Anyone expecting insights into Voodoo’s roots in West Africa, or its synthesis with Christianity by the African diaspora, will probably be disappointed. Riflemaker’s Voodoo show hints at its monotheistic spirituality, but it’s less about Vodun cosmology or Botono spirits, and more about the source of creativity and how it is realised. This will appeal to designers, who may find themselves mulling a problem long and hard, only for an idea to arrive seemingly out of the blue. Some put this down to old-style craft combined with years of practice and the focused analysis of a problem – be it the balance of a chair or a poster’s balance of colour and type. Others will recognise Voodoo’s ‘high spirits’ and ‘loss of self’, only to find them in the more familiar territory of the local wine bar or office party. Whatever the case, the Riflemaker show includes a bulging list of big-name artists and musicians, from Muddy Waters to Olivier Messiaen, Oscar Wilde to William S Burroughs, and Le Corbusier to Jean-Michel Basquiat, to explore how altered states of mind can aid the creative process. These names undoubtedly impress, but it’s the less well-known that intrigue the most. For example, there’s no record of how Maurizio Anzeri created his synthetic hair totem Late At Night (2008), but it leaves you fascinated by the mind that combines such unexpected elements to unnerving effect.
Voodoo: Hoochie Coochie and the Creative Spirit is at Riflemaker, 79 Beak Street, London W1, from 20 January to 14 March
By Sarah Frater