Post African Futures / Curated by Tegan Bristow / 2015

Tabita Rezaire / NTU / Haythem Zakaria / Dineo Seshee Bopape / Jean Katambayi Mukendi / Sam Hopkins / Jepchumba / Kapwani Kiwanga / Brooklyn J Pakathi / Emeka Ogboh / CUSS Group 21 May - 20 June 2015 Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

As facilitator of emergent forms, the Goodman Gallery works with curators and artists who question the current status of the art world, specifically problems that emerge from restrictive labels and one dimensional readings of the process of making of art in African contexts.

This year the Goodman Gallery has invited curator Tegan Bristow to curate the exhibition POST AFRICAN FUTURES around her cohesive research into technology based art in Africa. The works allow for a new engagement with practice that uses technology and explodes the myth of AfroFuturism in Africa. It is the belief of the Goodman Gallery that the barrier breaking, innovative works which have emerged as artists have responded to Bristow’s call for participation are a move away from staid ideas of art making in Africa. The Goodman Gallery is proud to present a show allowing for works which critique and question systems and structures that the commercial art industry has often relied upon.

The Background

Taking cue from the phrase ‘research made tangible’, the exhibition POST AFRICAN FUTURES expands on research being developed by Bristow on art and culture practice that critically reflects on technology and the myth of AfroFuturism in Africa. The title of the exhibition was first used at the Fak’ugesi Digital Africa Conference at Wits University in December 2014, in which Bristow invited academic reflections on the state and meaning of critical engagements with technology, particularly communication technology, in African art and culture.

The exhibition expands on the subject by exhibiting the work of a number of artists and cultural practitioners from across the African continent that reflect these engagements in their practice. Bristow is curating the exhibition as an extension of this research, in collaboration with Emma Laurence of the Goodman Gallery.

The Exhibition

The exhibition proposes a challenge to art by viewing engagements around communications technology and technology use as a site for critically engaging African identification and a resistance to the globalisation of culture. Bristow’s research for the exhibition began as a survey of work, focusing on South Africa, Kenya and small amounts in Nigeria. What Bristow found in this survey was a rich and complex reference to technology that serves a number of critical positions, the most important being a pointed focus on identification and differentiation.

Here artists are using the conceptual frame of digital technologies and technology languages as a way to talk about how African cultures are against what they are perceived to be. This is multi-faceted and acts as a critique of both of globalised media practices and of romanticised Africanisms. These practices have their foundation in the socio-cultural, global image generation, traditional practices and performance. Digital Art as a medium-specific engagement in this frame addresses the digital as an imagined metaphysical conduit. Artists use the digital’s metaphorical capacity to represent the unseen and the magical, both as representation of cultural practices that cannot be adequately portrayed through image or film and as a critique of Western systems of knowledge.

This frames a critique of globalised forms and a resistance against a cultural predomination.What Bristow sees in digital aesthetics in Africa is a response, represented as a perceived dissonance but also an appropriation by breaking and playing with visual cultures, mixing globalised image norms into local memes, exploring a well thought through and critical perspective. It is important to understand that the practice is definitely not a romantic indigenisation of technology or cute innovations for the irrevocably poor.

It is rather a type of border thinking, a live conversation with the world that brings contemporary culture together with African socio-cultural knowledge systems. Post African Futures as a title challenges a number of notions. The first being AfroFuturism as a title for any African work that addresses technology or science fiction subject matters. Many African artists have been lumped into this criterion yet they present articulations that are unique to their particular regions. The exhibition is an exploration of multiple “African cultures of technology” that have unique socio-political and economic histories.

For instance, technology in South Africa is historically tied to apartheid, a possessive aggressive system of control where communications technology is still a power driven medium. South African artists reflect this works are visually aggressive and challenge relationships to power, reflecting a lo-fi abrasiveness, an exploration of extremes and failures making for rich visual and aural work. While Kenyan histories for instance, are tied to social rebellion and change, here works strongly interrogate social justice, using networks and social narrative as primary conduits.

Post African Futures challenges the notion of “futures and innovation” as failure in bypassing current issues and current social and cultural transformation. Post African Futures asks its audience to see the socio-cultural and metaphorical use of technology in critiquing histories while dealing the importance of now. The format of the exhibition will include online work, installation, performance, “post future” artifacts, video installations and screenings.

About Tegan Bristow:

Bristow is an interactive digital media artists and Head of Interactive Media at the Digital Arts Division of the Wits School of Arts at Wits University. Bristow is writing her PhD on Technology Art and Cultural Practices in Africa with the Planetary Collegium. This exhibition follows research through which Bristow is proposing a new ways of teaching technology arts specific to Africa, as well as challenging norms around technology’s role in art and culture in Africa.

Artists

CUSS Group (SA), Tabita Rezaire (SA), Nolan Oswald Dennis (SA), Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum (SA), Thenjiwe Nkosi (SA), Emeka Ogbho (Nigeria), Haythem Zakaria (Tunisia), Jean Katambayi Mukendi (DRC), Sam Hopkins (Kenya), Muchiri Njenga (Kenya), Jepchumba (Kenya), Brooklyn J Pakathi (SA), Wanuri Kahui (Kenya), Dineo Sheshe Bopape (SA), Kapwani Kiwanga (CAN), The Brother Moves On (SA), Just A Band (Kenya), Lebogang Rasethaba & Nthato Mokgata (SA), Imagineering Lagos Collective (Nigeria).

EVENT LINEUP

In addition to the gallery exhibition, a series of talk, screenings, and performances will take place over the four-week duration of the show.

OPENING PERFORMANCES
Thurs 21 May | Goodman Gallery, JHB
• 18:30 The DISRUPTER X Project: NOTES FROM THE ANCIENTS by Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum & Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi, featuring Dion Monti and Lisa Jaffe (SA)
• 19:00 Anamnesis initiatory vision by Joël-Claude MEFFRE (FR) for artist Haythem Zakaria (FR / TN).

DIGITAL AFRICA & NARRATIVE
Sat 23 May | Goodman Gallery, JHB
• 14:00 Hallu-Ci, short screening and talk by Brooklyn J Pakathi (SA)
• 14:30 Lagos 2060, feature screening and talk by Olamide Udo-Udoma of Lagos Imaginarium (NG)

POST FUTURES, KENYA: TRADITION IN THE GLOBALISED DIGITAL
Thurs 28 May | Goodman Gallery, JHB
• 18:30 Kichwateli, short screening + Q & A with Muchiri Njenga (KE)
• 19:00 Silicon Savannahs & Digital Landscapes, talk by Jepchumba (KE)
• 19:30 Pumzi, feature screening of Kenya Sci-Fi Film by Wanuri Kahui (KE)

DATA FUTURES
Sat 6 June | Goodman Gallery, JHB
• 14:00 SWAARTNET, talk by NTU (SA)
• 15:15 WWW GLOBAL COM, short screening of NTU artist’s works.

SOUND & AFRICAN CULTURES OF TECHNOLOGY
Thurs 18 June | Goodman Gallery, JHB
• 18:30 Mr Gold & Makmende, short screening and talk by The Brother Moves On and Just A Band (SA & KE)
• 19:15 Future Sound of Mzanzi, feature screening of documentary film by Lebogang Rasethebe & Nthato Mokgata (SA)

CLOSING PERFORMANCE
Sat 20 June | King Kong, 6 Verwey Street, Troyville, JHB
In collaboration with Keleketla @ King Kong
• 20:00 “The Afterlife with Mr Gold”, featuring The Brother Moves One (SA), Just A Band (KE) and OkMalumKoolKat (SA)

In addition to the exhibition at the Goodman Gallery, the interactive space Future Lab Africa has been developed for the show by digital artist Jepchumba. Future Lab Africa hopes to create lasting networks and public engagements which extend beyond the exhibition incorporating research and multidisciplinary methodologies as a basis of understanding new developments in the African digital art space. A podcast series produced by Jepchumba in conversation with the featured artists, released over the period of the exhibition on the Future Lab Africa site. Future Lab Africa can be accessed at http://futurelabafrica.org.

Artworks

About

Tabita Rezaire

Tabita Rezaire (b.1989, Paris, France) is infinity incarnated into an agent of healing, who uses art as a means to unfold the soul. Her cross-dimensional practices envision network sciences – organic, electronic and spiritual – as healing technologies to serve the shift towards heart consciousness. Navigating digital, corporeal and ancestral memory as sites of resilience, she digs into scientific imaginaries to tackle the pervasive matrix of coloniality and the protocols of energetic misalignments that affect the songs of our body-mind-spirits. Inspired by quantum and cosmic mechanics, Tabita’s work is rooted in time-spaces where technology and spirituality intersect as fertile ground to nourish visions of connection and emancipation. Through screen interfaces and collective offerings, she reminds us to open our inner data centers to bypass western authority and download directly from source.

Tabita is based in Cayenne, French Guyana. She has a Bachelor in Economics (Fr) and a Master of Research in Artist Moving Image from Central Saint Martins (Uk). Tabita is a founding member of the artist group NTU, half of the duo Malaxa, and the mother of the energy house SENEB.

Tabita has shown her work internationally – Centre Pompidou, Paris; Serpentine London; MoMa NY; New Museum NY; MASP, Sao Paulo; Gropius Bau Berlin; MMOMA Moscow, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; ICA London; V&A London; National Gallery Denmark; The Broad LA; MoCADA NY; Tate Modern London; Museum of Modern Art Paris – and contributed to several Biennales such as the Guangzhou Triennial, Athens Biennale, Kochi Biennale (2018); Performa (2017); and Berlin Biennale (2016).

Kapwani Kiwanga

Kapwani Kiwanga (b. Hamilton, Canada) lives and works in Paris. Kiwanga studied Anthropology and Comparative Religion at McGill University in Montreal and Art at l’école des Beaux-Arts de Paris.

In 2020, Kiwanga received the Prix Marcel Duchamp (FR). She was also the winner of the Frieze Artist Award (USA) and the annual Sobey Art Award (CA) in 2018.

Solo exhibitions include Haus der Kunst, Munich (DE); Kunstinstituut Melly – Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam (NLD); Kunsthaus Pasquart, Biel/Bienne (CHE); MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge (USA); Albertinum museum, Dresden (DE); Artpace, San Antonio (USA); Esker Foundation, Calgary (CA); Tramway, Glasgow International (UK); Power Plant, Toronto (CA); Logan Center for the Arts, Chicago (USA); South London Gallery, London (UK); and Jeu de Paume, Paris (FR) among others.

Selected group exhibitions include Whitechapel Gallery, London (UK); Serpentine Galleries, London (UK); Yuz Museum, Shanghai (CHN); MOT – Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (JPN); Museum MMK für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (DE); Museum of African Contemporary Art Al
Maaden – MACAAL, Marrakech (MAR); National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (CA); Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (USA); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (USA); Centre Pompidou, Paris (FR); Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Montreal (CA); ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, Aarhus (DK) and MACBA, Barcelona (ESP).

She is represented by galerie Poggi, Paris; Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town and London; galerie Tanja Wagner, Berlin.

Kapwani Kiwanga is a Franco-Canadian artist based in Paris. Kiwanga’s work traces the pervasive impact of power asymmetries by placing historic narratives in dialogue with contemporary realities, the archive, and tomorrow’s possibilities.

Her work is research-driven, instigated by marginalised or forgotten histories, and articulated across a range of materials and mediums including sculpture, installation, photography, video, and performance.

Kiwanga co-opts the canon; she turns systems of power back on themselves, in art and in parsing broader histories. In this manner Kiwanga has developed an aesthetic vocabulary that she described as “exit strategies,” works that invite one to see things from multiple perspectives so as to look differently at existing structures and find ways to navigate the future differently.