Beninese photographer Stéphane Bossart has developed his art practice around social and cultural life in Africa. Here he talks about his project focused on one of the stages along the historic Slave Route in the city of Ouidah.
Ouidah, a city located in the south of Benin, is known for the history of Voodoo culture and for its key role in the Atlantic slave trade from the 17th to the 19th century. It was a powerful sales and embarkation center for the Western slave trade, where enslaved people traversed a path marked out by stages before arriving at the "Door of No Return", where the ships were.
This route, now called the “Slave Route”, has seven main stages and four kilometers you can visit to go back in time and pay homage.
The Tree of Oblivion is one of its stages that I wanted to highlight with this project. The enslaved people had to turn around this tree a number of times before boarding the ships.
In accordance with Voodoo tradition, this was believed to make them amnesic. Once their past origins and cultural identities were "forgotten”, they became malleable, without any desire to react or to rebel.
In this series of images combining digital photography and photoshop montage, I document and playfully recall the history of this Tree of Oblivion, which can still be visited today in the historic city of Ouidah. The men in the foreground represent the “kings, dignitaries, fetishists, wise men and slave traders” and, in reality, all people who have contributed to the slave trade and attended the ceremony.
The idea of these pictures taken in Ouidah is to illustrate the story in its originality and share this experience with the world, because many ignore this part of the story when we talk about slavery in Africa.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Stéphane Bossart is a Beninese photographer who develops his practice around social and cultural life in Africa. After training in audiovisual and communication studies, he became a photojournalist. Attracted by documentation, discovery and personal encounters, he travels through different African countries in order to expose the many faces of the region. In parallel, he covers international sports and cultural events, developing his practice between Europe and Africa. His professional experience has allowed him to develop a series of artistic works that expose his personal vision of the African continent and, more particularly, of his country, Benin. The social relationships and ties within cities and communities, as well as historical and cultural heritage, are the driving force of his artistic research.
In Hinduist and Buddhist traditions, 'Ahimsa' refers to respect for all living beings and avoidance of violence toward others. The artists share here their collaborative project that engages art as a means of unraveling issues of identity, stereotyping and discrimination in Myanmar--issues that that resonate within and across cultures throughout the world.
The different levels of conflict in Myanmar could be rooted within ourselves and the way we think, shaped by our identities and sense of belonging. This includes our background, race, ethnicity, socio-economic class, gender, sexual orientation, age, national origin, first language, physical, emotional, developmental ability, traditions, culture, religion or spiritual affiliation, roles in the respective society and our goals.
Communal narratives that we each carry can make us form prejudices, causing us to develop feelings, attitudes and instincts toward someone or a group of people. As a result, stereotypes are created which are reinforced by respective cultures, history and politics and often escalate into discrimination. Normally, when a person is discriminated against based on one of his or her identities, the rest of their identities - somehow fade in the eyes of the perpetrators, who - focus on the differences more than the similarities: us versus them.
In this project, participants from diverse backgrounds reflected on and shared their experiences of discrimination through interviews and portraits. This has resulted in what you see here today--portraits of the participants with black petals covering their bodies. The audience can remove the black petals to reveal the individual's core identity, with mindfulness to be more cognisant in the future when it comes to considering the feelings and identities of others.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Sai Htin Linn Htet and Khine Sandi Shwe are collaborative partners on ‘Ahimsa’, as well as many other projects, including the critically acclaimed Building Bridges Yangon: International New Media Art Exhibition, which was acclaimed by art critics as one of the best exhibitions of 2019 and a groundbreaking and historic exhibition.
Aware of the scarceness of support and sustainable ecosystem in contemporary art and cultural industries for young artists, they recently co-founded the Indriya Platform, whose mission is to empower Myanmar’s young creatives, as well as the Kalaw Contemporary Arts Festival 2021, to support and promote emerging contemporary artists working in a variety of mediums.
Sai Htin Linn Htet is a Yangon-based curator, artist and peace educator. His visual multi-media, documentary and self-reflective work is informed by principles of empathy and focus on issues of human rights, pollution, gender equality, identity and discrimination. As an educator, he provides peace education courses to politicians, civil society organizations, activists and youth from all over the country. As an artist, Sai responds to personal experience involving the human condition, mostly triggered by his mixed ethnic background, identity and gender, as well as deeply-rooted social issues, restrictions on freedom of expression, and conflicts in Myanmar. Sai was a recipient of Goldsmiths Fellowship from the University of London in 2019.
Khine Sandi Shwe is a leading change maker fellows of the Asia pacific leadership program from the East-West Center, learning how system changes are shaped and formed. As an ethnic minority in Myanmar with global citizenship spirit, Khine has embraced and has been a driving force in shaping the harmonious and diverse societies and communities of Myanmar through the arts and culture.
She envisions the arts not only as healing agents in communities, but also as a bridge of heritages from the past towards the contemporary and the unforeseeable future. She is working extensively to materialize an international, cross-disciplinary art movement that engages artists and audiences with the vital and unique historic, geographical, social, cultural and economic characteristics of the region.
The rich diversity of Latin American histories and identities, and the aspiration toward a shared Latin American cultural reality, inspire the original works of Chilean artist Natalia Cádiz.
La temática de inspiración y creación transversal en mi trabajo es el Surrealismo Contemporáneo como medio comunicativo y reflexivo de la realidad latente. Considero que el uso de la realidad hace interpretables conceptos, como lenguaje universal conocido por todos. Sin embargo, el factor fantástico, permite que el espectador interprete cada imagen desde su propia realidad, generando reflexiones retrospectivas.
Las inspiraciones, a lo largo de estos ocho años de pintura profesional, han ido entre: vivencias autobiográficas, reflexiones medioambientales, miradas sociales críticas del entorno nacional, y, actualmente, identidades nacionales y latinoamericanas. Esta última ha fortalecido y madurado mi obra, rescatando las diversidades culturales frente a la utopía de crear un espacio cultural latinoamericano. Por lo mismo, frente a la importancia que requiere es que estoy trabajando este concepto.
Esta temática cada vez toma mayor relevancia y fuerza en el carácter de mi obra, pues busca indagar en los vestigios de identidades latinoamericanas, invitando a reflexionar y unir los orígenes de los mismos dolores y fuerzas históricas como punto de unión hacia una libertad identitaria, poniendo en valor la diversidad cultural del territorio Sudamericano y sus cosmogonías ancestrales, con intención de formar un imaginario latinoamericano de alcance y acceso internacional.
Desde esta mirada Latinoamericana, lo que importa es que se vayan sumando instancias de diálogo entre diferentes países de este territorio, que vayan generando miradas y reflexiones desde un colectivo, e ir fortaleciendo esas diversidades que nos hacen auténticos. Latinoamérica es un continente que tiene mayor diversidad cultural, y eso lo hace un continente más rico, por tanto, la idea es potenciar esa diversidad que nos sirve a todos para aprender, reflexionar y compartir lo que somos, lo que sentimos y cómo nos vemos, que es súper importante no dejarlo de lado, sobre todo ahora que la globalización ha generado mayor hibridez cultural, donde hay interacciones directas y un compartir de estas culturas. Frente a esto, es fundamental ser conscientes de lo que fuimos, somos y queremos ser culturalmente.
Los Ojos de la Historia y Witrafun Pellü
Mi obra, "Los Ojos de la Historia", busca plasmar la necesidad de concebir a Latinoamérica como un territorio unido. Nace a partir de la gran deuda con nuestros orígenes y nuestras historias como territorio Latino, por tanto, me surge la necesidad de buscar una resignificación para aumentar la valorización con nuestros orígenes y, de alguna manera, intentar subsanar tanto daño aplicado históricamente. Asimismo, esta obra presenta la fuerza del territorio Latinoamericano.
Por otro lado, mi obra "Witrafun Pellü", que en madupungún (lengua mapuche) significa "Rasgar el Alma", tiene referencia específicamente a mi visión de una de las identidades chilenas, específicamente, en cómo vive en la actualidad la cultura mapuche y cómo aún mantiene latente su dolor histórico, producto de la mirada cultural sesgada e intransigente del Estado chileno frente a esta cosmogonía ancestral. La imagen intenta plasmar, en parte, ese sentimiento, como crítica a la manipulación social que ejerce el Estado.
Para mí, la pintura es mi voz, pues me permite comunicar de una manera sensible algunos principios fundamentales del ser humano, invitándolo a una directa conexión con sus emociones. Mi misión es ayudar a otros a conectarse con su esencia, siendo puente entre mente y espíritu.
Sobre la artista:
Natalia Cádiz es artista chilena, Licenciada en Arte especializada y dedicada a la pintura al óleo y Magíster en Gestión Cultural. Ha realizado diversas exposiciones, tanto colectivas como individuales. Actualmente, dedicada a la docencia, a su obra personal y a la gestión cultural en la ciudad que reside, Valparaíso, Chile.
The inspiration and transversal creation in my work is Contemporary Surrealism as a means of reflection on and communication of latent realities. I believe that the use of realism makes concepts understandable, as a universal language known to all. And the fantastic element allows the viewers to interpret each image from their own realities, generating retrospective reflections.
My inspirations, throughout these eight years of professional painting, have moved between autobiographical experiences, environmental reflections, critical observations of the social national environment, and, currently, of national and Latin American identities. The latter has strengthened and matured my work, rescuing cultural diversities aside the utopia of creating a Latin American cultural space. For the same reason I am now working on this theme, facing the commitment it requires.
Latin America Identities
This theme is becoming increasingly relevant and powerful in my work, as it seeks to investigate the vestiges of Latin American identities, inviting to reflect on and to recognize the origins of same historical sufferings and strengths as a common point of departure towards a libertarian identity, recognizing the value of cultural diversities and ancestral cosmogonies of the South American lands, with the intention of creating a Latin American cultural reality of international reach and access.
From this Latin American perspective, what matters is that instances of dialogue between different countries of this vast territory come together, that they generate collective views and reflections, and strengthen those diversities that make us authentic. Latin America is a continent that has a vast cultural diversity, and this diversity makes it culturally rich. The idea is therefore to promote this diversity that helps us all to learn, reflect and share who we are, what we feel and how we see ourselves; it is extremely important not to leave it aside, especially now that globalization has generated greater cultural hybridity, where there are direct interactions and sharing between these cultures. Facing this, it is essential to be aware of what we were, we are and we want to be culturally.
The Eyes of History and Witrafun Pellü
"The Eyes of History", seeks to capture the need to conceive of Latin America as a united territory. Born from the great debt to our origins and our histories as a Latin territory, the need arises to seek a re-signification and re-appreciation of our origins and to try to correct , in some ways, much historical damage. At the same time, this work represents the strength of the Latin American land.
"Witrafun Pellü", which in Madupungún (Mapuche language) means "Tear the Soul", specifically refers, on the other hand, to my vision of one of Chilean identities, specifically, of how the Mapuche culture lives today and how it still keeps latent its historical suffering, a product of the biased and intransigent cultural view by the Chilean State of this ancestral cosmogony. The image tries to capture this feeling, as a criticism of the social manipulation exercised by the State.
Painting is my voice, because it allows me to communicate sensibly some fundamental principles of being human, inviting the viewers to an immediate connection with their emotions. My mission is to help others connect with their essence, being a bridge between mind and spirit.
About the artist: Natalia Cádiz is a Chilean artist, with a Bachelor of Art specialized in oil painting and a Master in Cultural Management. She has participated in various exhibitions, both collective and individual. She is currently dedicated to teaching, her personal work and cultural management in the city where she lives, Valparaíso, Chile.
Exploring memory and points of view, artist Dmitrii Kilaga creates digitally mixed artworks inspired by ordinary realities, 1990s era VHS tapes and experimental movies.
This story project isn’t about a rough political and economic period of my country. It is about exceptional years of cultural impact from entertainment, cults, and media in general on my society’s state of mind during the time I was raised--spreading fear after the total collapse of a country that no longer even exists. That was my 90’s: where both my country and I experienced an “equal damaged” mentality.
“Equal damage” is when both sides (society or country and myself at that time) were affected by uncontrolled forces and disasters. The country was mainly bankrupt and people were mentally or morally distressed. I’d like to note that I don't support the Soviet regime, and do not to consider myself as a victim. It’s just a part of history and my story.
Due to seventy years of total quarantine from every kind of life - in other words, censorship - the country merely started getting a breath of fresh air in 1991. The intensive wave of psychotic anxiety that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the sudden ending of censorship that the society was used to, overwhelmed every citizen through television, zines, newspapers, radio, and booklets. With the lack of information filtering and alternative points of view, everyone would trust any rascal.
During prime time, thousands of people listened to sermons by destructive religion cult leader Aum Shinrikyo’s Shoko Asahara (notoriously famed for Tokyo’s terrorist attacks in 1995). Millions of middle-aged people put their buckets of water in front of the TV as a ‘miracle cure’ for health and luck, just because the anchorman assured them of the healing power of magic.
My grandma was obsessed (and she still is) with magazines about UFOs and expected their imminent invasion. I was desperately frightened by the mask of ancient Chinese philosopher Guo Xiang, as the logo of the main public broadcast company.
It’s not society’s fault, nor that of TV, radio, or anything else. It just depends on parental control and education. And I don’t blame my mom and dad either. They had no option. They just left me in front of the TV, as everyone else left their bucket of water in the room for miracles happening. After a permanent watching dose of psychedelic underground cartoons, terrible news, and disgusting low budget movies, I always had nightmares.
Another trouble we faced was the location of our apartment, fifty meters from a railway hub. The mix of sounds and shadow of trains made me scream almost every night, just because I saw the shadows of wagons as a marching parade on my room’s wall and heard the dispatcher’s voice. Every night used to come to me with the same fear of macabre marches. It all seemed to me as a never-ending story in the Covid-19 lockdown.
Nevertheless, “Collusion” was made during the quarantine and gained a different perspective from these days, while still a reflection of my childhood fears that are chasing me from time to time. And sometimes they are heading for revival just like fashion. When someone draws inspiration in the 90s, I draw straight from the 90s to a time of escapades and insanity, with a narrow line between humanity, alienation and my memory. That’s our decade, that’s our point of no return.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
My name is Dmitrii and I’m a lo-fi experimental digital artist from Russia. Currently I’ve chosen the interaction with mixing of digital filming and drawing in a single creation. Most of my works were inspired by the VHS tapes from the 90's, experimental short movies, memories and ordinary reality. The main reasons and things that drive me to create have always been alienation between my personality and society, as well as a private taboo for words to express my point of view and connect to my memories.
South African artist, Caitlin Mkhasibe discusses her explorations into interdependent ecologies and wallpaper design as a platform for mural-scale artistic expression and collaboration.
I've wanted my art on walls since I was introduced to and inspired by the work of street artists, ROA and BLU, in my early teens. My first large scale project was done with a high school friend where we converted the walls of each cubicle (inside and out) in our school's boys' bathroom into chapters of a story. We did the project with the permission and half of the funding from the school. We raised the other half by hosting a live gig of our friends' bands, including the one I was in at the time. Since then, I secretly and clumsily painted a few public walls and did experiments on abandoned ruins here and there over the years. It has been interesting to come across people's posts online of selfies in front of my work, where they did not know who the artist was. Something made secretly under torch light and whispers was celebrated in the blazing sun years later. In one of the December holidays while in university, with permission from my parents, I adorned one wall in my bedroom with layers of old dictionary paper and paint. For my dream home, I'd also been eyeing watercolour-styled wallpaper designs on Pinterest. That further solidified wanting to have my abstract, textured art on my own walls. Renting since graduation never allowed me to explore this further, without worrying about having to paint over it well enough to get my deposit back whenever I'd choose to move ... and I have moved every year since graduation in 2015.
I came across Robin Sprong Wallpapers (RSW) online on two different art research occasions and the company's work lingered in my mind for a while. I saw that they collaborate with artists and mustered the courage to reach out to them via email. I received a lovely response from the artist liaison and graphic designer, Nadia du Plessis, who also is an amazing artist at her own studio, Bvbblgegvm Illustrations. Luckily, we had met each other and exhibited together at Open Book: Comics Fest earlier in 2019 in Cape Town, so she was already familiar with my art. She introduced my work to Robin, who liked it and the collaborative process began from there.
I was called in to meet everyone at RSW in October 2019 and Nadia gave me a tour of the office and the impressive printers. Nadia was very welcoming, supportive and patient to answer my many questions. I got to feel the different kinds of paper that they use and was able to see examples of wallpaper that they had done. They had an internal meeting prior to my meeting with Nadia and I was informed that there was interest in two of my pre-existing works that I did in 2015, Barnacles and Ship Sonar. I was asked to expand on these to create a series of works for the team to choose from to form a collection. I reconstructed these older works from multiple scans for a higher resolution. Because those final artworks were manipulated digitally, I still had the original, separate elements on paper to work with that used soy wax, ink and pen on wax and 160gsm paper.
I created newer artworks within a similar theme and these are called: Jellyfish Planet;
Underwater Plateaus, Gems, Reef and Underwater Landscape. Just like Barnacles and Ship Sonar, the newer pieces referenced sonographs and deep-sea creatures as they discussed human-made noise pollution affecting echolocation between marine mammals. I like black and white images of sunken ships and documentaries on deep sea exploration, so I kept these in mind while working.
To add some variety and colour to the collection, I used homemade vegetable and fruit inks to create the two pieces, Atoms & Vegetation and River, Rocks & Vegetation. I've been exploring this medium since learning a few years ago that certain paints don't have animal friendly ingredients. Overtime, I researched brands that use substitutes, but I took a liking to the unusual medium and mixed it with bought acrylic paints and ink. The imagery for the two artworks were based on my visits to the Newlands and Cecilia forests in Cape Town. Before South Africa's Covid-19 lockdown, I spent a lot of time outdoors, when I wasn't working on art or with the band. I often took pictures as references, so I used some of those combined with memories of the visual inspiration I get from the natural environment.
From concept to the finished artworks, it took about a month to produce an array of ideas for the first round of choices for the RSW team to review. I first worked on miniatures before upscaling. After a review from the team, I continued to work on their suggestions and created final, large pieces. I then scanned them at a high resolution and digitally manipulated the monochrome pieces.
The RSW graphic design team also create their own designs exclusively for the company, so I was given clear guidance on their process. Since I wasn't creating a recurring pattern but rather a large mural, I had a lot of freedom to play with abstract texture and form and that was exciting. After feedback on the stronger artworks of my series, the team double checked the standard of the work and prepared the final files for potential print jobs. Methods for the wallpaper design process and how I usually work artistically are fairly similar, however, there was a team to give feedback. From that I learned to zoom out from my work process as I tend to get detail orientated. The extra eyes reviewing the work helped me to tweak the works and polish them off.
The only challenge in this process was not having access to my own high-resolution scanner and there are few places in Cape Town that offer scans over 600dpi. The cost per scan is also puzzling, but it was very rewarding when I saw 1000dpi scans of my works for the first time on my screen. It felt like I was swimming in my artworks - something I've always wished to emulate through the close-up, detailed pictures that I take of the textures in my work. The scans picked up on the paper fibre, brushstroke layers and intricate linework, which was amazing. It also picked up scanner bed dust and other artifacts, so I had to work back and forth with the team to polish the photoshop files. I didn't realize my screen calibration was off and that made it hard to see some of my visible efforts to correct the files, so I had to borrow another computer and digital pen where I could see everything much better.
This collaboration with RSW has inspired me to work at an immersive scale in future. Art school always pushed for museum scale exhibitions from the students and I had tried this with projection in my final year. I have been focusing on affordable art at a smaller scale since then, but now I think I will continue to research and plan something on a large scale when the opportunity arises. The collaboration with RSW has definitely had an impact on myself and clients.
I have been approached for collaborations since sharing the collection online, I've had friends and family reach out, and I do feel more people take my work seriously. I acknowledge that it took a lot of communication between myself and a team to get to the final product that we are very proud of. The professionalism of RSW in the realms of graphic design, interior design, photography and wallpaper set vision and expertise, gave an elevated tone to my work. It has carried me forward and I couldn't be more grateful for their time and belief in me.
It is also phenomenal to know that through RSW, my art has a global reach outside of South Africa (Singapore, Dubai, United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, France, Italy, Portugal, USA, Australia, and New Zealand) and it is refreshing to work with a company that has an eco-conscious attitude.
When I look back, I realize that since 2012 I have had a Pinterest board focusing on interior design and even recall that as a teen, I modge-podged artistic elements from my mom's old home decor magazines onto the furniture, drawers and walls of my bedroom (thanks again, mom), so I would love to continue to pursue more of this kind of work when the opportunities arise.
I'm re-approaching how I present my work publicly overall by zooming out more during the process of creating, as I mentioned before. I'm also focusing on trying to put weight on how I present my final artworks so that it tells the story of each piece more precisely. It will take time, careful planning and consultation from artist friends but I am optimistic about it. I am still new to wallpaper design and each artist's work and approach is different. I feel I can only speak about my experience if it helps others who are curious about exploring wallpaper design. I found it was good to ask as many questions as needed to clarify the process. I listened to and worked with their suggestions, delivered when they needed work and I trusted that my art had been granted this platform for a reason.
Caitlin Mkhasibe graduated with a BFA at the Michaelis School of Fine Art in 2015. She is a Cape Town based artist and plays drums & discordant tones in the audio-visual ensemble, Morning Pages. When she isn’t illustrating on paper or up-cycling clothes into wearable art, she also does handpoke tattoos.
The materials she uses to create art are animal friendly and she utilizes abstract mark-making to render organic textures from nature to discuss political ecology, metaphysical moods and outer space. Caitlin explores how human made sounds affect echolocation between marine life. This is done through interpretations of spectrogram / sonographic textures amalgamated with illustrated parts of ships and creatures of the deep to form a coalescence of beings in and fragments of underwater scenes. Another eclectic element of her work is the use of home-made vegetable inks to illustrate the interdependence between natural ecosystems.
Tara Vatanpour discusses her ongoing art project about immigrants' struggles and losses, and about engaging art to raise awareness.
This project consists of over 100 artworks, documenting memories and traumas of immigrants from all over the world, from countries such as North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Vietnam, etc. It includes collected testimonies, honoring people’s struggles with immigration. Each memory is unique, precious and collectible.
The inspiration for this project came from my life and my own immigration story--the pain of the losses that I suffer and have suffered. The difficulty in exploring such a broad and painful subject is not only that it is quite personal, but that I also have to think of how my research can be of service to others. In order for that to happen, I decided on two goals: identification and raising awareness.
I look for real testimonies online of people who have suffered from immigration under different circumstances. Of course, a later more thorough project would be to meet with people and properly interview them. For now, I decided to settle with a real symbolic quote, keeping it anonymous to preserve the safety of those people the best I can, and to choose a symbolic object or texture that speaks to me.
My intent is not only to create a symbol and a message simple enough to reach a broad audience, but also to create a "souvenir". A really heartfelt moment in my loss is when I have an object that reminds me of a person that is not here anymore, or something that reminds me of where I come from. When people don't believe me, often this souvenir is the only proof, otherwise it is only my word.
I cherish each memory as something I can touch and feel, have and not lose. The scariest part is when I start forgetting the smile of the people I love, their laugh… because we have been separated for so long, and when I start forgetting my first language because I have no one left from this culture to practice it with.
I believe the suffering of immigrants needs to be remembered--needs to be known and faced. An immigrant is a person without a choice, and is not just a burden to a country. In my own case as Persian-Azari, American and French, I only have a French passport, but I feel most American. The suffering of not being able to be who I am every day, losing family, missing them every day, not speaking the language I want to speak, is like someone stabbing me in the heart 24/7.
I want to bring awareness around immigration trauma, and honor my fellow immigrants’ pain. I want the world to look at immigration for what it really is, and not through the eyes of only economic or cultural differences. I want to fight for change, flexibility, and love for people who are immigrants so they can find who they are again. Ultimately, I want to have more EMDR¹ and somatic therapists specialized in healing immigration trauma financed by foundations so that people can heal even if they are not back on their feet yet. Most importantly, I want to use art to create awareness.
ABOUT THE ARTIST: Tara Vatanpour is an artist and a luxury fashion designer, founder of Tara Vatanpour. Persian, Azari, French, American and influenced by the Brazilian culture, she focuses her artistic research around immigration trauma, loss and separation, chaos of emotions as a result, and the search for healing. From a solid educational background and studies in the field of fine arts, she uses installation art and performance art to express and deepen her artistic research, but is not limited to these two disciplines. Since 2019, she has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, in London, In Paris, and has had multiple online residencies, publications, and exhibitions. Her fashion design practice employs artistic research to create a bridge between fine arts and fashion. https://www.taravatanpour.com
¹Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment that was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories (Shapiro, 1989a, 1989b).
London-based artist Zaki Shanaan discusses his work, exploring and mapping his journey, mental and physical states, from a differently-abled and mixed-race perspective.
In my work, I express, explore and elaborate upon what I see as the reality of my lived experience. My material comes from my consciousness - materials of the mind. As a result of palpable actions, I portray my material in a tangible way. I developed my vision of being trapped, and the escapism alongside it, as physical acts that permit me to grasp for an expanse beyond the struggle. The work behaves as a justification to alleviate past experiences by using a form of escapism.
I was diagnosed with a brain tumour in the lining of my brain stem. My life started to move and shift into a different dimension from then on. When I was four years old, I had an unexplained brain bleed which meant that I was no longer able to walk. I became a wheelchair user. Through my art, I map a way to create my own understanding of my journey thus far and discover my own personhood. My concept is about being trapped, in a mental and physical state, taken from my own perspective as a differently-abled person who is also mixed race.
My experience of living as a so called disabled person has been full of pain and disbelief. This is as a result of the cruelty and judgements of others. My art allows me to embody the conflicts of the negative self. I contain this within the work and through the process. I use this as a vehicle to let myself move on to a more positive space. An additional goal is to connect with those who have any struggles in their life. My art facilitates the voice as a mode of communication from the internal to external world.
I have always been on the outside looking in. In my view, people aren’t as open minded as they potentially could be. The work that I have made, and will continue to make, lets out my inner feelings and emotions by exploring the depths of my inner self, so that I can release and reveal my innermost being. 'Trapped' is a metaphor I use to describe the struggles and the fights that continue to unfold in my life. This is due to the way society has traditionally viewed those who are black and mixed-race, and who may also be a so-called ‘disabled person’.
I was born in West London 1995. My heritage is a mixture of Jamaican,
African, French backgrounds. I use photography, painting, fashion,
silkscreen printmaking, film and any media that lends itself to the layers
of my narrative that I am unearthing on my journey towards a version
Visual and digital media artist, Kim Turru, currently based in Mexico, engages multidisciplinary, contemporary art practices to explore and reflect on topics related to language, translation, communication, identity and culture, as well as human relationships in a globalized digital era. Kim discusses his Secret Poem Series and shares with us his visual poems, sound art and video.
In the Secret Poem Series, I use personal experiences and aspects of my life to reflect through written, visual (video/collage/photography) and sound based poetry. I use the Spanish and Korean language to engage ideas of identity, language and belonging, with irony about what is public and what is private. That is to say, I want to talk about the desire to keep a certain level of privacy, as well as the need to show ourselves, at least a little bit, to the other. Communicating through traces and prints could perhaps give access to the other person, who is willing to enter into this world of meaning, to be able to reach and touch our intimacy. This allows us to re-think and re-build ourselves and our identity.
The main structure of this series relates to the way a Haiku works. A Haiku is a very short form of poetry, represented by the juxtaposition of two images or ideas manifest in a total of 17 syllables. These images or ideas usually express complex and abstract emotions or concepts through austerity, independent of context, simplicity and subtlety. They also use direct or indirect references to seasons of the year, nature and/or the observation of everyday objects and life. Each written sentence in this series has 8 syllables ( a total of 16 syllables), and the third element (video, collage/photography and sound) works as substitute for the syllable number 17.
A Secret Poem  - Written Poem in Spanish and Korean (Haiku) and Sound Art
Two Korean fathers and two Mexican mothers talking in their mother tongues to their mixed ethnicity children.
The sound shows only the phenomenological aspects and characteristics of both spoken languages, such as rhythm and tone. Korean father 0,0 – 3:23 min | Mexican mother 3:22 – 6:27 min | Korean father 6:25 – 9:46 min | Mexican mother 9:47 – 12:58 min
A Secret Poem [ 2 ] - still Image with Written Poem in Spanish and Korean (Haiku) and Video
Video images were recorded in Mexico and South Korea. The audio refers to the Korean poem Night Counting Stars by
Yun Dong-ju, interpreted by a person I have a close relationship with. The video, the sound and the written words maintain a deep connection between them, and play with each other by hiding and exposing, at times,
the meaning contained within.
A Secret Poem[ 3 ] - seven collage images made with old photographs and other elements linked to different and significative periods and moments of the past
The poem is written half in Spanish and half in Korean. Both languages interconnect with each other and are accompanied by a visual element that contains a deep relationship with the message hidden in there. The intention is that the person trying to have access to its meaning should make use of different practices such as translation, observation, and interpretation, motivated by a constant curiosity to go further in order to get deeper
into the other’s intimate truth.
About the artist:Kim Turru is a visual and digital media artist. His production
includes video art, animation, sound art, interactive art, art performance,
photography, collage, writing, mail art, installation art, illustration, intervention art,
and projects developed with mixed mediums. Check out Kim’s website for more
information about his work https://turrukimart.wordpress.com/
EAS participating artist, Fengjin Yu, from Hangzhou, China and currently enrolled at the Royal College of Art in London, shares her Master of Art dissertation process with us, activated in the form of a growing and multi-faceted sculptural installation entitled ‘Daily Life and Fragmentation’.
This sculptural installation project attempts to explore the connections between personal life and work/research. There seems to be an apparent gap between the two, but it's always intertwined.
At present, I am preparing my dissertation. The preparation appears to be an act of fragmenting knowledge. The printed text in the exhibit is from my bibliography. The process of writing is like cultivating a mushroom or a plant. It takes time, patience and careful cultivation. However, what the object looks like actually depends primarily on itself rather than the cultivator.
Generally speaking, the composition of this project needs the participation of time and space, and “time” and “space” become part of the material. During the installation exhibition, I watered the plants and fungi in the space every day to maintain their growth. At the same time, I uploaded my research progress and inspiration to the mini-printer every day, in real-time. The core of this work is to explore and discuss “process” and “progress”.
Printer paper grows every day during the exhibition, like growing plants and fungi. The content of the text is like a plant growing, and my personal feedback on the reading material is like a mushroom growing up. They all produce a meaningful, meaningless and/or redundant volume with the change of time. There is also an intense entanglement between words and art.
It is effortless for people to hide themselves when writing. Through certain writing techniques or text guidance, readers can easily be misled into thinking that the author is what the author wants them to see; when, in fact, the author may be different. However, when creating art it is very difficult for the creator to hide themself. Even if the work is not related to personal issues, the audience can also feel the real state of the artist.
In this project, I tried to experiment by combining the two, using the text and the text content as material that becomes a part of the work. By combining text with plants and printers in the exhibition space, their independent existence constitutes a spatial unity. Through the coordination of these materials, I was able to create a complete time-space process.
Treating my work as a process or part of a progression, I tried to give this project its own possibility, and also to artificially increase that possibility.
Fengjin Yu is an artist pursuing her MA at Royal College of Art in London. She received her BFA degree from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is originally from Hangzhou, China. In the beginning Fengjin’s sculptures and paintings employed the human figure in an effort to express a variety of human emotions, mainly those that arise from conflict. In college, she changed her focus to the interaction between sculpture and audience.
EAS participating artist, Liam Andersen, working with memory and imagination, discusses his two interconnected, ongoing projects exploring identity.
I am a mixed-media artist from Denmark, based in Greece. I am currently working on recreating photographs of my family and upbringing into oil paintings. This method captures the poetics and emotions that memories evoke, allowing me to find a balance between memory and imagination. To engage artistically has given me the opportunity to view memories and family photographs with a more critical lens and helps me better understand where I come from, how this has shaped my identity, and why I have ended up on a very similar path today.The process of becoming a part of the art I am creating, by living the story that I am tellin, is the baseline for the whole project. As a young and aspiring artist, I seek to fulfill my passion by finishing two interconnected exhibitions titled, 'Until I was Born', and 'Mom and Dad, We Survived'.
You can see more images of Liam's work on his Instagram account: the.moon.is.a.harsh.mistress
'Until I was Born' tells the story of my parents, from when they met until I was born, through oil paintings based on recreations of photographs, as well as through their oral accounts, as they were handed over to me throughout my upbringing.
This is a story of a young and idealistic couple who fall in love, through a commitment to creating a life together free from the individualistic and isolating reality of the neo-liberal market society of Europe, since the late 1970s. From the squat scene of Sankt Pauli and Reberbahn¹ in Hamburg, to the drug infused raves of Goa in India, and experiments with communal lifestyles in various parts of southern Europe, this piece tells the story of the life of my parents.
As travelers living on the road in a bus converted into their home, before I was born, they became parents. Before my mother became pregnant, they confronted the question: How can our lifestyle, our dreams and aspirations, be compatible with the safe upbringing of a child? This is a story of sacrifice and compromise. Eventually deciding to settle down, and once again confronted with what they considered a meaningless life within capitalist modernity.
The piece captures the crumbling of my parent’s relationship and my father’s sinking into depression. After years of pain, the result is a divorce. I was born into this moment of pain, this moment of rupture. The only glimpse I would ever come to know of a harmonious family would be through the thousands of pictures that capture those years before I came into being and everything changed.
'Mom and Dad, We Survived'is a video piece, still in process, that follows up on my own love story. From 2017 to 2019, I have been documenting my life and journey with my former partner, using videos, writing and photographs as a tool. The video piece begins one harmonious summer, with two 19-year olds riding their bikes through the woods in Denmark, two days before leaving their houses, jobs and lives behind for the next two years.
The experimental video footage consists often of only fragments. Through these fragments, the viewer is taken on an intimate love story journey with a young couple travelling through Palestine and Morocco, Chile and Argentina, and finally to the south of Europe, where the relationship ends when one of the protagonists becomes deeply involved with the radical left subculture of Greece. Themed around love and the desire to make sense of oneself by revisiting and exploring the rivers from where one’s identity and self-narrative have sprung. The piece consists of video footage, self-portraits (photo) and diary pieces. It is a follow up to 'Until I was Born', exploring the same issues, themes and cultures, only 20 years later through the lens of my own tragic and fantastic love story.
ADDENDUM: Excerpts from a recent interview with Liam published in artCollective Magazine:
Artists that have inspired me
I am a big admirer of Apolonia Skool. Her art has been very inspiring and important to me. The sensation her art gives me is similar to the feeling of disappearing into an amazing piece of literature. The way she portrays her characters is incredibly strong, and I am moved by how her love for the people she works with comes across through her art. I am also a sucker for portraits that are located within the mundaneness of everyday life. The normality of the setting can function almost as a window into something very powerful between people.
I am also very inspired by the city I live in, Athens, and the people around me. … the documentarists that I have met through the political scene here in Athens, and the artistic process of becoming a part of what you are creating, by living the story that you are telling.
Other media and techniques
I love working with oil chalk. I have developed a process that is very physical, and one that allows for a lot of spontaneity. It’s a very simple process, but it’s very therapeutic to me, almost cathartic at times.
First, I cover a large piece of canvas (90x70cm) with a thick layer of chalk, a long and intensive process, often soviolent that my fingers will start to soften and blisters will appear. When the entire canvas is covered in a layer of oil chalk, I draw on the canvas by carving it with a knife. It’s a very long but meditative process. I find this method exciting because you are presented with a completely different set of challenges, but also opportunities...
All the images are oil on paper, untitled # 1-7 from the series 'Until I Was Born'
Note¹: The Reeperbahn is a street and entertainment district in Hamburg's St. Pauli district, one of the two centres of Hamburg, Germany’s nightlife
Revisiting old photographs and hearing them telling family stories, remembering people and lives, Indian artist Jayeti Bhattacharya enters into dialogue with her family's past recreating contexts and meanings.
[Click on the images to enlarge them!]
With different stories embedded within, I found a packet of very old photographs that was left out in the dust, on top of the cupboard for the silver fish.
I started to gather collections of photographs from the family’s close relatives, people who were also present in these photographs but never talked about them. While going through this huge lot of images from my relatives’ archives I was really amazed to find so many which have a deep connection with my roots and identity.
I thought of looking again through them and decided to create visuals with my interpretation of the ambiences where the scenes represented in the photographs must have been part of.
As my family shifted its base from the other side of the border to several different locations, and lastly settling down in Kolkata, it received the visits of countless family relatives who would come to visit the city, to stay here as a basis for medical visits and check ups, or on their way to move to other parts of the country, for their own turns in the city of Kolkata, or many other innumerable reasons.
I feel that these works are celebrations of those special moments lived by the many relatives and friends. These photographs carry the character of both the known and the un-known. Known seems to be the people whom I knew personally, and un-known seems to be those whom I only knew through the words of the known. I feel a relationship grows here between the known and
the un-known. The known plays the pivotal role in conveying the moments and the lives lived with the un-known. The photographs trap different layers of relationship with the times, the situations and the places where the shots were taken and that are captured within their surfaces. The time here becomes ephemeral to me. I feel as if through the photographs I can peep into those moments and those situations, embedded within their surfaces. I thought I could express the importance of time and relationship through it.
I thought of questioning whether these relationships still cherish the same affection or whether they now only share the same photograph surface, and whether the land which we belong to now breaths the same way as before. Many photographs expressed sibling love, which in today’s world is getting much
objectified. With all these ideas in mind, my project was to create a new visual language, using the original photographs and archiving the local history, which connects us to the past and leads the way towards the un-predictable future.
Different question rise in my mind: what if we had to live in a land of nature without the box structures around us (our houses), what if humans had to live alone and survive by themselves alone, what if the animals were to live inside the boxes and humans were to roam around? Apart from these thoughts, humans are entangled in numerous relationships throughout their lives. But over here, again, do these relationships continue to be memorable and significant, or are they just reduced into a pile of old photographs lying in the dust to be found by future generations? In a way the essence of the present is being moved away from the present, but it does live until its enigmatic end.
She holds a Master’s of Fine Arts from Kala Bhavana, Visva Bharati University.
Her work has been shown in many exhibitions, including ‘Defining a Relative Space’ at A.M. Studio; ‘Bad Smell Good Smell’ at Studio 21 in Kolkata; ‘Last Image Show’, both in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 2018 and Lusaka, Zambia, in 2019.
She was also part of the CIMA Award Show 2019 in Kolkata. Many of her works include a combination of painting and mixed media and address overarching themes related to time, space, land, history and existential reality.
Indian artist Anirban Mishra dives deep into the loss, the pain and the fears spread by the present pandemic, vividly expressing them in his recent work.
Every 100 years or so, our world is affected by a violent disease which becomes an epidemic. In this present time, the novel Coronavirus is the big epidemic in the world, which started to spread in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. Then it affected the whole world very quickly.
This epidemic has not only affected health and population; it has affected our social and economical conditions. This precious time is very critical to handle for everybody. It will be taking its part in world history. As an artist, I tried to represent this situation through my work. The violent nature of this epidemic is not less than a world war, but is more than this. In a very short time, the epidemic transforms the world’s condition to another place. A huge number of people died, some families are isolated from society. Still no vaccine has been discovered. Now we can cure only one way, that is social distance. Governments announced complete lockdown in most of the countries in the world to create social distance. A record in world history.
My previous works are related to alienation in society, now highly increased. Huge numbers of people are dying in this epidemic. Somebody lost their family, somebody lost their lover, and many people have fallen into deep sorrow and faced deep anxiety.
I lost You
I lost You! ! !
Oh God I lost him !!!
You went from me...
I felt into a deep
‘I Lost You’ is a painting that represents the sorrow and anxiety of a family for the death of one member. They feel pain to have lost their closest one. I used exaggerated figures which help me to represent the expression of the family members who fell into deep anxiety. The central character of the composition is laying down on the bed and his death represents the violent epidemic. The standing figures are represented in different postures, showing the character of painful expressions. The fine and simplified lines show the expressive quality of the drawing. Ink and charcoal are the main mediums in this work. The Coronavirus is a most critical disease, which is destroying the social structure. Every day the number of deaths increases and the number of affected people is growing.
This disease is showing a violent character of its own. It’s like our whole world will be covered by this epidemic one day. In this painting, I used monochromatic colors and the black color in the sky to represent the Dark Age. If this epidemic never stops, then the whole world will be destroyed.
In this painting, only three people are standing on a lonely vast land. They are alienated in the world. The background of the painting shows the dark world, which is lonely. It is as if only these three people are still living in the world and the whole world has become a death valley. These people can be created into a new world, which is the transformation of one world to another world.
The novel Coronavirus has become an epidemic. Still, no vaccine has been discovered to prevent the disease. To cure it, affected people need to stay in an isolation. People are scared to live alone, and are also scared to be isolated from society.
In 'A Man with His Pet', a man stays in an isolation room with his loved pet. He is isolated from society. The expression of the character represents pain and anxiety. It’s very difficult to stay alone and isolated for a long time. Bu in the present time people are scared to live.
To prevent the spread of the disease, the governments of many countries and cities announced a complete lockdown, requiring social distancing, which is considered the only way to prevent the disease. This kind of lockdown has never happened in the past. Cities and streets look different. We are all isolated from social contact. The cities and their streets become lonely. People should avoid coming to the streets, but some are not responding properly. They come out of their homes and break the lockdown regulation. The situation can become critical, since it can increase the possibilities of affecting more people. Lockdown in this painting represents a night view of city life. The city is completely locked down, but two people are standing in the street. They feel depressed from social isolation. Their expressions represent anxiety. Standing alone in the street, they see the alienated city. Modern city life can be so alienating.
I am inspired by Egon Schiele, Anselm Kiefer, Edvard Munch, Jackson Pollock, and many other artists. I always try to create my own language. Sometimes my works show the inspiration from these artists.
In these epidemic times, social gathering is the most problematic. People are trying to understand. Lots of people are gathered in the streets and in the market, which increases the possibility of affecting more and more people. Houses are standing in the background of this painting. In the village area and the foreground a group of people are gathered, and a dog is among them.The total composition represents society.
The exaggerated figures and lines help us to understand the breakdown. This exaggerated lines increase this quality in the drawing. The expressions of people who are standing in the street not only represent gathering, but represent the inner scary character of the human mind, which they are communicating to each other.
The impact of the coronavirus on people’s lives and on economic, social and global relations, both now and in the future, is likely to be more far-reaching than any other previous public-health crisis. Not even during the First World War or the Second World War did governments feel the need to close schools. Society is most affected by this epidemic. In 'Social breakdown' I tried to represent the present social condition. This work has been realized with acrylic color and charcoal, basically mixed media on paper. The colors are applied in multilayers. Each layer represents memory and time. Figures are the central element. We can easily understand, by looking at this painting, that it represents a society. Some people are standing in the street and one person has already died. One person hugs the dead body of the man and falls into deep sorrow. The dead man was obviously very close to these people, and they feel pain. Again people are represented with exaggerated forms and lines, showing the breakdown of the society.
The next two paintings are very similar. In them I tried to show the lockdown situation.
Everybody in our society is now scared of the Coronavirus pandemic. All people are scared of death and loss. This painting represents the fear of death and the social condition in the present time. People here do not represent a social gathering. They are juxtaposed to represent society. Their facial expressions represent the fear, anxiety and pain of someone’s death. The flowers also become colorless, indicating the sadness and the uncomfortable situation. The background of the painting is also monochromatic and dark, to represent the dramatic situation. The whole painting uses exaggerated lines, which are very significant, to create distorted figures. Thorn wires are partially covering the bodies, conveying the meaning that people are suffering and living their life with troubles.
The government is telling everyone to stay at home, to stop face-to-face socializing, to stop all non- essential journeys, and to limit our movement to activities like going out to the nearest shop for food and one form of exercise a day. In addition, as announced by the government, you must also stay away from anyone outside your immediate household to stop the virus being spread from one household to another. This advice means that, unless you have sex with someone within your household, it’s important to find sexual pleasure in other ways. Despite the situation with COVID-19, we need to remember that sex is an important part of life, but right now we have to find other ways to achieve sexual pleasure and satisfaction.
But people do not care about the rules and are more committed to each other. Erotic sentiments are mostly increased in this time and they are expressed sexually. 'The lovers' shows lovers holding each other. They are trying to communicate sexually. The figures are exaggerated, showing the anxiety of human minds in times of social distancing. The two faces are covered by cloths, like protective masks, but they have sex to get sexual pleasure. The background of this painting represents the corner of the room. Their expressions show sexual pleasure. Thorn wires represent the boundaries and the lockdown situation of this time. ‘The Lovers’ by Rene Magritte was the inspiration for this work.
The painting ‘Lovers in Garden’ shows lovers who are committed to each other. They are holding each other. They are standing in the garden. The garden looks like it is burned, and full of thorn wires. The sky is browned, to show damaged and rusty nature. This is very much connected to human emotions and the power of intimacy strongly connected to lovers.
The figures are exaggerated, like exaggerated is our present condition. The blue color, appearing in the sky, represents emotions, in this case the pleasure and emotions of sexual attachment.
In this critical time, the government announced the lockdown to stop the spreading Coronavirus. Economic conditions are breaking down. Lower-class people are mostly affected. They have no income and are suffering to live their life. They have no proper shelter to stay safe. They have family and are scared for their families. They try to collect money to buy food, but they can’t. In the painting ‘Economical Breakdown’, a man is standing on the road to sell balloons. There are no other people on the road to buy them, but the man is standing hopefully to sell the balloons to earn money. The body skeleton comes out from his body, showing the man suffering to live his life and that he is hungry.
The present time is very difficult, making history in the future. I've done some works which are related to the present time. These works are part of a series. It's an ongoing process.
I was born in Tamluk, West Bengal in 1995. I am a landscape painter. My works do not only represent natural beauty, but also represent more than what we see; social condition, human emotions, and the alienated society in modern times. I always experiment with different materials; it's more challenging for me to create experimental conceptual art.
In 2017, I graduated in Painting from the Indian College of Arts and Draftsmanship. In 2019, I completed my post graduate degree in Painting from S. N. School Of Arts and Communication, University of Hyderabad.
I have exhibited my works in several exhibitions in India. I received the all India best-exhibition award in painting and in 2019 I was selected as an emerging artist in India.
“Approximations -+” is a project - and a book - created in a fascinating long distance collaboration between Raphael Villet in Berkeley, California, and Carolina Magis Weinberg in Mexico City, on getting to the center. They converged first in Mexico City and then in Berkeley, last January, for a performance/presentation of the project.
As we walked in, the performance had already started, and only a single steady voice was heard in the otherwise pin drop silence of the high-ceilinged room. Immediately, my vision narrowed to the bottom of the amphitheater which doubled as our entrance.
There was a lightness, an openness even, in the tone of the space. Artists Carolina and Raphael sat unassumingly in front of us, speaking in turns. Their neutral colored clothing did not draw attention, but the concentration of focus upon them from an engulfed audience, the microphones, the screen lighting from behind, the wooden stairs, the second floor framing, and the walls all converged to the center.
The center exists because of what is around it. Centers are formed by a relationship with their surroundings. We can perhaps easily think of a few physical centers--we connect all the people in our lives, a museum is a center for the viewing of art, there is a geographic center between Raphael in Oakland and Carolina in Mexico City as they created this book--but there are also centers in time, motion, emotion, and the increasingly abstract spaces.
This book, “Approximations-+: An Exploration of Daily Moments Through the Metaphor of the Center,” was created using a risograph printer, which mimics screen printing, mechanical but notoriously imprecise. The inexactitude, coupled with the Mexico city search for such a printer, added another layer of meaning to the question of what is a center, as Raphael and Carolina cut a hole in the center of the book. The pages denote distances from the center of the book using measurements, numbers, and notches.
The artists told the story of an accident, a hypothetical scenario in which two cars collide. Is it an accident or destiny? Is it meant to be or meaningless? Truly, these two people have been traveling towards each other for years and have met in the center. The whole presentation was a reflection on coming to a center, or one could say on coming to many centers, in the event of moving away from others. It was observing, measuring, and a process.
At intermission the audience was prompted by small pieces of paper attached to a red string reading, “What do you center?”Not where do you center or how do you center, but what do you center? I wrote: “My gut--my emotional, physical, and reciprocal center.” I have gut feelings. My gut is more or less the corporeal center of my body. My gut centers me; I center my gut.
As the presentation came to a close, I had the privilege of speaking with the artists and some of the audience members. Referencing the part of the show where Raphael and Carolina set up streamers from point A to point B in different locations on the stage and measured the distances, Jonathan Villet, Raphael’s father said, “Seeing it acted out, you think about the time it takes to come to a center, to leave a center and then you realize that the center is always evolving.” Ironically, even if the performance had ended, the idea of the center, the idea of the show and the book, never really ends.
My artistic brain is geared toward the literal, but as I contemplate the next move in my career in Education Technology, returning to school to study art, and leaving my home in San Francisco, I have realized that no matter where I move, I will find a center. There is no one center and it will always change but I, like everyone else, am in my center at each moment. Decisions whether fated or by choice will determine my future. The key to my solace is that no matter what that future is, it will find an emotional, physical, and abstract center.
Note: ‘Approximations-+’ is the second book of the Raphael Villet’s Play House Print Series. The first book, ‘Reading Me’ by Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo, was published in 2018. You can find out more about Raphael’s print company, Play Press, based in Oakland, California, and the variety of zines it publishes.
Artist and publisher Raphael Villet is an interdisciplinary artist exploring the possibilities of collaboration with people, materials, and space. His work invites users to consider their relationship to the world in small and large ways. Working across textiles, painting, printing and photography he explores notions of value creation, power and self empowerment through self expression. His artwork has been featured in the Oakland Museum of California, The Tenderloin Museum of San Francisco and the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery. His publishing house, Play Press works in deep collaboration with artists across the americas and has been archived and made available across the country. www.raphaelvillet.com
Carolina Magis Weinberg ( Mexico City 1990) is a whether reporter and a sight specific artist. Through her interdisciplinary practice she aims to discover the multiple dimensions of visible space, the stories that conform absence, the gestures of a monument, the movement of a center. She is intrigued by the landscape and how it can be politicized and monumentalized through the analysis of certain phenomena, such as snow, rain, and sunshine. In 2017, she obtained a dual graduate degree in Fine Arts and Visual and Critical Studies from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco as a Fulbright, FONCA-Conacyt, and Hamaguchi scholar. She has exhibited her work in exhibitions in Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, France, Germany, Italy, and the United States. www.carolinamagisweinberg.com
Letting nature interact with man made material, watching how the interactions evolve and what emerges. Letting nature take over. Indian artist Maksud Ali Mondal shares Part II of his NATURE project.
The project ‘Where the One Ends, and the Other Begins’, created on the campus of Visva-Bharati University, in Santiniketan, was a durational engagement with nature by observing growing and transforming.
I collected discarded pieces and planks of wood from old buildings, which were already conditioned by time. In the old days those wooden pieces shared space with the glorious past, but later they were discarded and replaced with more durable materials, like steel, plastic and fiber.
With those discarded wooden pieces I built a space and gave the particular conditions required for the continuation of the process of nature. It was (15 feet long, 12 feet width and 12 feet high), on the campus of Kala Bavana, the Art Department of the University. This piece of architecture, so built, was then holding a collection of debris of old memories that were here acquiring a new identity.
This space was a built environment where the activities of nature were allowed to happen freely. Here nature extended to bring in micro life to the site, growing different life forms in the work over a period of time, thus allowing for materials to interact at the level of minute life.
The fallen leaves could decompose; insects, small plants and fungi could grow freely into the site. The installation itself participated in the decomposing process of nature.
We always take care of architectural spaces by maintaining them, and nowadays we prevent the decaying process of natural materials by using synthetic and more durable components. Though different architectural spaces and constructions have different functions, people hardly ever allow nature to interfere with them.
As the materials are influenced by the process of micro living organisms, I witnessed here the extent of what happens in a space by using these materials.
In this project I tried to break with the idea of protecting our spaces by giving nature full control to rush in and out of the space I had built to allow maximum changes. The viewer could enter inside the space and witness all the changes.
The interaction between the construction and nature realized here can be read at different levels of literal as well as metaphoric meanings.
Medium: Discarded wooden door, window and wooden parts
Maksud Ali Mondal was born in Bankura, West Bengal. He earned his BFA and MFA from the department of painting, Kala- Bhavana, Santiniketan in 2019 and studied a semester at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, Netherlands in 2016. He deals with biological and feral life in the current environment by observing growth and transformation over a period of time interacting with the materials.
His site-specific installation "Nature Unconditioned”, got the international award in the Kochi- Muziris Students' Biennale, 2019. He is the recipient of the national scholarship from the Ministry of Culture, The Government of India 2018. He participated in an international residency supported by Feudo Maccari, in Sicily, Italy 2018, as well as numerous group exhibitions in India and the Serendipity Art Festival collaboration with the Foundation of Indian Contemporary Art, Goa 2019.
His recent works are deeply concerned critically and creatively with the ecological debates and crisis that surround us today. Maksud currently lives in Santiniketan.