Light Art Space gGmbH

Josèfa Ntjam
swell of spæc(i)es

20 April — 24 November 2024

Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia & Palazzina Canonica – CNR ISMAR | Venice, Italy

Josèfa Ntjam’s commission unfolds a new creation myth in which plankton forms a point of convergence between the deep ocean and outer space, biological and mythical realms, possible pasts and alternative futures.

Official Collateral Event of the 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia

Housed in a pavilion in the courtyard of the Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia, Josèfa Ntjam’s exhibition takes the form of an otherworldly environment. The cosmic landscapes of a cyclical film morph on a large curved LED wall, enriched by a soundscape composed by Fatima al Qadiri. Suspended jellyfish ‘sound showers’ play fragments of narration, while a membrane-like form emerges from the ground, diffusing electroacoustic frequencies and offering a resting space. These sonic sculptures are made from innovative materials such as biosourced resin and reishi mycelium.

The installation shapes a poetics of alterity, merging multiple perspectives and knowledge systems. The film fuses Dogon cosmogony and recent discoveries into a circular narrative of creation, featuring a cast of interspecies characters synthesised using artificial intelligence (AI) and digital tools. Sources for these creatures include 3D models of marine life, scans of West African statues held in museum collections and photographs witnessing decolonial independence movements. Through her act of blending, Ntjam embeds histories subject to hegemonic erasure within marine and cosmic landscapes to enable their resurgence. This approach draws influence from electronic duo Drexciya, whose mythology tells of an underwater population born from the wrecks of the Atlantic human trade, and musician Sun Ra, who envisioned Saturn as a host planet for Afro-diasporic people.

swell of spæc(i)es is an alchemical process in perpetual agitation, the alloying of ancestral geneses with new image creation technologies.”

— Josèfa Ntjam

Ntjam’s exhibition is housed inside a prism-shaped pavilion designed by UNA / UNLESS architecture studio. Its striking geometry stands in contrast to the organic forms emerging within.

In a satellite space at Palazzina Canonica – CNR-ISMAR (Istituto di Scienze Marine), Ntjam asks audiences to join her process of multiplying avatars of these histories into ever-new forms by creating their own AI-generated hybrid species from her dataset. These creatures will inhabit a virtual ecosystem on-site.

swell of spæc(i)es is complemented by a public programme organised in collaboration with Ocean Space, ISMAR (Istituto di Scienze Marine) and Accademia di Belle Arti.

"And if the world were born from our aqueous ashes. Intertropical cosmogony of non-temporalities//I'm against// A heap of volcanoes sedimented in a black ocean that gave back to space a few stars of the sea”

— excerpt of Josèfa Ntjam, swell of spæc(i)es


Josèfa Ntjam

Josèfa Ntjam is an artist, performer and writer whose practice combines sculpture, photomontage, moving image and sound. Collecting the raw material of her work from the internet, books on natural sciences and photographic archives, Ntjam uses assemblage — of images, words, sounds and stories — as a method to deconstruct the grand narratives underlying hegemonic discourses on origin, identity and race. Her work weaves multiple narratives drawn from investigations into historical events, scientific processes and philosophical concepts, to which she confronts references to African mythology, ancestral rituals, religious symbolism and science fiction.

Ntjam studied in Amiens, France and Dakar, Senegal (Cheikh Anta Diop University), and graduated from the École nationale supérieure d’art, Bourges (2015) and the École nationale supérieure d’art, Paris-Cergy (2017). Solo exhibitions include matter gone wild, Fondation d’entreprise Pernod Ricard, Paris (2023–24); Limestone Memories – Un Maquis sous les Étoiles, NıCOLETTı, London (2023); When the Moon Dreamed of the Ocean, FACT Liverpool (2022–23); Underground Resistance – Living Memories, The Photographers’ Gallery, London (2022); and we’ll kill them with love, CAC La Traverse, Alfortville (2022); Molecular Genealogies, NıCOLETTı, London (2021) and Allegoria, duo show with Kaeto Sweeney, Hordaland Art Center, Bergen (2019). She has performed at Forma, London (2023); Lafayette Anticipations, Paris (2023); Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2022); LUMA Arles; (2022); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2020) and Centre Pompidou, Paris (2020) among others.

Ntjam is currently a resident at LVMH Métiers d’Arts, Paris. She lives and works in Saint-Étienne, France.

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Commissioned by LAS Art Foundation

Josèfa Ntjam Team

Josèfa Ntjam
Artist Advisor and Writer
Mawena Yehouessi
Project Management
Ghost House
Film Production
Aquatic Invasion
Film Sound Composition
Fatima al Qadiri
Sculpture Construction
Förma Productions
Sculpture Sound
Hugo Mir-Valette

Exhibition Team

Pavilion and Exhibition Design
D.H. office
Technical Production
Lighting Design
Studio Barthelmes
Organised with
Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia, CNR-ISMAR (Istituto di Scienze Marine), Ocean Space

Organised for las by

Project Manager
Alexis Convento
Harriet Collins
Carly Whitefield
Assistant Curator
Sophie Korschildgen
Curatorial Assistant
Zoe Büchtemann
Press Manager
Felix Thon
Communications Manager
Selin Şahin
Communications Assistants
Cosima Otte and Moritz Weber
Social Media Manager
Veronica Jonsson
Photo and Video Producer
Alice Lamperti
Lead Partnerships and Development
Coraly von Bismarck

With thanks to:

LAS team and Louise Nielsen, Ann-Charlotte Günzel, Amira Gad, Liz Stumpf; Ocean Space, Venice (Markus Reymann, Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, Marco Zapperlorto, Eleni Tsopotou, Valeria Bottalico, Barbara Nardacchione); CNR-ISMAR (Istituto di Scienze Marine), Venice (Mario Sprovieri, Francesco Falcieri); Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia (Riccardo Caldura, Carlotta Rossitto); Galerie Poggi, Paris (Jérôme Poggi, Camille Bréchignac); Nicoletti Contemporary, London (Camille Houzé)