LPP in Conversation: Binta Ayofemi
“Can it be repeated? Can it scale?” What if these questions were asked about social practice instead of some app in need of investors? San Francisco- and Chicago-based artist Binta Ayofemi borrows the language of the tech world and explodes it, applying terms like “scalability” and “software” to urban systems as diverse as office towers, city parks, and vegetable gardens. By insisting that the entire built human environment is a responsive mesh of technologies, Ayofemi recognizes the power everyday people have to shape these environments.
A public/private park, like the one outside of the Bell Telephone Building in which we met Ayofemi for our conversation, is exemplary in this regard: It became her studio and our soundstage for the hour we filmed. But visitors after us may reprogram the same environment to host a birthday party, a networking chat, or a romantic interlude. Ayofemi’s practice is about activating such spaces as commons: repeatable, iterative experiences created through the intersection of location, materials, and opportunities for participation. In programming dance or music events, or planting a chain of vegetable patches, she creates spaces where viewers, performers, and visitors are all users—users whose actions rewrite the code of the experience again and again.
Starting from the site of our conversation, we went on to discuss the expanded terminology of Ayofemi’s practice, along with her upcoming projects spanning material as diverse as Jimi Hendrix’s songbook, ceramics, and urban gardening.
Born in Brooklyn and based in California, Binta Ayofemi is fascinated by open-source systems of exchange, whether exploring patterns, pop music, plants, or early software/systems like the Underground Railroad. Ayofemi has performed or presented her work at dOCUMENTA (13), the Kadist Art Foundation, SFMOMA, Southern Exposure, the Carpenter Center, the Wattis Institute, the Asian Art Museum, and Chicago’s Rebuild Foundation. She holds an MFA in Studio Art from Stanford and was a Harvard Design Fellow in architecture and urban landscaping.
To watch her video: Go to Art Practical