Text by Octavia Gabrielle Rucker
What can I know by fisting this soil? What else can I know if I taste it next? What more can I learn by pressing my ear to the ground?: A Conversation with Precious Okoyomon
Artist and writer Precious Okoyomon loves to be loved. They thrive on friendship and flourish wildly, like the gardens they create, in the presence of light and chaos, all the while lapping up the everyday pleasures of earthly living. Flesh is for rotting, they once said to me over oysters and pomegranates in their Brooklyn apartment. Young Thug was playing, followed by Taking Back Sunday. I was in a sullen mood but for some reason the promise of decay comforted me greatly and I smiled bringing the mollusk to my lips.
After spending some time with Precious one might walk away with the sense that they have not been fully making use of their own flesh, that instead of treating it as the organic matter that it is, they have been suckered into the heavy labor of preserving it for some failed capitalist endeavor —silly new age societal nonsense that betrays our ancient knowledge as animal/spirit hybrids.
Precious, meanwhile, knows and luxuriates in the material realm fully, surrendering, at times, to the whims of their senses. Like an (inner)child, they remain tethered to the variable powers available to them via touch, taste, sight, sound and smell. And yet there is something else, a bubbling awareness of primordial proportion trailing not far behind—an idea emerges and a landscape follows, born from a vibrating black void. The water colors come out and shrieking, inflamed flowers fill the blank space with lyric.
Precious skirts along the hemline of it all, giggling as they run under Nature’s skirt, giving us but a glimpse of the Truth lying just beyond the veil, the world where one’s human senses lead and finally shatter. It is a long road, filled with clues should one know where to look. Symbols abound. Blood becomes a boundary, a shallow river to cross. Earthen structures shape into doors and friendly (sometimes foreboding) sprites. Trees speak and shimmer, a new and improved population breaches the forests’ threshold. A green thumb smears and erases us all.
*Note: Slight edits, omissions, and rearrangements have been made to the transcript below to better facilitate readability and context.
Tuesday, March 22nd, 2022 9:19 AM (CST)
GOR: Hi 🙂 I can call but maybe texting is better?
PO: Oh hi 🙂 I can text or call. Service is kind of bad here in my studio.
GOR: Let’s text then 🙂 I’ll just send some random questions and you can answer however you want.
PO: Haha okay 🙂
GOR: The first one is super obvious: what are you working on?
PO: Right now, my sculptures for Venice. But I’m also here to finish a piece for a show at LUMA, that I have been working on for basically a year now. Oh and then, the last iteration of this insane 18-month commission for the rooftop of the Aspen Art Museum, but that just remotely lol.
GOR: The Venice Biennale yeah? That sounds so fun.
PO: Yeah, I mean Venice has been really fun to make happen. I’m also just starting this really big project. I’m making forests. I’m going to make forests around the world.
GOR: Is this forest like an extension of your Aspen garden?
PO: No, but in a way yes. I mean It’s something entirely different. I guess think of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest. Or really, the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove in Yorubaland in the South of Nigeria, a magical place which right now is in mortal danger.
Pollution from a mining company is running off into the Osun river, making it unsafe to drink from for the first time in its history and discoloring its waters. It’s a portal we need to save. The forests I want to make will be in Lagos and London. I’m still figuring out [exact] locations. I want my practice to become about bigger, slower stuff—like, earth is my material right now. It’s all I can think about, lol.
GOR: What kinda earth are you working with? I feel like there are a lot of different soils so maybe you have preferences (or not).
PO: The earth is black and beautiful. I love working with her, like just building soil. I put time and space and Love into building soil. Then we put [the soil] back into the community and it slowly changes over time. It lives forever.
GOR: You’re creating art along a different timeline: geologic time.
PO: Yes, geologic time.
GOR: Will you bring animals/bugs into the forests or do you think you’ll let them wander in on their own?
PO: I’m going to make sculptures and work with different people to bring in life. It’s so special.
GOR: I’m wondering if you’ve had any dreams lately? I like to hear what people are dreaming about.
PO: Omg, I’ve been having dreams about dark space and deep sound. Vibrations. So I feel like I’m in a dark cocoon. They’re such weird dreams and I wake up remembering them so vividly.
GOR: Vibrations in dreams… what an interesting sensation. I love that. That’s what I think death is: like waiting within vibrations—everything is dark then I guess one day its not.
PO: Yesss like I think dreams are really a form of time travel.
GOR: Yes! Totally agree. I also think dreams can be meeting places. Like sometimes people you love are in your dreams because you all needed a space to meet. Like you said, time travel.
Tuesday, March 29th, 2022 9:12 AM (CST)
GOR: Good morning or good afternoon, whatever time it is. I have another question: what do you think the end of the world looks like?
PO: I think it’s already here. It’s here and everyday, you know? Someone’s world is ending everyday and it’s usually brown and black people’s. The end of the world isn’t the big fire and death we imagine, I feel like it’s the slow always already. It’s like damn, this world is so dead and over, lol. And it’s killing us trying to pretend otherwise. It’s even killing the people trying to kill us, lol.
GOR: What do you think of when you think of the afterlife?
PO: It’s like a cosmic entanglement of everything and nothing. Endless atoms. And Love ❤️ finally out of the matrixial code, just free flow.
GOR: Yes. Like your vibrating void dream.
Wednesday, March 30th, 2022 4:40 PM (CST)
GOR: What did you want to be when you were a child?
PO: I wanted to be communing with the non-human, like I’m so over the human. I wanted to return to the animal, return to nature. Literally, “come to the wild side!” Hahaha I’m so excited that lowkey ended up kinda being my job.
GOR: Is anyone else in your family an artist or communes with the non-human?
PO: My great grandmother was a healer, a very powerful healer in her village. I come from Esan and Yoruba people.
GOR: ❤️. What roles does friendship play in your practice?
PO: Friendship is my love language. Idk, my practice is playful and expansive, I just want to play with people I love and make beautiful things.
In conversation with Gabrielle Octavia Rucker
Portrait by Nick Sethi
The Generational Issue
PRECIOUS OKOYOMON (b. 1993, London, UK) is a Nigerian-American poet and artist living in New York. They have had solo exhibitions at: the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (2020); Performance Space, New York (2021); and the Aspen Art Museum (2021).
GABRIELLE OCTAVIA RUCKER is a self-taught writer and poet from Detroit, living in New Orleans. Her writing has appeared in various media and publications, including the Sundance Film Festival, The Studio Museum in Harlem, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day series, Vogue, GARAGE, Montez Press Radio, and more.