Art – Deleted dreams and drawings

2012-08-18 14:44

Kemang Wa Lehulere’s solo exhibition engages with amnesia and collective histories. Percy Mabandu finds that the artist has mounted objects that stand in for his intangible art

The one fascinating fact about Stevenson Gallery’s exhibition of Kemang Wa Lehulere’s work is that the objects are merely the evidence or stand-ins for the real artwork, which apparently cannot be represented.

So the video projection, framed drawings and murals adorning the walls of this cavernous, white cube gallery in Braamfontein, Joburg, are simply an artistic attempt at visualising the intangible.

Wa Lehulere’s work depicts methods of forgetting and remembering.

These are the politics and processes, cognitive or administrative, by which memory and its loss and recovery operate.

The exhibition is titled Some Deleted Scenes Too and is Wa Lehulere’s first solo exhibition since he won the MTN New Contemporaries Award in 2010.

The show advances a theme the 28-year-old Cape Town-born and now Joburg resident started treating in his earlier works.

These include the series of performances titled Ukuguqula iBatyi (2008) and the installation titled 30 Minutes of Amnesia: Scene 2 (2012) in which he uses bones to reference collected or excavated referential objects.

He uses these very bones as mere images too.

The artist also fashions the site of his installation to simultaneously suggest a scene of death and archaeological dig at once.

Here Wa Lehulere poetically takes on the dual roles of forensic investigator and scientist.

The curatorial notes of the current show point out that “Wa Lehulere’s work engages with the spaces between personal narrative and collective history, between processes of amnesia and archive. Performative gestures of unearthing discovery, destruction and erasure are central to Wa Lehulere’s work.

The act of digging (for pieces of memory or history), for example, becomes a metaphor for the pathology of history.”

Hence, the artist goes beyond the mechanics of memory to the potential pointlessness of history itself.

It’s like how jazz historian Julian Jonker argued: “Anyone approaching the intersections and digressions that comprise history ... is confronted with the conundrum of finding a place to start.

How does one tie up the multiplicitous locations and trajectories (of remembered events) and mould them into something resembling a linear story?”

Jonker further writes that making lists of names, things and places – even the indulgent itemising of experiences – doesn’t make proper sense of remembered lives.

He makes the point that narratives are never comprehensive. For where does one begin?

By deciding to begin a story, one makes a choice, consciously or not, about what to include and what to exclude.

So by simply starting, one silences other potential narratives – of the same events but not necessarily those that begin in the same place.

Jonker also cautions that one silences alternative narratives too by choosing an ending.

To solve this riddle for himself, Wa Lehulere writes that because of the possibilities and limitations of this endeavour, he’s chosen to treat the drawings, texts and performances as both “deleted and working scenes”.

So that, though they are a work in progress, they are treated as material to be discarded.

This method and strategy, he says, allows for an open exploration of the performing body both as archive and as a site for choreographing future narratives.

This propensity to discard informs what appears to be a loose concern for aesthetic consideration in his drawings.

Wa Lehulere’s drawings tend to look like notebook doodles. At best, they look like hurried sketches one makes to capture a flitting bright idea.

This is to say there’s little care for things like the grace of drawn strokes, the delicacy or sensitivity of the line laid down on paper by pen, paintbrush or charcoal sticks.

But it doesn’t matter.

Since just as the projected video is only evidence of an actual performance that has already taken place, the drawings are a means to an end, the method by which the artist’s thoughts are memorialised.

» The exhibition opened last week and runs until September 21. It includes performances at 12pm on September 1 and September 15 at Stevenson Gallery in Braamfontein, downtown Joburg

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.