bot domestic and international artists.

A dry-point
bot domestic and international artists.

bot domestic and international artists.

 

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Summarizing the events in Harare

exhibitions, writing, Zimbabwe

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solar The airport  being the obvious place where airplanes land and take off, is also an important physical location where some serious thinking is done. It marks a moment when I project my self into the future, and on a returning journey I spend time reliving and summarizing the events during my travels. This time after my exhibition in Harare with rotating objects and drawings I tried to question myself with 6 key evaluation questions such as:
”What art processes were planned and what was actually put in place for the project?….”, but found the answers something short sighted and for the economist. So I page through notes and recall conversations.
The most remarkable moment of the exhibition would have to be that the audience  interacted with the artwork by means of a torch, light, solar panels and an electrical motor turning the objects. During the opening for example, people took their time to go from object to object and examine the reaction that the light had on the artworks. In fact what they were doing was examining the effects that the light had on the surface of the object, and this is precisely how I question and observe the small art works.  How does the light reflect, what texture does it reveal, what shadows does it cast, what tonal difference in the shadows tell me that the object is three dimensional and finally if I turn the beam of light to an other angle what happens to the image and why? This information I use as an artist to make painting or more sketches. But to come back to the opening, I felt that the audience was captivated, they talked about the objects, the mechanism, the show.

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‘So what comes first, the object or the drawing, or the painting?’, guests would ask.
None, I would answer. The exhibition shows the precise evolving process of an artist. The origins of the idea is so far and faint in the past that they no longer have any influence to the present physical form, be it the drawings, paintings or objects. By observing, unfolding and questioning these three forms,  I answer with new artworks, that in turn will be observed and questioned again forming a continuous evolving spiral. [action reaction]

‘What are they? What does it symbolize?’ Each person will see what it is, what it symbolizes and how much power it has. Option, a sculptor tells me how ”the bull” triggered his youth memories. One of the objects, a small bull (approximately 2cm high)  made of dark brown earthenware clay, glued on the inclination of a triangular piece of wood, spins in the light. ‘When I was living in the rural area,’ Option tells me with excitement, ‘with my parents and grandparents on a small farm, we had a big black bull. It was a kind of crazy bull and on some occasions the bull would escape from its pen.  We would always find the beast on top of a hill, feet locked like a mountain goat on the steep rocks and head pointing proudly up, nostrils flared and grunting at the far horizon.’  Later Option wrote in my guest book ”I like that BULL!!”

The airplane took me from Harare to Lusaka and in the early hours of the morning we landed in Dubai international airport where I would catch my connecting flight to Amsterdam. Having some time on my hands, a twenty dollar bill and a wish for a cup of coffee I set off to find one of the coffee chains. When the lady at the counter saw the dollar bill, she immediately said  she could not take it, ”It’s too old”.
‘Yeah but’, I protested, ‘I’ve been using dollar bills like this for weeks, dollars can’t get old; it’s money.’
The next place told me my money was too dirty, and they would also not accept it. This encounter put a whole new spin on money laundering. However this left me without a coffee, a worthless 20 dollar bill and I felt like a sitting duck, a target for unscrupulous bank CEOs. It made me link the arts and money, how some art was worth money and other art works as worthless as my dirty money. And yet for the artist, each art piece that is expressed in physical form is a step in the artist’s personal development and so his culture. At the next coffee place I ordered an expensive cappuccino from Harkaman hiding my old and dirty money until Florence proceeded to whizz the machines. Ha! My money was no longer old nor soiled, because Harkaman saw the agreement between himself, the cappuccino and me. [Back in the game].

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Bringing art works to Zimbabwe for an exhibition  is an exceptional process. Not so much the logistics which consists of making the art works look worthless in a messy suitcase, and thus avoid having to pay import taxes. But an exceptional reversal process as art flows out of the country not in. I have had three solo exhibitions in Harare starting in 1994, 2012 and now 2014 and each time I bring something, it surprises to the brink of ungraspable. Not because the work is indecipherable, rather there are hardly any international exhibitions let alone African art exchanges. In fact there is not much of an contemporary art interest or market amongst the local population, the players are few and the road to any form of success (economical or spiritual) is to Europe or North America. This causes a general unease in the arts, besides the education system is not strong enough to educate about contemporary African art. As the local artists tell me all the ‘important’ art has been sold over eagerly to collectors outside of Africa and what cultural documentation remains is hardly contemporary and is written by former colonists three decades ago. Needless to say there is great awareness amongst artists to educate their fellow man, they know, road is long.

moon northern hemisphere

moon southern hemisphere

In Zimbabwe the moon is upside down. After a few days in Harare you change your point of view, and some time later you see it like all people living in Zimbabwe, bright and surrounded by dozens of nebulae and other star clusters. The way I observed the art and the maker also changes with time. I have noticed that art is made in a different way. One way that European artists may start making their art work is from the art supplies and tools at hand (canvas, paint and brushes). In Zimbabwe I found that the artists starts from a different point. There is hardly any art material to work with.  Creative survivalist know the challenge ”How to open a can without a can opener”. Creative kids know what to do when there is no TV and they have gnawed through their boredom. So the starting point of the artist is from nothing, and that makes the work so very challenging. It is almost like a training, a school of thought, a style like minimalism, but then the ”starting from nothing” style. The Zimbabwean artist starts painting with nothing, then finds household paint, continues to paints mixing colours with offset printers ink, or starts with yellow and finding other colours in the form of plastic bottle tops, sweet wrappers or broken shoes. Or consider this simplification; an artist drawing a silhouette of a rabbit, in Africa they may draw the abstract forms from the space around the rabbit (from nothing), and not from the ears or eyes or fur. When I look at their work the opposite happens, I first see the bottle tops, the electronic print plates, the bicycle pedal and then as if by magic, I see the creation.

analyzing the inside shapes, or look at the outside shapes

analyzing the inside shapes, or look at the outside shapes

During last  three days in Harare I freed myself up from the exhibition to spend some time in the botanical gardens and to explore the clouds using a video camera. The clouds form low and rapid in the skies after eleven o’clock in the morning. By leaving the camera on the ground and pointing up towards the sky I recording five minutes at the time. Playing the video fast forward made me realize that the rolling motion of the clouds was similar to the the rotating objects. It is something I want to work with.

But what impact did your art work have?
In 1999 I left the USA after doing a collection of paintings on shadows of basket ballplayers and hotel paintings in Mexico. I thought they had little impact on any one but my self, but I was wrong, Kelsay Myers wrote in 2013:
“But this one looks like spirits,” I said, and it did. What I didn’t say was that the spirits made me want to write. Their shapes and colors haunted me. The sky captured my imagination.”

http://www.kelsayelizabethmyers.com/2013/02/24/an-emphasis-on-reality/

A N    E M P H A S I S   O N   R E A L I T Y

A N E M P H A S I S O N R E A L I T Y

next: 3rd Ruhr Biennial – Townshipwise different 2015 http://ruhrbiennale.de/

Opening this afternoon in Harare

exhibitions, writing

at the First Floor Gallery 17:30rotating object

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HIFA 2014 day 5

writing, Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has great clouds. Low flying puffs of vapour twisting in the sky. They reach high over the tree tops but are close enough for you to be in contact with them, like messengers from heaven. It is my belief that artists are influenced by their land. Fly over the Spanish landscape and you see the rugged canvas of the Spanish painter. The Dutch painter has the ordered lines. Of course I am generalizing, but a sky filled with endless blobs of beautiful clouds must have some impact on the people.clouds in Zimbabwe

HIFA 2014 day 5

In the HIFA green pavilion, reserved for the artists (as in musician artist?) we sat and compared football management with the arts market. All the Zimbabwean contemporary artists know someone personally that has exhibited at the Venice Art Biennale. Meaning that there are many Zimbabwean contemporary artists who have exhibited in Venice, or there are few contemporary Zimbabwean  artists that everyone knows. Being so close to the grand art market unsettles the  artists, as would happen if a hand full of kids would be sent to Rio to play in the world cup football. My position is detached from the art market, although I must confess, when living in Brussels, we were neighbours with Angel Vergara the artist who represented the French Community of Belgium at the 54th Venice Biennale. But when we spoke, it was never about art nor football.

 

HIFA 2014 day 4

writing, Zimbabwe

Has any one written a good book about Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation (10,000,000%) from 1998-2009. Today when I speak to people they are still in shock. Pensions disappeared, savings lost, mortgages exploded and property reclaimed. Shop shelves empty. People drove for hours to neighbouring countries to buy food for family and friends. Those that did not have cars camped in front of shops and ATMs hoping for good news. If you had $10 US you could fly with Air Zimbabwe to China and back using the local exchange rate? A book like this would go down as fiction, it is beyond the logic of mankind.

At this time it is good to mention AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers link
Ivor Hartmann, editor says ”it enables African writers to envision a future from our African perspective.” And I would like to add it enables writers to tell their stories of unimaginable truths.

 

 

 

HIFA 2014 day 4
At the national galley, Calvin Dondo presents his book with Africalia.be
“Hodhii Zimbabwe. This book is a knock on the door of a stone house, a calling to open up and discover its inner mirror, an urge to show itself to the world and find more authentic rhetoric”

[personal note: is African art about problem solving using restriction methods?]

 

HIFA 2014 day 3

Utsi Mutsi, writing, Zimbabwe

A month ago while preparing for a solo show in Harare, I was finishing off one of the sculptures. My chisel slipped off the wood and dug deep into my little finger. In the ER they told me I cut my tendon. The hospital staff on hearing I was an artist arranged the best hand and wrist surgeon in Holland to sew the two strands of tendon back together. The recovery will be long.

injured, cintiq digital drawing tabletMy 3d work clearly stopped, but with one hand I could still draw the Utsi Mutsies (that is what my son Mickey and I call these imaginary creations). I used a Cintiq digital drawing tablet drawing directly on the screen and so creating the prints for the show.

HIFA Day 3

In the morning I go to the first floor gallery,  known for its innovative programming, to hang up 2 rotating objects and 2 drawings. Yutaka Hirose and Yuki Kamiya come to visit the galley and Yutaka takes my photograph using a very large format camera for his 100s Zimbabwe project.

At 17:00 the show opens with a good crowd of people

detail of Terrence Musekiwa’s sculpture ‘fruit tree’

one-piece cold formed body featuring a black oxide finish

K_Van: one-piece cold formed body featuring a black oxide finish

Day 9 travel and conclusion

Beijing International Art Biennale

Trailing my suitcases behind me, I was at the airport, retracing my steps to where I had landed a little bit more than a week ago. This was the moment to finalize and draw the conclusions, to see what had changed in me and what remained unmoved.
In this short trip I saw a lot of outstanding art, at times I was intimidated by the sheer size, numbers and the technical skill used to produce the work. The Art industry scared me outright, reducing me to a speck of dust in the wind.
Walking down the long corridors of the Beijing Capital international airport I am trying to pep myself up, trying to pull above the 10.000 artists in the  Songzhuang art village. I must be better, do better! And I compare 10.000 with my inner individual struggle for creative originality. But quickly 10.000 sighs drown my voice. [personal note: don’t forget the I-object]

robot by Michael Julian (my son)

Lately I was listening to a BBC podcast about ageing. Most life stops, not through old age, but through accidents. Accidents in the widest sense. A warm summer’s day scorching the grass. Animals trapped in a forest fire. The accidental exposure to the wrong bacteria or virus. It seems that our life forms do not put special energy into prolonging life of an individual, but rather in procreating life to ensure the survival of the species on earth.
For humans, we need more than the spreading our DNA for our species to survive. Our existence is also linked to our culture. It allows us to share and express our emotions. Through the formation of culture we find ways to express ideas and pass on our thoughts and experiences.
Are 10.000 artists in Songzhuang enough for passing on their cultural ideas to 1.344.000.000 Chinese?
300.000 German artists for 81.000.000 Germans?
200,000 British artists for 63.000.000 Britains?
180,000 French artists for 65.000.000 people in France?
This is a moment to think latterly about our the future and reality.
a) Art is a product that should be kept exclusive in order to keep a high return value for the investor?

b) Artists carry and spread our cultural heritage, we need more artists to express ideas and pass on our thoughts and experiences.