUWASEUN and ADESEUN’S REMINDR call and response logs (back speakers):





OLUWASEUN: “Identify a memory last felt.” How? Day after day, every night is felt by what I haven’t done and have yet to do. What time is there to remember? It’s come to my attention that to remember is to live, and in my forgetfulness I’ve lost my home.

ADESEUN: What is our home?




OLUWASEUN: What happens when you avoid your shadow? If no landscape is permanent, only industry stays. The rest is mechanism. (Scuttling) back and forth around every corner of this cubicle, you remain in the same place. I’ve never bothered with the reality tried outside, but I’m sure to leave all tabs open. Years spent keeping up. A change of scenery tricks the head. Does funny things. Isolated within this congregate capacity, I sit, addressing the fear of not recognizing myself. How does one arrive here?

ADESEUN: This is not a mirror, only the anxious backside you face. There’s no captain of industry to be found.

OLUWASEUN: Another Dawn Breaks.

ADESEUN: Last Seen.

OLUWASEUN: Reset Protocol.

ADESEUN: Delivery.





ADESEUN: As space gets filled, we become preoccupied with misapplied opportunity. The pursuit alone renders us forgetful. Taking stock of different forms, we stumble to figure a language. When pressed, the shapes expressed dance then abandon. We must untether ourselves from clarification demands, for sifting through it all is expensive. Of course, it’s a requisite activity, but it sucks time. We’ve grown accustomed to letting the side down. Every now and then, throw it all away. Wholesale. Clean slate. If there’s less to carry, who’s accountable for what we can’t accommodate? To proceed with plans, we choose no further adjustments. Still, forgetfulness hurts.

OLUWASEUN: You know there are no utopias left. They cost too much.

ADESEUN: Fruitless Record-Keeping.

OLUWASEUN: Fruitless Record-Keeping.

ADESEUN: Local News.

OLUWASEUN: Frustration Protocol.

ADESEUN: Foraging.


ADESEUN: Left Overs.

OLUWASEUN: A Familiar Voice.




OLUWASEUN: I blame the place, not my habits. I blame everything else but the thing. On the surface, it results in a mannered malnourishment. Don’t get me wrong, the best of me is my pride. It contributes directly to my unwavering indecisiveness. Malnourishment is convenient for sustained attention. You must appeal through its promise that you can still be held, molded, turned, disarmed, folded, unraveled.

ADESEUN: It’s difficult to catch someone while they’re in transition. Sometimes the truth may not feel safe. But life’s work is defined by what you require. You must communicate your desires honestly with others, especially when surfaces fail you. The release of truth creates possibility for more truth around you.

OLUWASEUN: Uninterrupted Satisfaction?

ADESEUN: Uninterrupted Satisfaction.

OLUWASEUN: Groundless.

ADESEUN: Denial Protocol.

OLUWASEUN: Your Face Is a Love Letter.

ADESEUN: Highly Adaptable.




ADESEUN: When and where are we?

OLUWASEUN: Injecting ourselves into areas we know nothing about. Existing in other place-times. The fresh and exciting parts have gone. And I swear, this is when I hear a voice ask me, over and over, again and again: “all this, for what?”

ADESEUN: What purpose is there in imagining the worst?

OLUWASEUN: And the answer accounts for so much more than myself—more than this body, alone, here.

ADESEUN: Manifesting.

OLUWASEUN: Manifesting.

ADESEUN: Satellite.

OLUWASEUN: Satellite.

OLUWASEUN: Acceptance Protocol.

ADESEUN: Summon A Memory.

ADESEUN: Ground. Less.




OLWASEUN: My job requires a level of legerity. Diligence is in the management of psychic sacrifice zones. Avoiding redundancies is the ever-evolving project. The most elegant, concise edit obliterates translation. It never happens, but you try anyway.

ADESEUN: Liminal planes are baseline and ambition is rewarded where streams of free enterprise are seized. It’s not our fault the voracious nature of compounded hemispheres encourage mistreatment. Resources are limited, no one will help you. Just be mindful of consumption. Reconfiguration and reform are addictive activities, forcing harvest of claims and unwarranted enclosures. In the discord of foregrounded drama, you’ll know you’re really good when time bends.

OLUWASEUN: But I wonder, how can one remake with the materials on offer? The languages I handle are always active. They reinforce looking good while seeking pleasurable destinations. No neutralities. Greatness awaits those who prove exceptional in their thoroughness. I’ve made my mistakes—all for the sake of sustenance. The discovery is a reminder: time only slows once pain is felt. The lucky ones see perspectives run their course; better, if they’re freely discarded with reverence.

ADESEUN: And yet, in our line of work, time creates space. It’s never wasted. We’re shrines not temples. We must take care to repair. Unknowing benefits us; mystery is the key to the incongruous parts of ourselves. If we become lost, we’ll find joy in forgetting. If our record’s constant rotation has you seeking optimization, remember silence is truth.




OLUWASEUN / ADESEUN: Unsettled process has a way of spouting unexpected magic. Don’t meddle. There are no demarcations. The borders aren’t . . .



OLUWASEUN / ADESEUN: Only being is felt.

ADESEUN: I am her.

OLUWASEUN: He is me.

OLUWASEUN / ADESEUN: Attempts will be made to sell us closure for the things unresolved. We do not want them. Everything is here. What we have is also there. We do not need to understand. We remain in mediation.

Delve Further

Here you will find an index of external resources to help you explore the world of Satellite.

Films: A selection of films which inspired and explore similar themes to Satellite.

Mirai no Mirai (Mirai of the Future)
Written & Directed: Mamoru Hosed
Produced: Yūichirō Saitō, Takuya Itō, Yūichi Adachi, Genki Kawamura
Edited: Shigeru Nishiyama
(Studio Chizu, 2018)

Director: Alex Garland
Based on: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
Produced: Scott Rudin, Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich & Eli Bush
Cinematography: Rob Hardy
Edited: Barney Pilling
(Skydance Media, DNA Films, Scott Rudin Productions, Huahua Media, 2018)

The Double Life of Veronique
Director: Krzysztof Kieślowski
Written: Krzysztof Kieślowski & Krzysztof Piesiewicz
Produced: Leonardo De La Fuente
Cinematography: Sławomir Idziak
Edited: Jacques Witta
Music: Zbigniew Preisner
(Sidéral Productions, Zespół Filmowy „X”, Norsk Film, Canal+, 1991)

Director: Drake Doremus
Story: Drake Doremus
Screenplay: Nathan Parker
Produced: Michael Pruss; Chip Diggins; Ann Ruark; Michael Schaefer; Jay Stern
Cinematography: John Guleserian
Edited: Jonathan Alberts
(Route One Films; Scott Free Productions; Freedom Media; Infinite Frameworks Studio, 2015)

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Written: Phra Sripariyattiweti
Story: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Produced: Simon Field, Keith Grifith, Charles de Meaux, Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Cinematography: Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, Yukontorn Mingmongkon, Charin Pengpanich
Edited: Lee Chatametikool
(Kick the Machine, 2010)

Atlantique (Atlantics)
Directed: Mati Diop
Written: Mati Diop & Olivier Demangel
Produced: Judith Lou Lévy & Eve Robin
Cinematography: Claire Mathon
Edited: Aël Dallier Vega
Music: Fatima Al Qadiri
(Les Films du Bal, Cinekap, Frakas Productions, Arte France Cinéma, Canal+, 2019)

Written & Directed: Spike Jonze
Produced: Megan Ellison & Spike Jonze
Cinematography: Hoyte van Hoytema
Edited: Eric Zumbrunnen & Jack Buchanan
(Annapurna Pictures, 2013)

Gall Force: Eternal Story
Director: Katsuhito Akiyama
Story: Hideki Kakinuma
Screenplay: Sukehiro Tomita
Produced: Mitsuhisa Hida; Nagateru Katō; Eiji Kishi; Tôru Miura; Ikuo Nagasaki
Cinematography: Takafumi Arai
Edited: Eiko Nishide
(Artmic, AIC, 1986)

Reading Materials: A reader for teachers and students to investigate the themes of Satellite further.

Ossuary (2010) by Dionne Brand

Mind of My Mind by Octavia E. Butler

“And After the Narcissist?” (1966) by Wole Soyinka.

Ambient Media: Japanese Atmospheres of Self (2016) by Paul Roquet


Generous support for ​New Work: Toyin Ojih Odutola​ is provided by Alka and Ravin Agrawal, Adriane Iann and Christian Stolz, and Robin Wright and Ian Reeves.

Satellite was conceived by Toyin Ojih Odutola. Elaine Chu and Marina Perez-Wong of Twin Walls Mural Company designed and executed the gallery wall painting in collaboration with the artist, assisted by Lisa Max and Pablo Ruiz Arroyo. The scripted audio dialogues were performed by Dr. Peace Dunu, Elizabeth Onasoga, Tokunbo Aderibigbe, and Ojih Odutola. The exhibition is accompanied by a forthcoming book designed by Yeju Choi and co-published by RITE Editions and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

The artist would like to thank Sarah Choi, Senior Exhibition Designer II; Steve Dye, Collections Technical Manager; Alison Guh, Curatorial Assistant of Contemporary Art; Sean Horchy, Collections Technical Specialist; Amanda Hunter Johnson, Conservator, Works on Paper; Hana Ishijima, Designer; Eungie Joo, Curator of Contemporary Art; Claire LaMont, Museum Preparator II; Brianna Nelson, Assistant Editor; Kim Nucci, Collections Technical Assistant; Ryan Onstine, Museum Preparator II; David Varghese, Museum Preparator I; Kimberly Walton, Lead Preparator, Installation; Audrey Wang, Digital Content Associate; and Amy Yu Grey, Art Director.