Five Questions for Kambui Olujimi

KambuiName: Kambui Olujimi
Title/Occupation: Artist
Organization/Company: self-employed

1. Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?
I grew up in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. I moved around a lot, but kept coming back to Quincy Street where I was born. I feel like I never really get homesick, because I know it will always be there.

I ended up in Santa Fe (where this interview took place) because of another residency that will allow me time and space to work. I’ve been on the road for two and half years, just going to residencies (including The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Skowhegan, Apexart Outbound Residency, Santa Fe Art Institute, Bemis Center For Contemporary Art) that allow you to make-work. It would be harder to be away from home for that long if I didn’t have such strong support back at home.

2. Which performance, song, play, movie, painting or other work of art had the biggest influence on you and why?
A couple of pieces. A lot of David Hammons work, where he transforms, he ignites the magic of mundane objects and shows that mythic potential is everywhere. Francis Alys’s “Moving Mountains” (has a) poetic gesture. Michael Jordan’s “Air Walk” in 1983. For a second he transformed himself, then transformed us into something liter than air. The complete works of Nina Simone. The deliberateness and unapologetic-ness of her voice and timber, and her nimbleness as a vocalist and musician. Josef Koudelka is pure visual language. It pulls from this world but creates it’s own syntax. In terms of films “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”, “Chungking Express”, “The Trial”, “Putney Swope”. The Coen Brothers. “City of Lost Children”, “Brick”, “Fosse”, “THX-1138”, “American Graffiti”.

3. What skill, talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?
The ability to transport through time and matter. It’s self explanatory, isn’t it? Something less grand? To free dive. I think ultimately you would end up in a place inside yourself that is very different from where you are on land.

4. What do you do to make a living? Describe a normal day.
Work, beg, borrow, and steal. Most of my days don’t match up. One day I can be chopping down trees to help a friend clear their land. The next day I could be producing and shooting an independent film. Yesterday I spent eight hours on a long arm quilting machine. Today, I’m working on a Michael Jackson memorial and talking to you.

5. Have you ever had to make a choice between work and art? What did you choose, why, and what was the outcome?

Artwork is like a crack addition. Commercial work, often times, is what you do to get your fix. It’s hard to say the two are at odds. I’ve never had a full-time job. I’ve worked freelance my entire life. Many of my freelance jobs were in the arts. Printer, photographer, cinematographer. I see my commercial work as a training ground. Learn a skill, gain and hone skills. Anything that allows you to keep making artwork is friend, not foe.


Kambui Olujimi was born and raised in Bedford Stuyvesant Brooklyn. His work has been featured in museum exhibitions on a national and international level at institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Finish National Gallery/Kiasma Museum in Helsinki, the Polish National Gallery /Zacheta Museum, and The National Museum of Spain/ Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Olujimi has been awarded a fellowships from the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the Apex Art Outbound Fellowship to Kellerberin, Australia, and is currently a 2nd year fellow Fine Art Work Center. Last autumn, the de Saisset museum in Santa Clara featured a solo exhibiton of photographs and the stop animation film “Winter in America“, which Olujimi created in collaboration with Hank Willis Thomas. kambui is currently working on a multimedia installation project as part of Art in General’s, New Works Commissions for 2010.

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