Dineo Seshee Bopape is one of South Africa’s most admired, unconventional artist. Her first UK solo exhibition at the Hayward’s Project Space, Southbank, can best be termed as surprising, unexpected, puzzling or wonderful that your brain cannot comprehend it. Too many gadgets going on at the same time. It’s like you are not supposed to grasp what the display is about? Comprehending the works isn’t really the idea here I gathered. You walk into the space and you are challenged by a tremor of everything but the kitchen sink. From sculptural installation with video montages to constant flash photography, two TV set with no pictures flipping between analogue and digital visuals, a machine mix and re-mix ear-splitting sound. What is more? Timber, bricks, mirrors and plants, form multifaceted and wobbly configurations, often across the walls and on grass floor of the gallery, alongside a fresh sculpture conceived especially for Hayward Gallery Project Space. The presentation is overwhelmingly imposing.
DSB: I was born in 1981 in Polokwane, South Africa. I was born on a Sunday. If I were Ghanaian, my name would be akosua/akos for short. During the same year of my birth, the name ‘internet’ is mentioned for the first time Princess Diana of Britain marries Charles; AIDS is identified/created/named; Salman Rushdie releases his book “Midnight’s Children” bob Marley dies ‐ more events of the year of my birth are perhaps too many to have accounted for... I did my undergraduate studies in Art at Durban University of technology, South Africa, (2004), and attained my MFA from Columbia University, USA, in 2010. I work generally in a variety of mediums, mostly installation and video and drawing. My work has generally dealt with issues/ideas of representation so to speak... and memory, whilst some resist the pressure of having to mean something.
Here and now, what made you want to take part in Africa Utopia festival and what do you hope to pull off?
DSB: I was invited to take part. And what I hope to attain is to brush up my talking skills, I get often nervous when I speak in public, and often unsatisfied after because there is so much stuff that remains unsaid. Perhaps agreeing to participate is a chance for another rehearsal for the next time.
How would you describe your art? Is it redemptive, ethical or relative and political. And when putting together your installations what is your end goal?
DSB: It depends on who the viewer is I guess. It can be redemptive. Whilst in the process of making a work, goal posts changes. There is a freedom of sorts that comes with not having a strict goal. The goal is an unamiable thing.
Talk to us about your Africa Utopia exhibition at the London Hayward Gallery project Space?
DSB: "Slow-co-ruption" is the title of the show. I was thinking about data corruption, the data of narrative, of memory, of liberal socio-politics, self, language, sense and order and all thatcorruption implies… rupture... An interruption of a memory/a file/a story... about politics of space and the metaphysics of being... A death… ‘Productive’ death…The show has 3 main works and 2 supports, so to speak. In the first room is “Same Angle, same lighting”, a mechanical sculptural work which I made in 2010 but is now in its 3rd incarnation. The first version had a light that was shining repetitively, back and forth on to a dark photograph (just looking over and over again). The 2nd version which I had shown in Cape town at Stevenson had a camera that was supposed to capture the information on a photograph and send it to a nearby monitor, but the machine kept on failing and what stood in the monitor with it was a pre-recorded video (showing the movement that was supposed to happen); an external memory of sorts…
(Flabbergasting response or what?) Rendered speechless.
And now in its 3rd reiteration in Slow-co-ruption, the camera sends information to several monitors/screens (hosts). The camera goes back and forth scanning the information off the paper (a scanned colour photocopy of picture of a lush garden from a garden and home magazine from the early 1990’s). This machine is hosted on and by these wooden supports and shop display things. Around “same angle, same lighting”- (the other supports) are several copies of video grass green/sky blue and also slow-co-ruption (stickers of flowers and eyes) the flowers are an almost random selection of native SA flowers and some from the garden image in same angle…. The eyes are those of an anonymous person and also those of philosophers Biko and Sobukwe who are also known for having written much about a need for rupture – both mental and spatial (so to speak). In the other rooms are the video “why do you call me when you know I can’t answer the phone” a piece from 2013 which is itself about the rupture of meaning or sense, a corruption or narrative. Whilst “Is I am sky” also speaks of a thing of absence, self-presence and of a kind of a metaphysical death to make a very insufficient summary…
Do you have a favourite piece from this exhibition and what next for DSB?
DSB: Not really, I love the different pieces differently...but currently I must say I am most excited about the "slow-co-ruption" stickers. On what next? I would like to show my work more on the African continent (abroad too), I would like to grow as an artist, to clarify my thoughts, for my work to be sharper, to continue being curious and continue to play... also to share with others... to remain healthy and able.