Capture yourself in pixels

2013-02-24 10:00

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There’s an abiding playfulness that defines the multidisciplinary work of artist Dineo Sheshee Bopape.

Having carved a sweet spot in the hearts of the international art market for herself, the Joburg-based artist perhaps has reason to indulge her fancies.

Bopape has been engaged for the past few months as artist in residence at the Nirox Foundation in Sterkfontein. This is the centre that houses the lush sculpture garden near Maropeng, the Cradle of Humankind.

She worked on numerous projects that now form an installation at the art centre.

However, more importantly, she’s produced this video work titled Is I Am Sky and all mounts to a video self-portrait of sorts. The whole thing unfolds over 18 minutes of beaming light and sound. It offers no clues as to how to read it, except through the larger-than-life colourful face of the artist as the central image.

The work starts out with solo drum lines as a soundtrack to the projected video montage. The artist’s camera then pans the blue sky with its fluffy white clouds dancing on the horizon.

As the drumming grows more complex, we see Bopape’s likeness looming large into the picture plane. She mutters unintelligible half-sung phrases. The music switches from drums to a string-based accompaniment, and the singing head mutates and merges with the moving clouds as they fade into the twilight, making way for the ghostly night sky.

Bopape plays the same visual games with the sparkling starry sky as she does with the clouds. She fragments her singing face so that only the parts where light falls on her skin are visible. The rest morphs into the background. It is at once transparent and opaque.

The video shows these games of her oscillating between fragmentation and wholeness, opacity and transparency, solidity and liquidity. She wraps up the drawn-out reel by returning the mood through the music to the drum rhythm.

Throughout the screening, the viewer struggles to find a narrative, but it doesn’t arrive. Except the unresponsive gaze of the represented likeness of the artist.?There are no grand themes or subject matter, or any pretence to address them. Apart from the playful vision of the sky, the artist appears to be merely concerned with her whimsical vision of herself.

This is video art as self-portraiture. It is part narcissism and part existentialism in that the fulfilment self is the beginning and the destination of all willed struggles.

»?Is I Am Sky is available for viewing at Nirox and will form part of Bopape’s forthcoming exhibition at the Stevenson Gallery. The date is yet to be announced

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