Teaching, learning, enjoying a natural affinity: EAS Zambian artist George Mubanga is sharing his experience of making art with kids in the French School of Lusaka.
Art has been my passion since childhood. I started drawing when I was in grade five. Unfortunately I was not in an art class, but I used to draw at home. I was unable to take art as a subject at school because I was placed in a History class and I could not change classes.
I grew up as a self taught artist. After I finished high school in 2013 I decided to become a full time artist and started my own studio and experimented with many different materials so that I could understand more about the process and learn how materials work.
In 2015, I joined the Visual Arts Council
and the Art Academy without Walls, both in Lusaka. There I had the chance to meet and interact with Zambia’s senior artists and to learn a lot, since almost everyone I met had taken art in school and college, and some were already art teachers and lecturers. Because of lack of funds I was unable to attend the university, so I continued to teach myself and learning from senior artists.
In March this year, I got the opportunity to do art activities with kids at the French School of Lusaka. It was only for one week, but I took this opportunity because of my passion to explore more in art, and because I liked the idea of interacting with kids. I often have kids come to play in my studio, and I enjoy teaching them how to draw and paint, so I was already familiar with kids.
My job at the French School was to demonstrate to the kids how materials work and to make artworks with them in each class. I prepared the activities tomake artworks using mixed recycled materials which the kids brought from home. Each class made different works. The kids were excited about the activities and enjoyed making art this way, because they had the freedom to express their creativity. They made artworks out of plastics, paper, containers, wood, glue, paint, charcoal, cans, soil, broken toys and fabric .
At the end of the art week we displayed the works in the school hall. The parents and teachers came to see them and they were amazed at seeing what the kids had made out of recycled materials. Seeing the good results of that week, the director of the school asked me to continue to do art activities with the kids once a week. I happily accepted because this opportunity could help me to research and learn more before I could go and teach in a class. And I would continue to work in my studio the rest of the week.
As of today, I am still doing the art activities with the kids at the French School of Lusaka. It is the best experience in my career. I have learned a lot from the people I have met, and teaching art to kids is great: they fully express themselves in making art, and I learn a lot from them as well. I guess I feel a natural connection with kids, which makes it easy for me to interact and share my gift with them.
George Mubanga is a self taught artist. He finished High School in 2013 and he has now an art practice in his studio in Lusaka, Zambia. He is a member of the Visual Arts Council and the Art Academy without Walls, both in Lusaka.
EAS artist, Ankur Yadav from Vadodara, India, describes his latest project, 'Orbiting the Black Sun’, and the intellectual framework that drives his exploratory art practice.
'Orbiting the Black Sun' ¹ uses a diorama as a point of entry to probe the tensions between knowledge produced by objective scrutiny and knowledge created by subjective readings. I am interested in the demarcation lines between what is known and what is considered unknown --how epistemology (the theory of knowledge) arrives at a certain set of canons, which are often imposed by agencies of power, to represent and deal with the known and the unknown. This might be cultural in nature and may, or may not, be functional in a universal sense. With this set of concerns, I use chaos, disorder and rupture as a strategy while dealing with dioramas. Dioramas are often schematized as strict-ordered displays to facilitate particular kinds of viewership/readings. In my work, I instead focus on instinct, spontaneity and disorder, to give a sense of disaster.
These works are painterly and use landscape as a trope, in order to highlight and historicize issues of perception, objectification and the meanings they generate, which further opens up a debate about agency: who owns, who preaches, and who forces us to look towards the landscape in certain ways by altering its purpose and rising our psyche to the consciousness of objectification and meaning creation. Simulating us, as if it would reveal something which it never does, but instead oppresses other ways of being, I believe the world in which we live is a diorama, where we are being secluded from the real by the very set of ideas and knowledge we have of it.
Escaping the present framework of knowledge
I am interested in Deleuze and Guattari's concept of de-territorialization, which does not mean the loss of being, but rather, an acceleration of being, a speeding up, a moving away, a change of being across the threshold of what is known at the current time, in the present place, or within the present framework of knowledge.
My works are inclined towards conceptual exploration, but I don’t want it to be just cerebral. I am convinced that the physical attributes and expressions need to be assessed on the basis of visual and sensual.
Mediums and Technique
Using wooden boxes of variable sizes, which I learned how to make, enjoying the process, I paint most of them with oil colours, using tea stains to achieve an earthly effect. I paint by fragmenting the raw and the natural objects, materials and resources in the boxes, using the three dimensional space as a diorama. They are juxtaposed in such a way to suggest that they are being researched, but at the same time, this very world which is being boxed, holds the expression of melancholia, grief and loss.
The installation uses the whole room as a landscape, and by entering it the viewer becomes an integral part of the work.
Searching for a different realm
Somehow the Western episteme (system of knowledge) plays a part in our attempts to create a two dimensional space over the chaotic, multidimensional space within which we exist. It workscatastrophically as first knowing, then colonising and then destroying.My work explores a realm that does not often come into the spectrum of subjects in the contemporary art world, but it is very much interdisciplinary.
My interest in dioramas is similar to that of the American artist Mark Dion, who explores the relation between museum display and social and political resources.
Notes: 1.The title of the piece, ‘Orbiting the Black Sun’, was inspired by Julia Kristeva’s book on melancholia and depression, ‘Black Sun’.
More Images of the Installation Here:
Ankur Yadav, Born in 1995 in Rajasthan(India), completed his Bachelors Degree from the Painting Department in Kala Bhavana, Shantiniketan in 2017 and received his Masters Degree from the Painting Department at the Faculty of Visual Arts, MSU, Baroda in 2019.
Experiments in sculpture, from wood to metal casting: a student/mentor collaboration in foundry and wood at the Art and Art History Department, Chico State University.
Students from the Fire Arts (metal casting) class at Chico State University got the chance recently to meet with San Francisco based artist Gyöngy Laky, a meeting which was initiated by our teacher, Sheri Simons.
For 50+years, Gyöngy Laky, artist and professor, has inspired generations of students in Textiles who seek to push the limits of convention in order to explore personal and structural interpretations of a textile. She has widened the definition of weaving as a ‘soft’ art to encompass materials such as nails, trees and plastics, as they grow in scale, complexity and concept. Laky mostly works in wood and had no experience in metal casting. Everyone participating in the workshop was interested in the form and meaning that Laky‘s work might take if it were to be cast in bronze. The collaboration meant diving in to unknown waters, both for the students and for Gyöngy.
Five students from the class self-selected to collaborate with Gyöngy: Cathie Cousineau, Brie Evans, Kris Johnson, Franziska Kolling, and Shai Porath. They were relatively new to foundry work. They began by studying the carefully truncated twigs and branches that Gyöngy uses in her work. Students spent part of the semester experimenting with formal inventions that led into conceptual shifts as the material and techniques moved from wood to bronze.
Molds of the branches were made and cast in wax. Students reworked the forms in order to find connectivity between the parts: theirs and Gyöngy’s. Their contributions to the collaboration included editing, augmenting, and re-purposing Gyöngy’s forms through similar yet independent lens. In some cases, they spliced in their own imagery in concert or opposition to Gyöngy’s.
Cathie Cousineau spoke of a pairing that never would have taken place without the introduction of Gyöngy’s branches. Her approach introduced Gyöngy’s land-based material to her sea-based object.The result: a branch knuckle mated with an 'Architectonica perspectiva' shell. Their meeting, cast in bronze, made a believable object. Gyöngy described it this way: “It was like a small hand-held poem.”
For Brie Evans, “...this project was a rollercoaster of emotions. I had a lot of fears regarding the final outcome: if it would be something that Gyöngy actually liked or not, if I was truly getting anything out of the project by handing over a collection of pieces I had spent weeks in the shop working on, and if they would ever be shown in an actual gallery. I realized that the point of this project was not to try and please her. The point of this collaboration was to learn. Meeting Gyöngy alone was truly a life changing experience, but getting to work with her on a collaborative project taught me more about the professional world of art than any class could have taught me. I appreciated Gyöngy’s fledgling perspective on the casting process because when you don’t know the process or something well you are not held back by fear of aiming too high or tackling a project too big—the sky is the limit when you are introduced to a new medium.”
Franziska Kolling writes, “... I have never participated in a collaborative project before, although while being a student, you kind of collaborate with your peers all the time (thinking: group projects and so on). Gyöngy was very open to our contribution during the collaborative period, since she has not worked with bronze as a material before. I thought this was the most interesting part, since none of us could predict how the outcome would be. I especially liked the fact that I could talk to someone about my ideas that concerned their work too, since I haven’t worked in bronze or even sculpture before I took this class. I also found that I cared a lot about the pieces we made together, since I was not responsible for them just by myself. Caring for them and the project was a big part of it... so every detail had to be perfect.
I have the feeling that everyone who participated in the collaboration is very proud of the outcome of it. When I think about this particular collaboration, I not only think about the finished bronze pieces and how proud I am of those, but also about the gained friendship with Gyöngy. I learned a lesson about how valuable it is to not only constantly talk to your peers, but also try to gain as much knowledge from someone who already is where you eventually want to be - in life, in their career. I feel overall inspired from this experience.”
Shai Porath came to the Fire Arts class with a background in ceramics. Here he discusses thoughts about collaboration between artists: “I was unsure what the level of collaboration was, and how it was going to work. Gyöngy ... was open to hearing our ideas and thoughts [on] how to integrate bronze with her work. We went through several stages in which we brainstormed, made wax models, discussed which ideas felt more successful, and actualized these ideas together. I was inspired to see an experienced artist work with us, emerging artists, supporting us along the process of creation, listening and inviting a constructive dialog. It ... bonded us together as group of artists, empowered us, and motivated us to continue to discover our passions and voices as artists.
I wish to encourage young emerging artists to look for ... collaborative opportunities that drive you out of your comfort zone to be around experienced artists, get inspired, and do what you love to do – art.”
Kris Johnson’s reflections: “My experience during the collaboration project was very new for me. I have only done collaboration work with other students so working with a professional artist definitely came with some new challenges that made me need to change how I was used to working. I definitely learned a lot from this experience and can‘t wait to apply what I‘ve learned to my own work in the future.”
Gyöngy’s response to the project: “...They have all had a great influence on my thinking and how I respond to my own ideas and thoughts about future work. All the pieces, as well as the interactions with the students, have had and continue to have a profound impact on me. I have always wanted to include in my work a nature/human aspect - for example, branches studded with nails - tension sometimes that I like... a bit of constructive but, also, questionable disquiet/discomfort and also conveying human interaction with nature...also troubling as well as comforting.
The bronze heavy metal mimicking natural items seems to pose so many questions. Bronzing baby shoes... to preserve something precious that is now gone (Cathie's piece). To immortalize something transitory and temporal (Franziska's pieces). To put to use - make a tool - see potential to connect (Shai's pieces) to make sculpture that could not happen otherwise (Kris's pieces). And I still wonder if I can love bronze as much as wood?! Of course, the question of permanence, of freezing time.”
Dive into Dar es Salaam's Graffiti and Hip Hop scene with Valerie Amani, as she speaks to artist Kalasinga on the importance of forging a niche for creativity within his community and culture.
There is a rhythm that is present in most cities, a street culture that maintains a silent beat connecting bus stations to people, to the symphony of rush hour traffic. Street art and art about the street is more than just photos of people and spray paint tags on walls, it is a living, breathing urban culture that is forever transforming. Dar es salaam, is no exception, with over 4 million hustlers and bustlers, with the youth at the core - a vibrant street culture has emerged and with it a plethora of new age creativity in an otherwise conservative culture.
Graffiti, amongst older traditional generations has unfortunately had a bad reputation, with communities associating it to laziness, vandalism and rebellion. This is why Dar es Salaam's Wachata crew ¹ decided they would make it their mission to educate and empower young street artists to do it the right way - expressively, yet legally, and most of all with a love for art.
Wachata is Tanzania's most prominent Hip Hop and Graffiti crew, having headquarters in one of the countries leading contemporary art centers. Now consisting of 4 members, Mejah, Local Fanatics, Medy, & Kalasinga ², who I sat down with to find out a bit more on how street art became a part of his life and why street art culture is such a vital part of inspiring and engaging the youth.
Valerie: How did you get into graffiti?
Kalasinga: I started drawing in primary school. I was good at it, so much so the teacher used to ask me to draw images on the chalkboard. Even some students asked me to draw pictures for them in their books, but eventually I couldn’t keep up drawing for everybody. I decided to start charging them per drawing (he laughs). In secondary school (high school), a group of us that enjoyed drawing would get together and exchange ideas and drawings in our separate sketch pads - and sometimes we would even be asked to create sign boards and artwork for events and people. From then on I started watching a TV show in 2007 called WaPi (Words and Pictures) featuring poets, rappers and street artists. That's when I really became drawn to street art.
Valerie: So when your love of street art was growing, how supportive were your parents?
Kalasinga: My parents were very suspicious of street culture or local “hip hop” culture as a whole. I remember I used to record hip hop songs on cassette tapes, and play them on the radio in secret. Sometimes I would record over my mom's cassette tapes and she would find them and tell me that this kind of music “ruins the radio”. It was funny to me because she listened to Taarab music (popular East African music) and I wondered why her music didn’t “ruin the radio” too. I guess street culture was associated with negative things - they always wanted me to be reading and studying instead of listening to rap.
Valerie: And how did rap play a role in your journey towards street art?
Kalasinga: Well, I used to have small rap battles with my brothers at home. We loved it - we would write our own lyrics and try to be the best. I realised that although I had great lyrics, my flow wasn’t the best (he smiles). When I got a bit older, I started attending the WaPi events live, that brought together all these artists once a month. Most people there wanted to be MC’s, you know, rapping was popular. And so I asked myself - if everyone wants to be a musician, what can I do to be different? I tried out breakdancing and many other things, but I still found the most connection to graffiti. I ended up picking up an empty notebook someone had dropped and used it as a way to practice my drawings and write my thoughts. I also started paying more attention to graffiti in Hollywood movies - if I saw graffiti in a scene, I would pause it, study the art and try to replicate it.
Valerie: Is this around the time you joined Wachata crew?
Kalasinga: I only joined Wachata after attending many workshops at WaPi led by Mejah and Local. Mejah was the first person I spoke to about joining. I had mostly only drawn in my book and had little practice on walls. I used to look to him for mentorship and also observed my brothers as they used charcoal and silver paint to draw on walls - because this is what was easily available. Wachata became more official after getting a HQ [headquarters] at Nafasi Art Space; after this I thought of ways to improve visibility and offered them social media as a way to share their work with more people. After this, I felt like I had a role to play and was officially a member of Wachata.
Valerie: How do you think street art has shaped your life and others?
Kalasinga: Well, street art connects people. When you go out to do a public art mural you meet people, you talk to people - people feel good around the work and take pictures. It really made me feel like I was making a difference when we were able to stop illegal street art through educating younger artists about respecting people's property. I think street art can be powerful without breaking rules.
I even drew a piece on the wall outside my house and people always stop there, admire it - it brightens up the street. Someone might be having a bad day and they see the art and it could cheer them up, encourage them or just make them smile. It brings me joy because it's accessible to everyone and, I think for most street artists, this sharing brings you a sense of purpose.
__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __
Women are also a welcomed part of street culture, something that Wachata also tries to promote by hosting occasional women-only graffiti events titled Women Xpress. Naitwa Salma, a street artist, MC and poetess used this platform to expand her skills and she continues to spread love through the femme positive messages she leaves through her street art and words .
Andrew Munuwa, also a Graffiti artist that has worked with Wachata, said that spending time on the street inspired him to start documenting the vibrancy and heart of it through photography. Through his eyes we are able to catch young skateboarders mid air at the bus stand, to notice the joy in the faces of the bikers, to freeze time and appreciate the joy that transcends culture and place.
Art about the street is as important as street art, as it captures moments of exchange, vulnerability and love in an urban community that, without a second glance, one might mistake for just modern chaos. For many young Tanzanians, the street is the home. It is the birthplace of freedom of expression, a safe space where everyone can equally create and, most importantly, belong.
The original interview was in Swahili, then translated INto English by the author.
1. To find out more about Wachata and the origin of the name, go to their page.
2. Street/Artist names
Valerie Amani is a fashion designer and visual artist based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania with a passion for writing. She is currently the Visual Art Program manager at Nafasi Art Space, one of the leading contemporary art platform in the country, while designing for her fashion brand Kahvarah. She uses digital platforms to share her art and writing and is currently working on developing a program that will educate and support young female artists in Tanzania.
Behind a mask, wearing a mask, rejecting a mask, letting a mask flow away in a river... Indian perfoming artist Jhuma Kundu tells some of her stories sharing pictures of her performances
I remember my first performance in Santiniketan, back in 2013. The theme was 'Reflections of Life'. I personified myself as a mirror which shows a reflection of our society, of its brighter sides as well as of its darker shades. The passers-by, who really represent the society, became part of the performance, carrying out the activities usually performed by an individual in their day-to-day life.
In 2015 I had the opportunity to repeat the performance in France. As an artist conveys their feelings to the world by using a canvas, I used my mask as a canvas, as well as a mirror to reflect our lives. I focused on the ups and downs, memorable moments, as well as the big and small incidents that were connected to me and my surroundings.
Another time I dressed up as a clown and stood behind the mirror. My face was a mirror for the audience portraying incidents from their day-to-day life. Their actions were reflected by my gestures.
For a performance at the Art Symposium in Pondicherry, I dressed up as a clown again, and by this time it was clear to me that I wanted to connect more strongly with the people in the audience. As it was a street performance, many were the attendees. The theme was to spread happiness, by doing what a clown usually does to keep his audience interested and happy. It was a very successful act, and it remained very special to me. It also taught me that spreading happiness is possible only when you, as an individual, are happy.
When performing in the Isparta Rose Art Festival, in Turkey, in an effort to reach out to the people, I even painted the faces of the audience with their smiling faces.
Masks of a Human
Every human being wears different faces, or masks, and only after a stipulated time each person removes a mask and the next mask arrives on their face; and so on, until there is no mask left.
With this idea in mind, trying to represent it, I made many masks out of paper and put them all on my face. I then went along a river and started removing those masks, at a stipulated time interval, and left them to float with the flow of the river until the end, when all masks were removed. In the end, only our true face can be carried along and all fake masks fall with time.
Freedom of the soul
At the Bangla Biennale, in 2018 the international artists, the villagers and the audience at large were involved. They were all wearing a mask and were trying to put different masks on my face. Here the masks were symbols of different human characters that were eventually rejected by me.
The last time I wrapped foil paper around my body until I felt warm and uncomfortable. The stage had ropes hanging from above.They represented people who speak badly of others. As I started walking and moving through those ropes, I fought with them. As a reaction, the foil on my body slowly came off revealing my inner self. We need to leave our uncomfortable zones, those that make us unhappy. Always better to be who you are. Then you will be happy in your life.
Jhuma Kundu is a resident of Kolkata, India. She completed her M.F.A from Visva-Bharati University, Kala Bhavana Institute in 2015. She currently works at the Lalit Kala Academy in Kolkata as a ceramicist. She is a qualified ceramics artist but has also attained maestro in performance art.
"Scribble it Down", founded by Einat Moglad in 2013, is an international, digital collaboration. Through a sequential process artists from around the world work together to create communal works of art. Each artist contributes to a digital file, then transfers the work to the next, until each artists in the group has contributed to each piece. This process allows artists to bring together diverse backgrounds and perspectives. "Scribble It Down" thus becomes a platform for communication and dialogue that encourages tolerance and understanding between different cultures, traditions, and points of view. The project raises questions about our place in society, our work in relation to others, and how we can give and inspire.
This year’s Scribble it Down was inspired by my ideals of what is the most important role of art these days. It is the ability of art to provide a platform for connecting human experiences, allowing a better understanding of each other, thereby improving the ability of different people and cultures to empathize with each other.
I wanted Scribble it Down to move a step forward, breaking more boundaries than previous iterations. I also wanted to take this opportunity to break my own taboos regarding Scribble it Down. One key taboo that I wanted to break was allowing more of my own involvement with the artists and to be included in the creative process. In the past, I tried to let the dialogue occur through the images only. That limitation allowed Scribble it Down to become a sort of experiment on the number of different interpretations one can have for an image without context.
This year my goal was to have a platform of interaction and communication between the artists in a deeper and more wholesome fashion. In order to reach that goal, I knew I had to be much more involved. In that spirit, I held the collaborative workshop and created more opportunities for artist to speak up, create and have various experiences as well as exercises throughout the artist journey into the mutual sphere of the art creation.
In our five months together, we have formed bridges of understanding to and from each other. We did it with the aid of the Scribble method – rounds, mutual formats - as well as the workshop. All these elements were simply the means of communicating our passions and sharing what’s in our hearts. Through the online medium, we were able to have artists from different parts of the globe working together simultaneously, only this time the process was overlaid in a more spiritual presence and a better understanding of the unique atmosphere that was formed through the Scribble it Down method. We had better success this year by capturing the unique elements each artist could provide compared to previous years.
These spiritual connections have allowed for the creation of the art you see before you now.
The purpose of this project is to create art with the energy and presence of each artist over iterations. In this year’s focus, the images' metamorphoses were aiming at progressing the art towards a higher place or a new realm of spirituality.
This higher realm isn't necessarily a better or comforting place, but a realm that inherited the energy and spirituality of its creators. It is a place where the artistic act is being made by an individual who is connected to multiple inner worlds. The viewer in this exhibition is stepping into a layered story that is always a singular united concept. Even the very first stage from the very first artist. It is a place where one is the group, and the group is simply an extension of the one.
Group One Gallery
[Click on each image, or name, to see the four progressions]
Don't be mistaken, this is not a utopia. The art created can be either serene or energetic, sad or hopeful, but every image is being conceived as a mutual "baby". A baby who is loved and accepted throughout its growth by all participants together simultaneously.
This collective care is what makes this higher realm possible.
Group Two Gallery
[Click on each image, or name, to see the four progressions]
Throughout the project, the viewer can observe various hand gestures repeated in the art works. The hands function as visual metaphor of that holding, of that care. A reaching hand, helping hand, protective or emotional hands that are the representation of both the physical hand – the hand that holds the brush (even be it a digital one), as well as the metaphorical hand that reaches out and seeks one’s way toward connection. The different variations show us how this search can be a reaction to the collaborative creation process.
How varied is the emotional scale that dares to progress from the “Self” towards the “Other”?
This journey we have gone through has given birth to acceptance, openness, freedom and human connection. Slowly but surely, we created wholeness that emerges from the artists’ creative energy. Every artwork can be a marker that states that we can move ourselves away from the divide into the divine by coming together.
Words from the artists:
The Scribble It Down project provided a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with others around the world on the concept of building bridges. Not only did the art call for creative interplay between the participants, but the process itself built connecting bridges. My hope is that this kind of collaboration will multiply exponentially to help build the connected, peaceful world I wish to live in.
I am a digital artist living in Oakland, CA. I believe that the appreciation of beauty is a profoundly powerful force in giving people a reason to live. Like religion, it offers a spiritual connection with our world. However, it is far less controversial and divisive than religion. While “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” the sensation of experiencing beauty is universally pleasurable and can be recognized as a moment of serenity).
I saw the call out for artists to join Scribble It Down on a Facebook page & decided to check it out.. The concept sounded interesting, so I applied and was selected as one of the artists. I’d never collaborated with other artists like this, so it was great to try something new. I struggled at the second round, being the first time I had ever had to paint on someone else’s artwork.... it was hard to make that initial brush mark. Once I did it I felt relief, and released the added value that each artist created working on one another’s initial piece. I found myself looking forward to the next round and the challenge of finding that thing I could add to the image. I think that overall the experience was really good. I definitely grew as an artist and it was fun seeing each piece emerge... I can’t wait to see the final works.
I am an artist inside out. I am good at seeing the best parts in the world around and I love to share it through my art, so that more people can enjoy and see.
This project for me was an interesting space to co-create together with other artists. It's really fascinating that few artists can create on one canvas and each can put their footprint on it without making others disappear, it's all one together and that’s amazing. I feel that working on the project helped me to discover myself. How I saw the piece I received and what I added to it made me understand and find new things in me. I was creator, but at the same time observer, enjoying both sides of it.
I am an ambitious, super-energetic and self-motivated aspiring designer; an excited soul based in Bangalore, India. I love hunting down hidden stories, experimenting with different styles and trust me, I am a good team player.
The project 'Scribble It Down' was an exciting opportunity for me to be a part of. Each round gave me different learnings and insights about creativity, craft, thinking and life. It was challenging because we had to work over other artists' already created artwork, yet it was fun. Glad to be a part of this project.
Thank you to Einat Moglad and to all the artists who have participated in the 'Scribble It Down 2019' project! Emergent Art Space is proud to publish your works on this platform!
EAS contributor Jamie Turner writes about her California College of the Arts Master Thesis project and installation, which investigate the role of empathy and affection in politics (at the Minnesota Street Projects in San Francisco).
My art practice is both a reflection and mockery of my deepest dissatisfaction and confusion with American politics in relation to my familial dysfunction and the political personas which make up an American Midwest family.
I am a visual and social practice artist investigating the role of empathy and affection in politics. Through a research-based practice, I use interview, intervention, and discussion to reveal the commonality between contemporary global and familial crisis, often times focusing on political polarization in relation to how we as family members and citizens, differently process and reflect on personal and cultural memory.
I do this by exploring the capacity conversation has for collective understanding. I am committed to understanding familial and societal interactions through the gathering, governing, and facilitation of democracy both inside and outside of the home. I'm just a woman trying to understand what in the world is going on by using materials, people, relationships, all intimate to me, as surrogates in order to navigate how societal structures do or don’t operate.
In understanding current political circumstances, I have found it useful to utilize surrogates for how I process information which, at times, seem outside of my comprehension. The way my country, the United States of America, operates is one of the subjects in which I have found surrogacy to be useful. My family is another.Initially in this exploration, I replaced political figures with members of my family in an attempt to understand officiant roles. My president, my mother. My VP, my father. My speaker, my cousin, and so on. I figured if I could understand the intimacy, confusion, and dysfunction of an American family residing in the Midwest, then I could understand, at least somewhat better, the dysfunction of my country.
This practice of studying my own domestic narrative aided itself to understanding the origins of American politics. In 2019, our current governmental structure embodies chaos, and to navigate compromise requires me to be patient, devout, and not only willing but eager to understand the parts I disagree with. The further into this practice I went, the more out of control I felt. As I investigated my home, the more familial confusion I encountered. This is authentically my America, as it’s all familiar and also familial. As our founding fathers did, we send our sons and daughters to war, we believe in homeland security, and refer to our country as our own backyard.
As this practice progressed and I explored my country and my family, the more I craved to understand growth--how we grow, why we grow--nature versus care.Seeds became my surrogate.
I planted a seed for America. I spoke to it and developed a lexicon for what helped and hindered this seed's growth, my country's growth. I spoke to my president, my country, my country's conflicts, my mother, my father, my brother, my grandmother, every member of my family, and to the parts of my world that I needed help with--all in the form of plants. My country, my trees, my air. My gravity and grounding. My mother, my country. My mother, my politics, the party I belong to.
As I planted from seeds, for my family, my country, my world, I spoke to them, communicating memory, hopes, disagreement and democracy. The way that they grew, the way that they strengthened, the way that they weakened were the ways that they spoke to me and how I understood what helped and hindered their growth.
One day I planted a seed for America. I planted red tulips, as my first memory of visiting the White House as a child was a front lawn in full bloom of red tulips. The America I planted failed to grow. One day I planted a seed for my aunt, in hopes of comprehending our relationship, her role in my life, her role in my world. As she hung in her soil, a seed planted in a hanging pot, coincidentally above the America that I planted, the water that fed her, flowed through her soil and unto the soil of my country, lying below in a pot on the ground. My America began to grow.
So I gardened.Though I may not know what I mean by soil, water, or light, it is a mirror of my reality as I can’t find my ground, situate myself in my sky, or gather what feels like enough water to wash and fill my being. I planted my memories, exchanged with my land, to displace what I felt as fear and trauma unto my own ground and outside of myself.
The house that I was raised in on Timberman Road had a concrete backyard, no grass. We lived in Grandview, just outside of the city. It was a beautiful home, old, on its path towards a contemporary fate. The backyard, one which I prized, we all prized, was paved in concrete, a hazard for us as children, a hazard for most living things. A chain link fence created a border between our domesticity and perimeter domains. Every spring, morning glories woke, taking refuge across the entirety of border. Distance was interrupted by shades of violet. All of this from a crack in our foundation. The foundation of our yard, the foundations of our world. This is beautiful. This is also hard.
My reality is not unique. I am more than confused by the way the world moves around me and through me. In this work and in life, I plant a seed for the things I cannot make sense of.I communicate with the seed and, through the care I give it, I gain a better understanding of what it needs from me. More time, more space, more air.
Jamie Turner is a visual and social practice artist and educator currently based in San Francisco, California. She received her MFA from California College of the Arts and her BFA from Columbus College of Art & Design. She is investigating the effectiveness of surrogacy in understanding topics difficult to comprehend, currently including American politics, world conflict, familial encounters, athleticism and victory. Turner's practice employs sculpture, videography, installation, writing, and encounter.
In her more recent works Pakistani artist Fariha Rashid explores human growth as an integral part of nature, of human nature, and therefore of the natural 'landscape', fit to be represented through naturalistic symbols and analogies.
This series of works is based on "Landscape". Not in a literal manner, the landscape here is defined as growth and maturity related to human beings. Normally we see the landscape as vegetation, greenery, and fresh air. What it explains symbolically is represented in my work.
The desire to grow, be empowered, or excel in every part of life, either emotionally or professionally, is human nature. It is human satisfaction when he or she sees themselves succeeding in any part of life. In my current series titled “Landscape”, I have symbolized human growth with nature. What actually is growth in life? There are various meanings to this term. Growth can be on an emotional level. Someone who has overcome any emotional disorder will call it their progress. A person who has excelled in their particular field while overcoming a hurdle will name it their success.
As human beings, many of us have observed issues while at work or domestically. This series not only discusses the subject but mainly it observes the celebration of achievement, the after party.
I relate it to myself, as I was afraid of fresh color application or even using a variety of colors in my artworks. But specifically in this series, I experimented with textures, colors, and patterns. All the artworks are prepared carefully step by step just like in life where we plan, make goals and then act accordingly to achieve those aims.
Numerous symbols can be seen in these artworks including geometric patterns, ropes, and leaves. Each element explains a different thought but when combined they form an entire narrative. One needs to make connections among symbols to understand the whole concept.
Meditation Landscape II
6 x 7 inches, mixed media on wasli 10.6 x 7 inches, mixed media on mount board
At the center of these artworks is the complexity of elements incorporated, yet the image is so soothing with no slight hint of difficulty observed by the viewer. The use of geometric patterns is extensively done in the background of the artworks. To create a geometric pattern is such a difficult process and requires keen observation along with focus, but once the imagery is complete it does not give a slight hint of complication, rather it adds a flow and uniqueness in each art piece.
In one of my artworks “Reclining Woman”, three layers can be seen; one base layer where the textured surface is prepared, the second where the woman is painted and third is a pasted oval with a crows silhouette. A limited color palette and symbols are painted to ensure a clear understanding of the subject matter. The reclining woman is enjoying her posture and surroundings, all hazy with the blending of bright red and purple tones. The contrast between background and females posture is to identify that no matter how confusing life is, by giving one hundred percent, a person can be at peace. The crow's silhouette and the use of ropes remind us of the added issues created by others who have no actual concern with the main problem, who just want to initiate an issue along the pathway of success.
Fariha Rashid, born in Doha, Qatar is currently residing in Lahore, Pakistan. She has earned a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from Punjab University, College of Art and Design. and is currently working as a Lecturer of Fine Arts at the University of Gujrat. Fariha has participated in numerous group exhibitions, has had a solo show and has also curated an art exhibition.
EAS artist and contributor Jayeti Bhattacharaya takes us on a tour of two very different projects that took place in Kolkata during the month of February, when the city lights up with art activities,events and exhibitions.
Kolkata is a city where art and culture have always been truly appreciated, in all its forms and ways, irrespective of all differences. The city has laid a remarkable example of art and culture for the rest of the country.
Last February Kolkata came together to celebrate a festival of the arts with the opening of the Center of International Modern Art Award Show 2019 across three different venues, namely Centre of International Modern Art, Studio 21, and GEM Cinema. Several collateral programs and community art projects took place in the city as well, in particular, the two projects presented here, one at the Calcutta Pavlov Hospital and the other at the CPT colony of Taratola. The two projects, “Across the Line” and “Chalo Painting Tangai “(Let's hang Paintings) were led by two different groups of artists.
A hospital turning into a venue for exhibiting art is something truly unexpected, as our eyes are familiar to look at art in highly polished white cubical space. But yes, in this case the Calcutta Pavlov Hospital turned out to be, for several months, a venue for the exhibition of art, displaying the works of the hospital patients, who worked under the guidance of the artists Srikanta Paul along with Ruma Choudhury, Tanmoy Chakraborty and ANJALI (the NGO working at the hospital). The Calcutta Pavlov Hospital is the place that provides medical attention to those who are suffering from mental illness. As I entered the premises of the hospital the first thing I saw was the black line drawings on both sides of the gate, followed by some installations and several more drawings and pastel coloring.
The entrance black line drawings visually resembled folk painting patterns of India, but definitely with stories embedded within.
When discussing this unusual project with one of the artists involved, and then when looking at the artworks created by the patients, I realized how art can be a strong therapeutic tool, that allows those involved to express their thoughts by recollecting memories in the form of stories and to gush out their emotions through linear and color expressions.
In spite of the exaggerations, the hastiness and the easy enthusiasm, what would catch your eyes was the reflection of honest confessions. The artists here worked with the patients as facilitators, hearing their stories and guiding them to use their memories in constructing the drawings and paintings. Ruma Choudhury, one of the artists working with the patients, explained to me that two things were repeatedly occurring in their stories and in what they were saying: “Home”, obviously expressing the desire to go back home; and “Bed”, which is the place where they are leading their confined lives within the hospital rooms.
Patients working on the walls of the Calcutta Pavlov Hospital. Image courtesy: Ruma Choudhury __________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Nanigopal Rajbanshi, one of the patients, expressed his love for the Hindu gods and goddesses, and his desire to participate in the festivities during the celebration of Durga Puja¹. The flow of his strong lines spoke out about his interest in art. Sita, a lady, revealed to Ruma her constant desire to go back home, and the sadness because nobody came to take her back. These stories, whether directly or indirectly, were reflected in the works.
There was a celebration of liberation throughout all the works displayed in the hallways of the hospital. Liberation of thoughts, the liberation of emotions, the liberation of unheard voices, the liberation of unseen memories, tied together on one visual plane, echoed through all the artworks made by the patients residing there.
Looking into the other project, in another part of the city, will make you feel spontaneous, energetic and playful. The project “Chalo Painting Tangai” (Let’s Hang Paintings) was developed by Sunny De Wall collaborative group, in the CPT colony of Taratala. Throughout the site, one could see site-specific installations, cyanotypes, wall posters, cutouts and wall paintings, engulfing the entire space. Here the site has developed into a stage of interaction between the locals and the artworks all around.
Each and every work displayed there was a reflection on the surroundings. The strong colors and huge images were giving form to deep thought observations and interpretations of social life. Walking through the space one could spot an airplane on the ground, a policeman cutout directing the way, the huge head of a boy peeping out, a rocket pushing upward, and so on.
The one thing that will strike the children most is a whole battalion of ant cutouts, standing on the ground as if they were on their way to an expedition. The artist collective says that “the drawings by the children have revealed the intricacies of life that still exist in this area. Through its children, the colony has given us narrations that speak of life and everything in it, through humor- dark and otherwise.”
And the artist Amrita Sen conveyed with joyful words her enthusiasm upon viewing the project: “The amazing transformation of Taratala CPT Colony by Sumantra Mukherjee with his team and Jungle Crow Kids! The row of ants, the 42 building, the presence of essential Asrani, the boy on the rooftop – everything made me immensely excited. Hope next year more and more paras (localities) get this magic touch.”
Photos of CPT Colony project “ Chalo Painting Tangai”. Image courtesy: Amrita Sen
Note: 1.Durga Puja, is an annual five day Hindu festival in the Indian subcontinent that reveres the goddess Durga. It is particularly popular in West Bengal. It is celebrated by the Bengalis all over the world during the month of September and October. Durga Puja festival marks the battle of goddess Durga with the shape-shifting, deceptive and powerful buffalo demon Mahishasura, and her emerging victorious.
Jayeti Bhattacharyais an artist living and working in Kolkata, India. She holds a Master’s of Fine Arts from Kala Bhavana, Visva Bharati University. Her work was 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 of 'nature' through painted visual narratives.
Preserving memories of exile and belonging on scratched paper, Indian artist Ishita Chakraborty's project is inspired by the voices and the experiences of migrants she has met while in Switzerland, during her studies at the Zurich University of the Arts.
As a daughter of an Indian “Land and Land Reforms” officer, I grew up seeing land records, survey maps, topography recordings, no man’s land, urban lands and documents of Land Reforms issues. One could say: I learned the importance of land and soil from my early childhood. Nature has always had an important impact on my work.
I was born in West Bengal, the east part of India. Recently I moved to Switzerland, where I am pursuing my second Master’s degree in Art and Media from Zürcher Hochschule der Künste, in Zurich. At the ZHDK I am immersing myself in philosophy and art history, the past and the present, I am looking at global and community-based projects alike, all of which are great sources of motivation for me. I spent near my early childhood in the mountains in the northern part of West Bengal, and moving to a calm and quiet mountainous Switzerland has resurfaced some of the memories associated with that time.
During the partition of India in 1947 and the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, a large number of refugees migrated from Bangladesh to West Bengal. My work talks about borders, about crossing them and the ensuing change. It initiates a dialogue between the cultures, it is going back and forth, it is digging into memories and setting new priorities. Lost and found, erasing and revealing, disorientation and relocation, exile and belonging – these are all terms and concepts I associate with my practice. Between homesick and homeseek!
During my childhood, owed to my father’s job, our family had to relocate many times. In more recent years I have started travelling for reasons of my personal choice. Living with a certain instability, in temporary situations and homes, helped me to better understand the global issues of the diaspora, of migration, living in exile and the subsequent questions around identity.
I am working on a series of white on white drawings I started in 2017. They are inspired by my encounters with migrants, refugees and expats alike, during my travels in Europe. I encountered people from India, Bangladesh, Syria, Albania, Sri Lanka, Poland, Germany, and Thailand. Most of these conversations were very private and an attempt from my side to understand the life of every individual. As a unique representation of their identity, I choose to transform their language on paper.
These works are silent representations and tactile recordings of their voices. Some of the words I chose for them are profound statements about the value of each individual within a larger geography.
As a child I often travelled with my parents to historical sites. There I found engraved and scratched names on walls and pillars by earlier visitors. I was always fascinated by this technique of preserving one’s memory. A spur of the moment action that results in a lasting impression, somewhere hidden in the landscape. This idea influenced me while I was registering people’s voices, about their memories of home, by scratching on paper. It was a challenge to find a way to preserve those deep memories through inkless drawings.
The resulting works are like constructions or sculptures on paper. The elements they are built of are private/collective memory, intimacy/conflict, the feeling of longing/belonging, roots/outgrowth. In most cases, the stories of the people I meet have a deeply political context.
The scratches on paper are very subtle and suggestive at the same time; they require a certain amount of close observation and intimacy from the viewer.
Language and single words play a very crucial role in my research. I was trained as an applied artist and I have some good experience in working with newspapers and advertising. The deliberate setting of text and imagery next to each other and the interaction of those elements certainly has roots in my past practice.
These days, I am an immigrant in Europe and I am struggling with all my senses to find my way into this new world. I am trying to find a life in-between the cultures and places. Living as a minority and being a stranger in this new society forces me to deal with questions like: What is the importance of your mother tongue in a foreign land? What happens when we lose it, or lose its use? How do we adopt a new language for our survival? How much does the language we speak shape our identity?
Ishita Chakraborty attained her BFA and MFA in Fine Arts from Rabindra Bharati University in Kolkata. She taught Applied Arts as an assistant professor at Amity University from 2016 - 2018.
In 2016 Ishita participated in a residency by the Piramal Art Foundation in Mumbai and one year later was invited to Switzerland by the Gästeatelier Krone in Aarau as a guest artist, concluding her stay with her first solo exhibition in the Museum Forum Schlossplatz.
In 2018 she participated in the Khoj Foundation PEERS SHARE program in Delhi and has recently returned to Switzerland to pursue a second MFA at Zuercher Hochschule Der Kuenste.
Reflecting upon Charles Darwin's groundbreaking book “On the Origin of Species”, EAS artist Kristina Rutar, from Slovenia, created a site-specific solo exhibition at Gallery Božidar Jakac, in Kostanjevica na Krki. The research she did on the theory of evolution inspired her to experiment with different forms, to think about space and how to translate the different stages of development into the four fixed spaces of the gallery.
My first inspiration for this exhibition came when listening to the album Tomorrow in a Year, a collaboration between The Knife, Mt. Sims, and Planningtorock for an opera by the theatre company Hotel Pro Forma. The theme of the album is based on Charles Darwin's life and his book on the origin of species. Listening to the album made me wonder how I could grasp the vastness of the evolution and its impact on life on earth. It seemed like a fantastic challenge and I decided to dig into the theory, into Darwin's work and also into the work of contemporary scientists, like Richard Dawkins. As it turns out, evolution is not self-evident to quite many people, especially to believers in the creationist theory; the attitude toward science startled me.
The narrative of the exhibition was built around the space where I was invited to exhibit by the gallery Božidar Jakac: a beautiful 4 spaced lapidarium, in an old monastery, next to a church which frequently hosts big, contemporary art projects as well as exhibitions by Slovenia's most famous visual artists. The place has its own history and atmosphere, and I had to be careful to respect it and be mindful of its characteristics, but at the same time I had to build a new space that the viewers could be a part of. It was definitely both a challenge and support for materializing the concept I was working with to consider the given space.
Room I: The Embrio Room.
Here I tried to represent the first forms of life, the cells and their growth. My goal was to understand and represent the smallest forms of life, and how they developed according to the principle of cells dividing.
Sand had a big role in the exhibition. Coming from outside, from a stone floor into the room, the softness of the sand would change the viewers’ steps and the perception of the space around them. The dim light and the sound of a heartbeat in the background, created the experience of being in a womb-like space.
Room II: The Developed Embryos.
The developed embryos were fewer than the cells in in the first room, because in the process of natural evolution, only the strongest survive. The sound was also upgraded - next to the heartbeat, there was also the sound of breathing - evidence of the the embryos’ growth.
Room III: An Empty Nest.
The embryos left the safety of the womb. The room was empty. All that was left were the shards of their shells and threads of their cocoons. There was silence, only the weak sound of a heartbeat from the previous two rooms could be heard, as a reminder that there was no longer life in this space.
Room IV:The Final Room.
While the first three phases showed the development of the embryo form and the story of life, the last room was a contrast to them - a reminder not only of death but also of our role in it, the role of us humans when it comes to shaping the future of our planet. This was intended not only on the physical level, of taking care of nature and preserving the species, but also on a sociological level - the relationships we build in our society between ourselves and the others, between the different groups and the minorities.
It is well known that Darwin's theory was and still is taken out of context to justify racism. It is taken out of context to theorize the superiority of certain “races” over others, to refuse help to the people in need, the weaker ones. Life has become the race of the strongest, and the fittest, without any regard to others.
With the intent of pointing out this problem, the visual language of the work in Room IV was shifted from growing sculptures to decaying ones. The sand got a new dimension: here not only did it give softness to the space, but it recalled every step made in the space. The imprints of everyone’s feet, which were left on the sand starting in the first room and all through the exhibition, indicated the imprints we leave on the earth, the role we have in the world - we are responsible and each one of us has an impact on the future of our world. The forms in Room IV were broken, shattered, and decomposing into the nothingness of the sand we carelessly walked on.
The viewers' reactions to each room were quite varied, but at the same time related. I was amazed to see how the children followed the narrative and how the message was clear to them, and I was also surprised by some strong emotional reactions. I was told about the experience of a woman who did not want to enter the last room, the room with shreds. When she glimpsed at it through the door she had a panic attack. They finally convinced her to enter, reassuring her there was nothing brutal in the room, just shreds. I have to say that I was happy hearing the story, feeling that the exhibition had achieved its goal - making people feel and think.
With the ‘The Origin of Species’ project I challenged myself, pushing to test how creative and what kind of a problem-solver I could be. How could the development and decay of a form be expressed? Right now it seems so clear to me, but looking back, being intentionally limited to the medium of ceramics, working on a potter's wheel and researching its potential, was a fantastic challenge and I am looking forward to the next one.
This project had a huge impact on my work, especially exploring different ceramic forms and approaches of hanging them. Through testing, building, and re-shaping I created a kind of archive of forms, which I am keeping for future projects. It was a great experience working for a specific location, with a specific theme and the intention of getting a clear message across.
I would love to expand this work, but I would have to find a new space for it, and the new space would, with its characteristics, build a new narration which would express the same message but in a new way. I would love to continue with this project and I am still searching for a place to do it.