Karl Ohiri

Equation for Humanity

For our commissioning project Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other, Karl Ohiri has developed a conceptual artwork that proposes a sociological equation for humanity.

Karl Ohiri’s practice focuses on the human condition and explores the boundaries between the private and the public space. He works across multiple art forms including photography and video, routinely incorporating text and everyday objects in his works.

Autograph commissioned Ohiri to create new work in response to the wider context of the Covid-19 pandemic for our project Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other. In the series Equation for Humanity (2020) Ohiri proposes what he describes as ‘a sociological equation for humanity – a formula that explores what it means to be human’. At the core of this work is an optimistic sentiment that highlights the importance of how we care for one another as a society, taking into account the challenges we face beyond the current pandemic from on-going conflicts to climate change. During lockdown on his daily walks, Ohiri collected stones as mementos which he inscribed, and later photographed with the message: I + U = US.

To contextualise this new artist commission Autograph invited writer and curator Loren Hansi Gordon to reflect on Ohiri’s Equation for Humanity, unpacking the symbolic meanings of the work. This short essay is published alongside an in-conversation between the artist and Autograph's curatorial project manager Bindi Vora.


The Oneness of Things
Writer and curator Loren Hansi Gordon's reflects on Ohiri's new commission

What it Means to Be Human: In Conversation with Karl Ohiri
Autograph's curatorial project manager Bindi Vora speaks with the artist


Equation for Humanity (2020)

Archival clamshell box for housing the stones and photographic prints


Karl Ohiri (born 1983, London) is British-Nigerian artist whose multifaceted practice combines personal experiences with societal observations to address wider themes around notions of family, identity and heritage.

He often draws on intimate autobiographical narratives and vernacular photographs to piece together fragments of his family album – as evident in works such as How To Mend a Broken Heart (2013). Other aspects of his conceptual practice incorporate his studies in visual culture and semiotics as seen in A Year In Protest (2018), a body of work that reflects on the act of protesting as a fundamental human right and personal necessity to express support or defiance.

Ohiri's works have been showcased internationally in venues and exhibitions that include the Venice Biennial, Reattu Museum, Southbank Centre, The Courtauld Gallery, Tate Britain and the National Portrait Gallery London. His works are represented in the Arts Council Collection, Wellcome Collection and The Rencontres d’Arles Collection.

You can follow the artist on Instagram, and see more of Ohiri's work on his website

About the project

Initiated during the first months of lockdown in 2020, Autograph has commissioned a constituency of ten UK-based creative practitioners in our immediate artistic community to create an open-ended visual arts project in response to the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Working with photography, film and lens-based media, Autograph’s curatorial team Mark Sealy, Renée Mussai and Bindi Vora have been in close dialogue with each artist to produce these new bodies of work. The artist commissions reflect Autograph’s long-standing work advocating for photography and film to address visual politics of rights, race and representation.

Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other will be presented as a group exhibition at Autograph's gallery in Shoreditch, London, from autumn 2021.


Read our senior curator Renée Mussai's introduction to the Care | Contagion | Community project

View the completed artist commissions

Visit the Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other exhibition at Autograph

Purchase a copy of the Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other book from Autograph's online shop


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Supported using public funding by Arts Council England

Images: Works from Karl Ohiri's commission Equation for Humanity, 2020. Digital Black & White Fiber-Based Gloss Prints, each 12 x 16 in. © and courtesy the artist. Commissioned by Autograph for Care | Contagion | Community – Self & Other: 1) US [detail], 2020. 2) I, 2020. 3) +, 2020. 4) U, 2020. 5) =, 2020. 6) US, 2020. 7) Archival clamshell box for housing the stones and photographic prints. Archival Box made by Riikka Kassinen / Designed by Riikka Kassinen & Karl Ohiri. Dimensions: L 53.8cm W 32.3 cm D 4.5 cm. 

Other page images: 8) Karl Ohiri. Photograph by Riikka Kassinen.