SIMUNYE SUMMIT 2010
JOHANNESBURG KWAAL WORLD 2010 “MANY IN YOUR PRESENT REALITY PERCEIVE THEMSELVES AS ACCIDENTAL AUTONOMOUS PHYSICAL BEINGS. IN KWAAL WORLD IT IS KNOWN THAT THE PHYSICAL BODY IS SIMPLY A HARDWARE INTERFACE SUIT DESIGNED TO INTERACT WITHIN THE LAWS OF 3RD DIMENSIONAL REALITY. IT IS ACTIVATED BY A SPIRIT IMPLANT. SPIRIT IMPLANTS ARE HIGHER DIMENSIONAL INTERFACES FOR SOUL BODIES TO EXPERIENCE THEMSELVES. SOUL BODIES ARE SO BIG TO EXPERIENCE THEMSELVES IN A 3RD DIMENSIONAL STATE THEY HAVE TO DIVIDE THEMSELVES INTO MILLIONS AND SOMETIMES BILLIONS OF SPIRIT IMPLANTS.“ – Simunye Systems Orientation
BOGOSI SEKHUKHUNI SIMUNYE SUMMIT 2010
Previous pages: Simunye Systems Antechamber Installation view Simunye Systems Orientation 2017, HD video Duration 7 min 23 sec Pages 16, 38, 62, 68: Orisha Totems 2016, banners for Kampala Biennale
ONLINE/OFFLINE AT BOGOSI SEKHUKHUNI’S SIMUNYE SUMMIT 2010 KABELO MALATSIE
In this climate anyone can begin to build an alternative present, reconfigure failed narratives, decipher meaning from continual flux. – DIS, 20161
Dear Rakgadi Bogosi Sekhukhuni is a weird cross between Credo Mutwa, King Sekhukhune, online popular culture, African and esoteric spirituality and something from a future episode of Westworld. His exhibition Simunye Summit 2010 concludes, begins and continues an investigation into consciousness that was perhaps birthed on Mxit during the 1994 euphoria or coming off the high of Mandela’s ‘rainbow nation’. Sekhukhuni’s work is hard to read for those like me who find the aesthetic of the internet unrecognisable, and here I speak of recognition in the sense that you cannot see what you do not recognise – it does not and cannot register
until it’s knowable to you. Luckily for me, I met him in 2013 when he was studying at the University of Johannesburg; we had a zigzagging conversation and I almost missed my flight back to the colony. Then he spoke of post-colonialism and black aspirational aesthetics. I recognised the aesthetics (faux Italian baroque furniture and other markers of wealth within the black community after 1994) and shared in his lament that the white cube exhibition space somehow alienated most black people. In subsequent long conversations, I learnt a great deal about the internet, or rather its language. For us older folk it is merely a means to an end. We use email, Facebook and other basic applications, and have smartphones that we only use for calls and messaging – our engagement with these technologies is very limited. We are clueless about the inner workings of the internet. Sekhukhuni has been patiently teaching me about other languages that I did not have access to. Lately it is African spirituality. My lessons on the internet only clicked during a visit to the ninth Berlin Biennale, curated by the uber-cool collective DIS, and where Sekhukhuni participated as part of CUSS Group’s collective presentation. Here, artists such as Trevor Paglen/Jacob Appelbaum and Alexandra Pirici made evident the ways our interactions online are harvested for a variety of reasons, in a clear infringement of our rights. It was very apparent that surveillance in itself is a commodity prized by the neoliberal machine, something that most internet users are unaware of. The shiny gloss on the democratising of information, on infinite access to everything, became dull very quickly as I remembered Sekhukhuni’s words about algorithms functioning as the borders of cyberspace, that the internet is not a safe place. Cyberspace has been revered for allowing you to recreate yourself by having an avatar and other escapist fictions; this is all a distraction while something ominous happens in the background.
There is a scene in the sci-fi TV series Westworld where a host (a humanoid robot) becomes conscious of itself while online – actively playing a role within a set narrative created by humans for their visitors’ enjoyment in a theme park. The host then struggles with its given narrative and questions its own existence and potential for self-actualisation. Another offline host wakes up (goes online) while on the repair table as technicians run maintenance on its body. When returned to the theme park, it is aware of the role it plays there. Without programmed amnesia, the host is mindful that everything runs on a loop – that there is no free will. Sekhukhuni woke up to the lack of free will during online interactions. I, on the other hand, woke up to it while offline, viewing the ninth Berlin Biennale, at a time when right-wing protests were taking place in the city. I subsequently became hyperaware of my race and gender. The notion of existing within a loop or a narrative that is not of one’s making is something that the presenter played by Sekhukhuni in the Dream Diary Season 2 videos is cognisant of, as he repeatedly revokes the contracts that we unknowingly get involved in. Now where can we be free, Rakgadi? Pirici and Paglen/Appelbaum make you aware of the algorithmic filtering and constant surveillance that is happening while using the internet. Sekhukhuni’s revocations perhaps offer a symbolic or psychic awakening and counter to the systems we exist in. For now the gesture is consolation enough during this post-apocalyptic time where there is very little that can be done against the seemingly all-consuming neoliberal system. Sekhukhuni’s exhibition narrative is built using a timeline that is not only corrective nostalgia but futuristic as well. Here we see a past in the future of a parallel present. This notion of different timelines happening concurrently is further explored in the Dream Diary Season 2 videos. I have been thinking about how when I greet someone it is mainly in the plural, le kae. If I am
greeting you, Rakgadi, I must also acknowledge those who have been and those who exist in a different dimension and know of the future. Through trolling the internet I found out that the author of the Dream Diary Season 2 narratives is a ‘Galactic Historian’, Andrew Bartzis. I wondered if these revocations had anything to do with the hopelessness of our looped existence online and offline and our powerlessness to effect any change – an apocalyptic tone that ran through the ninth Berlin Biennale. We normally rely on our bodily experience when viewing exhibitions in an art gallery. You walk back and forth looking at the works, and the exhibition is judged by the objects’ ability to shift your perception. Other traditional markers of a successful exhibition include the artist’s mastery of the materials they are working with. Walking back and forth looking at the surfaces of objects is not particularly rewarding at Simunye Summit 2010. If there is no mastery to marvel at, how does one engage this exhibition? Should it be judged for its offline presentation? The physical viewing of the exhibition is still productive – the headboard installations, which Sekhukhuni has been investigating in relation to black aspirational aesthetics, have been painted in psychedelic colours reminiscent of a spaceship engaging its warp drive. Viewing the exhibition feels like walking through an exposition/ showroom,2 seeing fragments of something that becomes whole elsewhere. It is while I was sitting in front of my computer revisiting Sekhukhuni’s exhibition that I got a better understanding of the show’s online and offline presence. He has been investigating esoteric and African spirituality, including Credo Mutwa’s intergalactic stories and the common narratives of science-fiction films. There is an aesthetic link between science fiction, esoteric spirituality and post-internet art in the form of psychedelic colours and hippie aesthetics. In the pseudo-paralytic state of staring into the deep voids of the internet, I became acquainted with Sekhukhuni’s quest for
healing from past traumas, which is a central theme in his artistic practice. Simunye Summit 2010 is a fictitious narrative that should not be judged based on its tangible aspects in the exhibition space but rather on the impact it has on our interactions both online and offline. Sekhukhuni not only challenges our perception but requires us to think about our existence and how it is affected by the technologies we use. At first glance it may seem as though you need to learn internet speak; on the contrary, Rakgadi, you need to remember how non-linear time and space works, remember the folding of space in a dream. In this post-apocalyptic political landscape it may be time to reimagine the spiritual dimension of our online and offline experiences. Yours lovingly, Kabelo
Kabelo Malatsie is a curator living in Johannesburg
1 DIS. 2016. The Present in Drag. Berlin: KW Institute of Contemporary Art. 55-56 2 Sekhukhuni speaks of treating the art gallery as an expo: ‘I see gallery spaces as purely industry showcases – other industries, like aeronautics and cellphones, have expos to show their shit as well. For me that’s all that it is.’ (See p63)
“TODAY I TRAVEL THE GREAT UNKNOWN, GRANT ME THE WISDOM TO BE HUMBLE. GRANT ME THE WISDOM TO LOVE, EVEN WHEN LOVE IS NOT RETURNED. GRANT ME THE KNOWLEDGE TO BALANCE MY WAY OF BEING. SO I MAY HEAL MY FAMILY, MY TRIBE, MY NATION AND OUR MOTHER EARTH.” – Dream Diary Season 2, Divine Masculinity Soul Contract Revocations
Soul Contract Revocations, Dream Diary Season 2: Priscilla 2017, headboard with digital videos (Dream Diary Season 2, Divine Masculinity Soul Contract Revocations and Dream Diary Season 2, Government Soul Contract Revocations) 80 x 220 x 105cm
Dream Diary Season 2, Divine Masculinity Soul Contract Revocations 2017, HD digital video Duration 2 min 43 sec
Dream Diary Season 2, Government Soul Contract Revocations 2017, HD digital video Duration 2 min 41 sec
Soul Contract Revocations, Dream Diary Season 2: Joyce 2017, headboard with digital videos (Dream Diary Season 2, Media Systems Soul Contract Revocations and Untitled) 125 x 222 x 105cm
Dream Diary Season 2, Media Systems Soul Contract Revocations 2017 HD digital video Duration 2 min 58 sec
“I REVOKE ALL SPIRITUAL CONTRACTS WITH EARTH BASED MEDIA SYSTEMS USING DOMINATION AND CONTROL AS A MEANS OF ENERGY HARVESTING, FEAR INSTIGATION OR REALITY MANIPULATION WITH ENERGETIC PROPAGANDA TECHNOLOGIES.” – Dream Diary Season 2, Media Systems Soul Contract Revocations
Untitled 2017 HD digital video Duration 1 min 15 sec
“DOESN’T THIS FEEL LIKE DÉJA VU? DON’T YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE? YOU ARE NOT ALONE.” – Dream Diary Season 2, Dream 7
Soul Contract Revocations, Dream Diary Season 2: Matilda 2017, headboard with digital videos (Dream Diary Season 2, Dream 7; Dream Diary Season 1, Dream 6 and Untitled) 91 x 237 x 6.5cm
Sacred Geometry Building 2017 HD digital video Duration 1 min 33 sec
Dream Diary Season 2, Dream 7 2017 HD digital video Duration 36 sec
Hollow Earth, Hollow Man 2017, sound, couch 125 x 170 x 170cm Duration 9 min 52 sec
Untitled 2016, reflective vests, vinyl, mounted on frame 102 x 126cm
seFate Sa Bophelo 2016, digital print, volcanic rock 99 x 199.5cm
WOMB (what is black twitter? what is african twitter?) Red, Orange, Yellow, Lilac, Pink 2016, felt lettering on fleece blankets 110 x 165cm each
Untitled (OIC Energy Bath and Sound Treatment) 2016, mixed media installation, 2016 Dakar Biennale
Orisha Totems 2016, banners for Kampala Biennale
Consciousness Engine 2: absentblackfatherbot 2014, dual-channel video installation Duration 4 min 30 sec Produced as part of 89+ residency at The Lab at the Google Cultural Institute, Paris
KWAAL LYF 2014, neon 116 x 118.5cm
Unfrozen: Rainbowcore 2014, installation including Dream Diary Season 1, 1-6, 2013, digital videos Installation view, Unfrozen: Rainbowcore, Whatiftheworld, Cape Town
Dream Diary Season 1, Dream 1 2013 HD digital video Duration 1 min 26 sec
Dream Diary Season 1, Dream 2 2013 HD digital video Duration 57 sec
Dream Diary Season 1, Dream 4 2013 HD digital video Duration 26 sec
Dream Diary Season 1, Dream 3 2013 HD digital video Duration 2 min 20 sec
Dream Diary Season 1, Dream 5 2013 HD digital video Duration 32 sec
Dream Diary Season 1, Dream 6 2013 HD digital video Duration 53 sec
the ratchet of the earth 2013, 36 loaves of bread 26 x 66 x 145cm Installation view, A Sculptural Premise, Stevenson Cape Town
Innocentia 2013, installation with live sculpture and video Video duration 32 sec In the night I remember, Stevenson Johannesburg
‘I’M GENERATING CONSCIOUSNESS’ BOGOSI SEKHUKHUNI IN CONVERSATION WITH PAMELLA DLUNGWANA
You said as a kid you read a lot. What do you
Do you see the internet interacting outside of itself?
read now? There’s supposed to be a conflict in spaces between IRL and BS
When I learnt how to read I literally thought I could
URL but I don’t see it as a clash. I just see it as an expansion
do magic because I thought reading was magic. This
of an experience that could be online. I recently resolved
was in kindergarten, and I just ran with it. Now I struggle
my issues with gallery spaces, or at least I’ve come to an
with reading fiction because I’m used to movies. When
understanding of how they can work for me. I see gallery
I approach a narrative I’m used to that narrative being
spaces as purely industry showcases – other industries, like
able to exist in a certain amount of time. So I mostly read
aeronautics and cellphones, have expos to show their shit
newspapers. Then there’s the Susan Stone paper Of Virtual
as well. For me that’s all that it is. Once you start to attach
Communities on the Internet to which I keep going back.
this aura of social significance it becomes dishonest. It’s just another industry.
How did you arrive at the internet as a space? Speaking to a friend I was told, ‘Oh Bogosi comes from Mxit was the first Facebook. Mxit doesn’t get the credit
a very pan-Africanist background.’ What does that mean,
it deserves, in terms of its social importance for my
a pan-Africanist childhood?
generation. You could flirt online – especially for gay and lesbian youth that was the place where you would go if you
I grew up with a single mom and she’s an OG in her field.
were a teenager to get off.
She studied film and she’s one of the exiles that went to the
You were the kid under the table.
UK, where she did a lot of media stuff, studying while writing music reviews for Drum, that kind of thing. When she came back in the early 1990s they started an initiative training
It’s that single parent thing: you’re just going to go
black kids from Joburg and the rest of the continent to work
everywhere with your kid.
in TV and film. That project later turned into Newtown Film and Television School, which was our life up until 2001 when
I seem to come across artists whose mothers are
there was a big fire. Basically I grew up going to a film school
pivotal characters; Mancoba, for instance, whose mother
my whole childhood.
impressed the value of language on him via poetry, and here you are with a mom with the same kind of demands.
And you had no siblings, right? Yeah, my mother used to lock me up during the holidays, No, and being an only child you just live in your head like a
and force me to write one poem each day. I used to hate it.
motherfucker, it’s insane. I had a basketball that I attached
I literally thought that she hated me.
personalities to and I had teddy bears and I would christen
She wanted me to be an artist. Obviously I rejected the
them with black names instead of names like Mike, which
idea. I was going to study fashion. Because fashion was
were typically used for toys. I named my teddy bears Tsepo,
something I was not exposed to as a kid.
Tsepiso, Thabo. My mom stressed the fact that I needed to identify
What about the people around you? When you describe
with black imaging. She also did a lot of travelling on the
the set in which you grew up I immediately get a sense
continent when I was younger, and I was always surrounded
of a particular aesthetic. Didn’t their sense of fashion
by people from other countries. We had really strong ties
with Ghana and we used to go every second year for the student film festival and she used to buy me books about
I would look at my mom and think ‘that’s really cool’, but I still
Anansi the spider.
had to deal with the social pressure of going to school and have kids shit on you for not wearing labels. I wasn’t trying to
I guess one would consider your mom to be ‘woke’
be in no African print nothing, no ‘loincloth’ nothing.
these days. Your generation has somehow smashed the notion of Dude, eighth generation woke. Haile Gerima was a regular
‘this is me and in Kente and I’m black and I’m in the
visitor, he used to stay at our crib when he came to SA. I was
space’. You point out that there are other modes. In
around all those conversations as a child, even that classic time
Dream Diaries, it’s ‘here’s video, it’s a medium but I’m
when he came in 2003, when they were premiering Sankofa.
going to use it for what I’m going to use it for, to achieve
Mutabaruka was around and I was a kid amidst all that stuff.
this other thing’. How did you get there?
Dineo Bopape is a big influence on Dream Diaries. Her
transcript of an actual conversation. How did you come
videos are just like fuck; I mean her editing process is
to produce that work?
something I had never seen before. I was doing a residency and the original project wasn’t But there is still a great difference between the works
working out because the French government has really
technically. Her videos are clean and they are crisp,
weird attitudes towards DNA testing.
because as much as the edges fray, even when we go into
I’m generating consciousness. If you take the notion that
a distortion, all of it is beautifully rendered – even when
consciousness is something that we get to through engaging
you go into snow mode, it’s virginal white, clean. Your
with what’s around you, then you can, in a poetic way, generate
images are smudgy and they bleed. It’s like you went into
consciousness between two semi-autonomous beings or
that clean lounge at your grandmother’s and just pulled
objects by having them interact with each other. I treat the
everything to the floor. It’s a statement, ‘You’re going to
videos as simulations, of my entire relationship with that guy.
see that I was here.’
Consciousness Engine I is about the idea I had to try and make a copy of myself using a script of my genome. I’m
For me clean, finished, factory level stuff – you can do that
trying to do a full sequence of my genome. I’d be printing out
with a machine and so for me that value is dead. I like the
my genome into a bucket of water and it would evaporate
noise. When I heard Venus in Furs by the Velvet Underground
as it comes out.
for the first time, I didn’t know music could be like that. Don’t you run the risk of being mistaken for an item It’s as if these videos are constructed mainly out of
belonging in the Afro-futurist laundry bag?
synthetic dirt, the ‘etcetera’ the internet and our South African experience have to offer. Dream Diaries opens
I’m trying to work this out myself, but the conversation is
one up to a host of emotions. There’s you laughing and
very shallow and a lot of it has to do with the fact that we
jeering, wanking and then ... Kentridge. I died.
actually don’t acknowledge the conversations or knowledge our ancestors were having before ...
Siyabangena! That episode is the wet dream in the series, The colonial interruption?
and I was really trying to build a cheap mythology around some daddy shit, me finding William Kentridge as the dad that I never knew about. ‘William, I am your son. Pay my
Yeah. I’m trying to understand how people back then
understood reality, physical reality and their place in it. And I think that’s where the answer is going to be. Afro-futurism
Which brings us to the absentblackfatherbot. The
to me is nothing. In present times it is really a kind of
characters were so universal, even though it began as a
I watched the three videos you made titled So Saith
Dmitri Mendeleev. Because Maxwell is Christian his angle
the Lord? Who is that guy?
is that it’s the glory of God, but for us we see him as in tune with a metaphysical pluri-dimensional perspective on
That is the future! I’m really excited about what he’s doing,
reality; we see him as communicating with an entity in the
for me it’s history. Maxwell is a guy from Zimbabwe, and
fourth dimension or the fifth dimension, who may describe
he’s a self-taught engineer.
themselves as God. There are so many layers to this. Science increasingly
Or divinely taught, as he says.
accepts that physical reality is not all there is, which is what black people have known since forever – there are forces outside of us that interact with our world.
He is self-taught, he’s been doing this since the late 1990s. He first built a radio broadcast transmitter and made illegal broadcasts. His company went viral because they had an open day where they invited school kids and media. What he’s doing is actually revolutionary – he’s tapped into free energy, which for a long time has been a topic for conspiracy buffs, and then he comes with this divinely attributed way of working as well. What is interesting to me is his process, and how it differs from dominant scientific ways of doing things. God speaks to you? Bra, come on. No, leave him, these things happen. What we are trying to do is disrupt our cultures of knowledge systems that are deeply rooted in how white people think or how Europeans understand reality. This idea of experimentation through data accumulation solely as a valid proof of an idea is very European. We were interested in seeing what an African perspective on those scientific processes could be, and we wanted to treat his visions as just as valid. There is a whole history that is repressed within scientific circles of discoveries being made through divine inspiration, people like Einstein and
Bogosi Sekhukhuni, born in Johannesburg in 1991, describes himself as a ‘lightworker and creative director’. He is a founding member of the ‘tech-health artist group’ NTU and has worked with the CUSS Group collective. His most recent collaborative project is a ‘visual culture bank and research gang’ called Open Time Coven, which investigates ‘emergent technologies and repressed African spiritual philosophies’. Sekhukhuni has held three solo exhibitions: Simunye Systems 2010 at Stevenson Johannesburg (2017); Restore the Feeling as part of a residency at the Bag Factory, Johannesburg (2016); and Unfrozen: Rainbowcore at Whatiftheworld, Cape Town (2014). In 2016 he took part in the Kampala and Dakar biennales, and the Berlin Biennale as part of NTU and the CUSS Group. In 2015 he showed work on the 89+ Prospectif Cinéma programme at the Centre Pompidou, Paris; The Film Will Always Be You: South African Artists on Screen at Tate Modern, London; Co-Workers – Network as Artist at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; and Filter Bubble at the LUMA Foundation’s Westbau in Zürich. Before that he participated in a number of group shows in South Africa, including In the night I remember (2013) and A Sculptural Premise (2014), both at Stevenson. With CUSS Group, he was included in Private Spaces: Art after the Internet at the Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, in 2014. Sekhukhuni was awarded a Prix Net Art award by the New York-based digital arts organisation Rhizome in 2017. His ongoing research can be accessed at http://bogosisekhukhuni.tumblr.com/
CAPE TOWN Buchanan Building 160 Sir Lowry Road Woodstock 7925 PO Box 616, Green Point 8051 T +27 (0)21 462 1500 JOHANNESBURG 62 Juta Street Braamfontein 2001 Postnet Suite 281 Private Bag x9, Melville 2109 T +27 (0)11 403 1055 firstname.lastname@example.org www.stevenson.info Catalogue 88 March 2017 © 2017 for work: the artist © 2017 for texts: the authors Front cover Dream Diary Season 2, Government Soul Contract Revocations, 2017 Back cover Dream Diary Season 2, Dream 7, 2017 Inside covers Hollow Earth, Hollow Man, 2017, details Design Gabrielle Guy Photography Mario Todeschini, Anthea Pokroy Printing Hansa Print, Cape Town