Serge Alain Nitegeka: Into the BLACK

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Serge Alain Nitegeka

Into the BLACK





Serge Alain Nitegeka

Into the BLACK

Texts by Allie Biswas, David Brodie and Hansi Momodu-Gordon



Contents

Journeys and gestures: The work of Serge Alain Nitegeka —

Allie Biswas

Works 2012-15

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Interview with Serge Alain Nitegeka 2015 —

Hansi Momodu-Gordon

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David Brodie

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Interview with Serge Alain Nitegeka 2012 —

Biography & bibliography

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Journeys and gestures:

The work of Serge Alain Nitegeka

—

Allie Biswas

Earlier this year Serge Alain Nitegeka presented Structural-Response II as the central work of his first solo museum exhibition in the United States. The vast, site-specific installation occupied the entire space of a long, narrow gallery at the SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia, stretching out of view and giving the impression that it might continue endlessly. This immense work comprised an amalgamation of thin wooden planks, painted black, which had been joined together at various angles. The planks jutted upwards, touching the ceiling in a spiky, towering manner.

Among them, at certain intersections on the ground, rectangular panels of bare wood could be seen, the end surfaces of which Nitegeka had painted bright red. At one point the installation traversed from the floor onto the wall. Then, after some distance, the woven network of black wooden lines commenced again in the middle of the space.

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Other than revealing the artist’s powerful aesthetic – grounded in abstraction, geometry and colour – Structural-Response II was an unequivocal signal of the critical role that movement plays within Nitegeka’s art. In order to examine the work in its entirety, the viewer was required to step over and hunch through the structure, from beginning to end, carefully navigating their way through the uneasily determined spaces available to them. And, while the passage here may have been permeated by obstacles, mobility was not halted altogether – the final outcome was that of progression and, ultimately, resolution. What is more, Structural-Response II underlined the relationship Nitegeka has developed between form and experience, whereby representation of a frame of mind or bodily sensation is inferred through the arrangement and treatment of the physical object. Structural-Response II is one of several monumental interventions that Nitegeka has devised since exhibiting his first sizeable structure, The Tunnel, in 2010. These installations form part of a wider body of work that encompasses painting, sculpture and drawing. Regardless of the medium, wood and paint could be understood as the artist’s principal materials, and the overall image that is created by the works underlines his interest in minimalism. His process of creating, while governed by order, also stems from an inclination towards unplanned exploration. Discussing the formation of his installations Nitegeka explains: ‘I approach the site with a blank mind. I don’t walk in with preconceived ideas or expectations of what I am going to make or how it is going to look.’1 And while the materials and architectural layout dictate certain aspects, he is

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1 Structural-Response II 2015, installation, SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah 2 Barricade I 2014, installation, Marianne Boesky booth, Armory Show, New York


adamant that ‘my formal aesthetic plays a part too’, adding that while ‘there isn’t a correct geometry as such, there is a correct aesthetic appeal’. Nitegeka has been concerned with exploring the relationship between the body and its surroundings since he began exhibiting in 2008, cementing a particular commitment to experiences based on oppression or discord as part of the specific context of forced migration. Nitegeka’s own history within this realm – involving continuous episodes of fleeing inflicted by conflicts of war and genocide in Africa – cannot be ignored in this process: ‘The migrant experience, and its narratives, influences my work immensely,’ he has asserted. ‘Like trauma or a life-changing experience, it’s hard to forget or do anything else.’ The journey – a life understood through transit – underpins Nitegeka’s

manifestations, which simulate the continuously shifting and fraught environments that must be endured by refugees. Crucially, the journey that is evoked is both physical and psychological. As the artist has pointed out, he is interested in both the space and state of liminal experiences, which alludes to landscape (inhabiting a place) and emotion (the mental repercussions). The role of the journey appears to have come to the fore in the artist’s present practice, suggested by the title of his latest exhibition (Black Passage) and the room-scaled, walk-through installation that dominates it. It is a theme he has returned to in successive works. Barricade I (2014), for example, consists of a giant web of conjoined black beams containing cargo boxes seemingly in mid-air. When installed at the Armory Show, New York, the construction was placed by Nitegeka in such a way as to prevent direct access to his paintings, which were displayed in a room nearby. To view these works, navigation through Barricade I was imperative. Nitegeka’s interest in complicating spatial dimensions was even more transparent in Structural-Response I (2012), created for the French Institute in Dakar. This work is one of the most pervasive explorations into issues of negotiation and survival that Nitegeka has made to date. Composed solely of the painted black plank in tumultuous, manifold configurations, a mesh

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of sharp intersections swelled to fill the whole gallery and then – exerting its bustling presence even further – spilled out of the entrances to the building, hindering the approach of those trying to enter or exit the gallery. As the role of the journey is so vital to – and, in essence, intertwined within – these large-scaled, site-specific installation works, the viewer’s physical participation is required in order for them to be ‘completed’. Only when the structure is used or manipulated in this way – with the viewer’s body being forced to locate itself and move in very particular ways, compromising with the space as they go along – can Nitegeka’s intended expressions be comprehended. Outlining the process, the artist has described his installations as prompting the body to ‘rehearse and outline certain movements … I’m sharing my story with you, and you’re completing it as a performer. The installation can be interpreted as a stage.’2

As if to concretise how vital physical engagement is to his practice, Nitegeka made a film, BLACK SUBJECTS (2012), which depicts a group of figures circulating inside a familiar grid of coated black planks and boxes, set against a stark white background. Dressed in black, covered entirely from head to toe, these anonymous humans silently manoeuvre themselves through openings in the space, moving together closely as a unit. As they pass through the crossings created by the geometrical arrangement, the figures pick up loose sections of the grid, such as a curved piece of wood, and collate them. The film is centred upon demonstrating the feeling of community that arises during adverse situations, as well as the action that is instinctively sensed to (collectively) survive through the formation of shelter. Nevertheless, the critical nature of movement is highlighted by this magnified focus on the body. The performative aspect of Nitegeka’s installations can be elucidated further by the framework of Mieke Bal’s term ‘migratory aesthetics’. Interpreting ‘aesthetic’ as ‘a condition of sentient engagement’, the concept attempts to ‘establish an active interface between viewer and artwork’.3 Under this term, an artwork is considered ‘empty’ if the act of viewing is not innate to it, and if that act is not used

3 Structural-Response I 2012, installation, Galerie Le Manège, French Institute, Dakar 4 BLACK SUBJECTS 2012, digital video, sound, duration 6 min 56 sec 3


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to carry out a political dimension. In this instance the term ‘migratory’ does not refer to the actual migration of people, but is instead used to indicate ‘a quality of the world in which mobility is not the exception but on its way to becoming the standard, the means rather than the minority’.4 Therefore, Bal argues, if aesthetics is considered to be above all an encounter in which the subject, including the body, is engaged, that aesthetic encounter is defined as migratory if it takes place due to, or on the interface with, the mobility of people as ‘at the heart of what matters in the contemporary, that is, “globalised” world’.5 The migratory framework that informs Nitegeka’s art is, then, critical to the meaning of the works. But the artist has been clear to identify his simulations as ‘imagined spaces’, perhaps aiming to detract from biographical readings that stem from his own history of migration. Indeed, the complex aesthetic concerns of his works make them resistant to attempts to collapse their meanings

into a single (autobiographical) narrative. Nitegeka has even commented that he possibly ‘subconsciously chose to go the abstract route so as to avoid divulging personal migratory narratives and being literal’. The experiences drawn upon by Nitegeka are more precisely related to those of the refugee, and in order to locate his work contextually it is important to make this distinction. Whereas the term ‘exile’ was positioned within the historical framework of modernity, contemporary art practices are now associated with the figure of the ‘migrant’. Migration, while synonymous with displacement and uprootedness, is still associated with a level of choice and, consequently, freedom. This is mirrored by the way in which the term has been connected to notions of travel, associated with ‘nomadic artists’ who participate as part of a globalised art culture that is determined by mobility. The refugee narrative referred to by Nitegeka is, if anything, governed by persecution and an absence of autonomy,

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multiple narratives of lived experiences’ is through this ‘simple system of unpacking’ which results in ‘clean, single, concise lines’ being delineated.

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and the artist agrees with the necessity to separate these definitions, saying that ‘the line between the two terms is very thin, and at times they get intertwined and inseparable in contemporary cases of forced migration’. Nitegeka’s visual language, though emphatic and often dramatic, maintains a preoccupation with simplicity and precision. While his installations, and his sculptures too (in particular the ongoing Fragile Cargo series initiated in 2012, which portrays box-like structures outlined by black planks), are architecturally proportioned, the forms utilised are minimalist and repetitive, and the colour palette rarely exceeds red, black and white. The new paintings exhibited in Black Passage reveal for the first time the introduction of blue and yellow into Nitegeka’s tonal range. Presented as an inverse to the highly charged experiences he evokes, the artist’s method of ‘untangling and ordering the chaos of

While journeys play a pivotal part in Nitegeka’s installations in an immersive and abstract manner, transit, when examined through formal means, is most explicitly represented through allusion to the landscape. The works often resemble buildings and other largescale, man-made constructions, and also make reference to modes of transport specifically through their titles, which include words such as ‘cargo’ and ‘tunnel’. This acts both as a reflection of the artist’s encounters while in literal transit on the road, and his continuing interest in the architectural nature of certain environments. Nitegeka confirms the effect that buildings, roads and bridges have on him, describing them as ‘majestic and monumental sculptures … they cannot be ignored. I look to these for inspiration.’ These sources are especially relevant when contemplating them in relation to other artists Nitegeka has stated as important to his own development, including Richard Serra (born 1939) and Richard Deacon (born 1949).

5 Adapt-Mode I 2013, installation, Stevenson, Cape Town 6 Tunnel IX 2014, installation, Stevenson, Johannesburg 7 Richard Serra, Torqued Ellipses, 1996-7, installation view, Dia:Beacon, New York


Adapt-Mode I (2013), which was installed in Nitegeka’s Black Cargo exhibition in Cape Town, comprises three large, curvilinear pieces of painted black wood that have been pressed into a narrow section of the gallery with a wall on either side. Positioned one in front of the other, at intervals, each object can be viewed separately as well as in succession. From afar the smooth flat surface of the wood gives the impression that the object is made from metal, and the overall shape and layout is reminiscent of a tunnel or passageway. A year later the artist made Tunnel IX (2014) for his Johannesburg exhibition, Into the BLACK. Based on the same principle, the curvature of the wood is this time more significantly articulated and its overall size is colossal. Overtaking the entrance to the gallery, two slender slabs of wood were positioned adjacent to each other, bent at opposite angles, which provided a confined path through the space. Unlike the works made up of planks, these structures enable the viewer to undertake a more linear journey that does not encourage as much physical contortion or direct contact. Instead, the impact here is mostly formed by the considerable manipulation of the material, which appears daunting precisely because it remains at a distance, hovering directly over the body. Both of these works are reminiscent of Serra’s Torqued Ellipses – huge sheets of thin metal shaped with a slight bend and positioned to stand upright on the floor. When interviewed in the late 1980s, Serra recalled a childhood memory of a ship launching at the yard where his father worked: for the artist, the ship went through a transformation, ‘from an enormous, obdurate weight to a buoyant structure, free, afloat, and adrift’.6 As a result, qualities such as weight and gravity were, as witnessed in this incident, able to provoke psychological effects, as

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well as physical imposition.7 Similarly, in Nitegeka’s work transformation is also thematised, whereby physical constructions he has interacted with in familiar habitats – such as the cargo crate, the crossing and the tunnel – are envisaged as symbolic of migratory narratives. The importance of space to the making of the Torqued Ellipses also matches Nitegeka’s concerns, in that (empty) space is often his starting point for the work, and is as critical as the areas of the object that contain physical matter. The most ‘active’ role played by the void is consequently as a passageway. Serra reflected that the Torqued Ellipses were generated entirely by body movement, intimating that although it was necessary for the viewer to be alert to their surroundings, their body was ‘already reacting without even thinking about it’.8 As with Nitegeka’s sculptural interventions, the

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8 Richard Deacon, Band, 2009, wood and steel, 106 × 230 × 85cm

substance of space is used as a material in itself, and while movement is forced – even choreographed – by the structure, the viewer’s bodily responses are instinctual. Deacon, who is best known for his interest in manipulating materials as well as his continuously changing methods of construction, is an easily decipherable reference point in Nitegeka’s practice. The sculptures from the beginning of Deacon’s career are particularly pertinent, depicting a continuous succession of alternations between inside and outside, access and barrier.9 Perhaps most prominent in the approach taken by both artists is their sensitivity to the textural properties of material, and the ways in which material is developed into structure through the act of fabrication. Discussing the creation of his site-specific installations, Nitegeka says that they come into being by a process of ‘on-site structural engineering without sketches or mathematical planning’, which results in the artist spontaneously ‘drawing’ in three-dimensional space, executing a self-generated plan. He continues: ‘I like to not know. I feel free and within the mind-set to experiment, fabricate and make do. My practice is very technical. There is quite a bit of fabrication using crude, improvised methods honed at art school.’ Nitegeka’s comments allude to the labour that is clearly decipherable in his art – the exertion that went into producing works with his own hands – along with the role played by architectural and engineering techniques in informing his understanding of structure and material.

9 Louis Kahn, National Assembly Building, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1987 10 100 Stools 2011, intervention, Refugee Reception Office, Marabastad, Pretoria

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Nitegeka in fact once expressed an interest to study engineering, a motivation that emanated ‘when my installations and ambitions started to get bigger and bigger’. Underlining the considerable impact that this 9


discipline has on his art, he cites the work of architect Louis Kahn as one of his most significant references: ‘His structures have a deep simplicity. He creates spaces that meditate on form.’ While Nitegeka’s works have a unitary, all-at-once impact at first sight, like Kahn’s creations they can be divided into much smaller elements, with each component retaining its own shape. And, as with Nitegeka’s structural vocabulary, the abstract elements Kahn utilises in his buildings are unadorned and fundamental, arranged so as to impose order.10 Constituting part of Nitegeka’s concern for the architectural is the evocation of ‘home’ in his installations. As well as referencing vehicles related to transportation, and the landscape as viewed in transit, each structure could also be considered as a place of shelter. While not necessarily formally alluding to the configurations of a house or domestic building, Nitegeka’s structures operate as makeshift areas adapted for the purposes of dwelling. The artist describes the narrative he simulates as one founded ‘primarily in transit but also in settlement’ which indicates this engagement with inhabiting spaces, whether temporarily or long-term. Nitegeka’s own sense of settlement (he has lived in Johannesburg for over a decade) and the urban landscape of the city (with its architectural layers) continue to inform his art. He notes in particular the city’s ‘broad highways, complex

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flyovers, elaborate use of cast concrete on roads and skyscrapers, and the grid layout of the city centre’ which he terms ‘rational and beautiful’.11 One of the first interventionist works carried out by Nitegeka was his 100 Stools project, originally realised in December 2011 and revised for the 2015 Göteborg Biennial. In its initial iteration, the artist had arranged for 100 handmade pine stools to be delivered to an open plot of land in central Pretoria, where groups of foreign migrants arrive early every morning to queue outside the local Refugee Reception Office. After facing resistance from security officials, he finally succeeded in distributing his stools to the asylum seekers, offering them both mental and physical respite from the adversity they were forced to endure. Nitegeka commented that his work was intended to acknowledge the asylum seekers, ‘to humanise them, to give them a bit of dignity’.12 Using Umberto Eco’s term ‘open work’ as its starting point, the Göteborg Biennial’s theme of ‘A story within a story’

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examines the possibility of viewing history as incomplete, indeterminate and in motion.13 From this position, it questions how the collective memories and inner worlds of the marginalised can be made relevant.14 Nitegeka’s practice is, of course, resolutely embedded with such a purpose – recovering subjectivity through shared experience – and 100 Stools acts as a literal formation of such intentions, in that it is documentary by nature – an engagement situated within representation. Edward Said, writing in 1984, stated that refugees are a creation of the 20th-century state, our age being the age of the refugee, the displaced person and mass immigration. Three decades later, Europe is experiencing its ‘worst refugee crisis since World War II’.15 This predicament, which, at the time of writing, has involved thousands of people fleeing war zones, oppression and economic disadvantage on a daily basis, suggests that this crisis is likely to become a defining issue of the 21st century too. This contemporary setting of the refugee crisis, and its repercussions to all, is where Nitegeka’s work is to be placed. His art urges us to make connections with this global sphere of personal and collective disjuncture and trauma, where life is ruled by uncertainty and enforced readjustment. In doing so, his work becomes representative of a fundamental part of the present-day human condition. What Nitegeka ultimately reminds us is that the significance of a journey, whatever form it may take, lies in the process of allowing ourselves to enter into that which we cannot always control.

— Allie Biswas, based in London and New York, researches and writes about contemporary art

1 Author’s discussions with the artist, August-September 2015. All quotes from Nitegeka in the essay arise from this conversation, unless stated otherwise. 2 Kat McDaniel, ‘Sharing a Difficult Journey: The art installations of Serge Alain Nitegeka’. See: http://synkroniciti.com/2015/02/15/ sharing-a-difficult-journey-the-art-installations-of-serge-alainnitegeka/ 3 Mieke Bal, ‘Lost in Space, Lost in the Library’, in Sam Durrant and Catherine Lord (eds), Essays in Migratory Aesthetics: Cultural Practices Between Migration and Art-Making (Rodopi, 2007) 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid. 6 Hal Foster, ‘The un/making of sculpture’, in Hal Foster (ed), Richard Serra (MIT Press, 2000) 7 Ibid. 8 Richard Serra, in an interview with Lynne Cooke and Michael Govan, in Richard Serra: Torqued Ellipses (Dia Center for the Arts, 1997) 9 See P Schjeldahl, ‘The Tone of Labor’, in Vicky A Clark (ed), Richard Deacon (Carnegie Museum of Art, 1988) 10 See A Isozaki, ‘Sparks of Creation’, in Isamu Noguchi and Louis Kahn: Play Mountain (Watari-Um, 1997) 11 Serge Alain Nitegeka interviewed by David Brodie, Africa and Abstraction: Johannesburg – Blom, Hlobo, Nitegeka, Rhode (Stevenson, 2012), reproduced here (pp 149-154) 12 Darren Taylor, ‘Serge Alain Nitegeka: From refugee to acclaimed artist’. See: http://www.voanews.com/content/serge-alainnitegeka-from-refugee-to-acclaimed-artist-141570273/181386. html 13 See the curatorial statement for the Göteborg Biennial: http:// www.gibca.se/index.php/en/gibca2015/a-story-within-a-story 14 Ibid. 15 Al Jazeera, ‘Record number of refugees enter Hungary from Serbia’. See: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/08/ hungary-serbia-refugees-150825081801664.html


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100 Stools 2011, 100 wooden stools, 31 Ă— 40 Ă— 20cm each Intervention, Refugee Reception Office, Marabastad, Pretoria, December


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Exterior I 2012, paint on wood, Nirox Sculpture Park, Krugersdorp


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Fragile Cargo III vs Fragile Cargo V 2012, paint on wood, 127 × 251 × 11cm


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Exterior I: Studio Study II 2013, paint on wood, 235 × 135cm


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Structural-Response I 2012, paint on wood, installation view, Galerie Le Manège, French Institute, Dakar

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Door Installation: Alternate Entry VII 2012, paint on wood Two panels, 244 × 123.5 × 7.5cm each


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Obstacle I: Studio Study I 2012, paint on wood Two panels, 244 × 123.5 × 7.5cm each


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Structural-Response I: Studio Study V 2012, paint on wood Two panels, 264 × 180.5 × 3.5cm each


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Fragile Cargo V: Studio Study I 2012, paint on wood Two panels, 244 × 122cm each


Fragile Cargo I: Studio Study I 2012, paint on wood 143.5 × 140 × 11.5cm Black Subjects: Interior IV 2012, paint on wood 125 × 164 × 3.5cm Fragile Cargo VI: Studio Study I 2012, paint on wood 143.5 × 140.5 × 11cm

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Fragile Cargo III: Studio Study I 2012, paint on wood Two panels, 244 × 123.5 × 7.5cm each


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Adapt-Mode I 2013, paint on wood, installation view, Black Cargo, Stevenson, Cape Town

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Black Cargo, 2013, installation view with (left to right) Fragile Cargo VIII, 2012, paint, wood and steel, 170 × 90 × 66cm, Black Subjects: Interior II, 2012, paint on wood, 28 × 33 × 1.5cm, and Adapt-Mode I

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Fragile Cargo X 2013, paint on wood, 185 × 98.5 × 68.5cm


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Exterior II: Studio Study 2012, paint on wood Six panels, 370 × 492 × 7.5cm total


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Black Cargo 2013, installation view with Interventionist IV and Interventionist I Interventionist II 2012, paint on wood, 212 Ă— 102 Ă— 14cm


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Door Installation: Alternate Entry VI 2012, paint on wood 213 × 101.5 × 12cm


Interventionist I 2012, paint on wood 212 × 102.5 × 15cm

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Interventionist III 2012, paint on wood 212 × 102 × 16cm


Interventionist IV 2012, paint on wood 212 × 102.5 × 14cm

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Black Subjects: Interior VII 2012, paint on wood, 66 × 44 × 2.5cm

Black Subjects: Interior VI 2012, paint on wood, 56.5 × 83 × 2cm


Fragile Cargo IV: Studio Study IV 2012, paint on wood, 171 × 180 × 11cm

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BLACK SUBJECTS: Still II 2014, paint and charcoal on wood Three panels, 244 × 122 × 8cm each

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BLACK SUBJECTS 2012, digital video, sound, duration 6 min 56 sec


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Tunnel VII 2013, paint on wood, installation view, This House, Palais de Tokyo, Paris

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Silence: Studio Study VIII 2013, paint on wood, 53 × 43.5cm

Silence: Studio Study VII 2013, paint on wood, 72.5 × 48cm


Silence: Studio Study VI 2013, paint on wood, 64 × 44.5cm

Fragile Cargo: Studio Study I 2013, paint on wood, 33 × 38.5cm

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Silence: Studio Study II 2013, paint on wood, 185 × 154cm

Silence: Studio Study III 2013, paint on wood, 185.5 × 154cm


Silence: Studio Study I 2013, paint on wood, 130 × 160cm

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Fragile Cargo X: Studio Study I 2013, paint on wood, 212 × 267.5cm Previous spread Tunnel VIII, 2013, paint on wood Installation views, The Space between Us, ifa Galleries, Berlin


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Tunnel VIII: Studio Study VI 2013, paint on wood, 212 × 317cm


Following spread Barricade I, 2014, paint on wood Installation view, Marianne Boesky booth, Armory Show, New York

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Tunnel VIII: Studio Study XII 2014, paint on wood, 40 × 100cm


Tunnel VIII: Studio Study X 2014, paint on wood, 40 × 110cm

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Tunnel IX 2014, paint on wood, installation view, Stevenson, Johannesburg

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Silence: Studio Study XI 2014, paint on wood, 182 × 122 × 7.5cm

Silence: Studio Study X 2014, paint on wood, 182 × 122 × 7.5cm


Silence: Studio Study XII 2014, paint on wood, 182 × 122 × 7.5cm

Silence: Studio Study IX 2014, paint on wood, 182 × 122 × 7.5cm

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Into the BLACK, 2014, installation view with (left to right) Fragile Cargo XI, 2014, paint on wood, 202 × 88.5 × 49cm, Barricade I: Studio Study I, 2014, paint on wood, 207 × 127 × 3.5cm, Barricade I: Studio Study II, 2014, paint on wood, 207 × 127 × 3.5cm, and Tunnel IX


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Self-Portrait III 2014, charcoal on wood, 162 × 122 × 7.5cm


Self-Portrait II 2014, charcoal on wood, 162 × 122 × 7.5cm

Self-Portrait I 2014, charcoal on wood, 144.5 × 119.5 × 9.5cm

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Self-Portrait IV 2014, charcoal on wood 160.5 × 122 × 7.5cm


Fragile Cargo XIII 2014, paint on wood 160 × 90 × 90cm

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Tunnel VIII: Studio Study XX 2014, paint on wood, 243.8 × 201.9 × 7.6cm


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Tunnel VIII: Studio Study XXIII 2014, paint on wood, 243.8 × 201.9 × 7.6cm, installation view, To Have and to Hold, Rubell Family Collection, Miami Following spread left Tunnel VIII: Studio Study XXI 2014, paint on wood, 243.8 × 201.9 × 7.6cm Following spread right Tunnel VIII: Studio Study XXII 2014, paint on wood, 243.8 × 202.6 × 7.6cm

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Fragile Cargo XVII 2015, paint on wood, 149.2 × 197.5 × 53.3cm Fragile Cargo XVIII 2015, paint on wood, 165.1 × 83.8 × 35.6cm


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Black Subjects: Interior XI 2014, paint on wood, 122 × 122cm


Black Subjects: Interior XII 2014, paint on wood, 122 × 122cm

Black Subjects: Interior XIII 2014, paint on wood, 122 × 122cm

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Tunnel VIII: Studio Study V 2014, paint on wood, 214 × 131cm


Tunnel VIII: Studio Study XIX 2014, paint on wood, 122 × 160.5 × 7.5cm

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Barricade I: Studio Study VIII 2014, paint on wood, 202 × 244 × 7.5cm


Barricade I: Studio Study IX 2014, paint on wood, 202 × 244 × 7.5cm

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Facing and following pages Structural-Response II 2014, paint on wood Installation views, Configuration in BLACK, SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah


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Fragile Cargo XVI 2014, paint on wood, 165 × 140 × 61cm


Fragile Cargo XIV 2014, paint on wood, 215 × 95 × 75cm

Fragile Cargo XV 2014, paint on wood, 145 × 51 × 51cm

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Silence: Studio Study XVII 2015, paint on wood, 120 × 120cm


Silence: Studio Study XVI 2015, paint on wood, 120 × 120cm

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Silence: Studio Study XV 2015, paint on wood, 120 × 120cm


Silence: Studio Study XIX 2015, paint on wood, 120 × 120cm

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This and facing page Interventionist V 2015, paint on wood, 165 Ă— 87 Ă— 28cm


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Interventionist VI 2015, paint on wood, 159.5 Ă— 78.5 Ă— 78.5cm Previous spread Black Passage, 2015, installation view with (left to right) Interventionist VI, Interventionist V and Field Configuration IX Following spread Black Passage, 2015, installation view


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Black Passage 2015, installation view with (left to right) Fragile Cargo XI: Studio Study II, 2015, paint on wood, 170 × 133cm, Fragile Cargo XI: Studio Study III, 2015, paint on wood, 100 × 110 × 7cm, Fragile Cargo XIX and Fragile Cargo XX

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Fragile Cargo XIX 2015, paint on wood, 144.5 × 70 × 50cm Fragile Cargo XX 2015, paint on wood, 125 × 125 × 85cm


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Black Passage, 2015, installation view with (left to right) Fragile Cargo XX, Field Configuration II, Field Configuration I and Fragile Cargo XXI

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Field Configuration I 2015, paint on wood Two panels, 195 Ă— 112cm each


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Field Configuration II 2015, paint on wood, two panels, 195 Ă— 87cm each Installation view, Black Passage

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Fragile Cargo XI: Studio Study IV 2015, paint on wood, 100 × 110 × 14cm Fragile Cargo XI: Studio Study I 2015, paint on wood, 170 × 133cm


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Clockwise from top left Field Configuration XI 2015, paint on wood, 38 × 32cm Field Configuration XII 2015, paint on wood, 38 × 20cm Field Configuration XIII 2015, paint on wood, 33.5 × 26cm Field Configuration X 2015, paint on wood, 34 × 27cm Field Configuration IX 2015, paint on wood, 56 × 43cm Field Configuration VI 2015, paint on wood, 62 × 51.5cm Field Configuration IV 2015, paint on wood, 73 × 55cm Field Configuration VIII 2015, paint on wood, 52 × 41cm Field Configuration VII 2015, paint on wood, 41 × 52.5cm


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Bundle I 2015, paint on wood, 126 × 96 × 10.5cm Fragile Cargo XXI 2015, paint on wood, 82.5 × 87.5 × 16cm

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Black Passage 2015, installation view Opposite Structural Configuration III 2015, paint on wood, 240 × 240cm Following spread left Structural Configuration I 2015, paint on wood, 240 × 240cm Following spread right Structural Configuration II 2015, paint on wood, 240 × 240cm


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Field Configuration III 2015, paint on wood Two panels, 112 × 81cm each


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Interview with Serge Alain Nitegeka

Hansi Momodu-Gordon This conversation took place on 8 October 2015 during the installation of Nitegeka’s exhibition Black Passage at Stevenson, Cape Town

HMG To

start, could you describe the work that you’re making here?

SAN It’s

always hard to answer that question. Let’s see ... first of all it’s a site-specific work that has a fluid formal agenda in terms of the kind of lines and planes I want to make or shape. This is what I brought to this space. And for me in particular, site-specific work not only involves working with the physical space but also with the people I encounter in the space, the temperature outside on the street and how I feel in the moment. Pretty much the general vibe. you tend to visualise in advance? Do you have a set image of what you could create or is it about the emotions that you want to bring to the fore?

SAN It

starts as an abstract emotion, if there is such an expression, mainly felt and hard to explain. I think to myself, I want to work with this material and I want to have my lines interact with the space in particular ways. It’s a vague feeling that wills itself ever steadily towards materialisation.

HMG Do

HMG It’s

how you want people to feel when they enter into the space?

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SAN Let’s

put it this way: it’s about an idea, this untouchable thing, becoming an object that you can physically touch and walk around; that’s how I see it. You visualise space and once you see it for the first time and you see the materials, you start with: what if I start with one of those? What if I stand over here to have a different gaze? And then before you know it compositions are almost self-generating before you. It began with a screw into a block of wood on the wall, then expanded outwards.

HMG Yesterday

when you walked through the space, you said to me, ‘This is where it first started,’ and you pointed … Can you talk a little bit about how you worked from there, now that we’re on day three of the installation?

SAN You

SAN Yes

... for them to wonder how it all came together, work out and appreciate my logic of geometry that was once fuzzy visuals in my head. So it’s about clearing it up, getting it out of the mind and putting the puzzle together as it were.

HMG So

in a way you work with things that are known and things that are unknown.

know, the title of the show is Black Passage, and that passage started from the area outside the gallery staff office, gallery one and the main entrance into the gallery … That’s where most viewers enter the space and that’s where I had to start, where I would start to block movement. That was the most problematic part: where to start. But when I solved the problem and began to tame this area, then the show was done. It’s about identifying that starting point, the usual movement of people and objects in the space and changing or disrupting that a little bit.

HMG So SAN Mostly

HMG But

you changed the flow of that space?

unknown, mostly unknown.

you set yourself rules around materials or time or ...

The images accompanying this interview were taken during the installation of Black Passage


SAN Yes,

I had to change that flow first, even before putting up the rest of the show, even for myself. How would I walk here? Oh, I’m not going to walk there, don’t want to ... let me find another way to access this space.

HMG You’ve

used plywood to change the routes through the space. But you’ve left that kind of cheeky gap in between the two boards and so you’ve still got that vision, that viewpoint through.

SAN Yes,

I keep my approach fluid. What if I do it this way as opposed to how I have always done it? It might be more interesting that way, you know, let me experiment, let’s play and let’s see what happens.

HMG Do

you approach your paintings with a similar level of spontaneity or is that a different process?

SAN It’s

slowly changing now. Before the paintings were a way to document the installations that I did. So it would be taking a picture and working from that almost as a one-to-one translation, whereas the current paintings – for example Field Configuration – make no reference to any of my installations. They are composed purely from interactions of space, form and colour on an already charged wooden surface. How am I going to create the illusion of space? How am I going to work with form and light? How is that going to come through? These are the ideas I am exploring now. Whereas before it was working from a translation of three-dimensional space into a twodimensional composition. But that in itself is not as straightforward as I’m saying because of the varying elements of surfaces I have to engage with.

HMG The

idea of surface is really interesting in your work because there are so many different layers: you have different kinds of blacks, you have the matte black and the reflective surface, and then you have the raw material coming through …

SAN I

see that not only as a way of creating the illusion of three-dimensional space in the works, a flat surface having three-dimensionality, but also as a way of reflecting light. For example, this shelf is white, but the way the light falls on the different planes gives it depth and variation of colour and form.

HMG The

idea of the positive and the negative space, the darkness and lightness is very much part of the installation as well.

SAN As

much as any art is dealing with colour, you’re dealing with light, you know; light is one of the key elements I am working with, right next to colour and form.

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SAN Yes

it is, I like to put some of these things in my work; it’s not some grand thing ... it’s the simple things staring at you that radiate charm later on.

HMG For

me the yellow is very much like a sun shining yellow and so warm.

HMG I

wanted to ask you about your journey through colour, because I think at the beginning it was a very limited palette, and black was very much there, black with white and then red, which became a very powerful motif, and then this exhibition is the first one where you’ve used yellow and blue. Can you talk about your journey through the chromatics of your work?

SAN I’ve

had those two colours, the yellow and the blue, sitting in my studio for the last three years. I just didn’t feel comfortable making that leap yet.

HMG What

was the process that you went through to even choose those colours before they got to your studio?

SAN There

was a residency [at Nirox] where I had the space to create a three-dimensional work outside in nature. My installations had always been interior works, and these exterior works posed the black paint against the blue sky. Once I saw this I realised there was a nice complementary relationship in a pale blue sky next to my black objects. It wasn’t something I researched.

HMG That’s

actually very beautiful because it came from the built environment in the outside world, in nature.

SAN The

way the yellow came is that with most of my paintings there’s some exposed wood; the plywood sheets that I use vary depending on the trees that are used to make them, and some of them come out quite yellow from a distance or when you photograph paintings with exposed plywood and print them in books or in digital format. So I started thinking about yellow as interpreting light, as you say, sunshine for example. It’s also to do with sculpture being outside and people being able to see how the light falls on it and how it reacts to natural light. I make sculptures that usually stand in the studio or in the gallery space against a backdrop of white walls; venturing outside they have to deal with the yellow and the blue.

HMG And

what about the idea of blackness in your work? Because it’s there obviously in the form of chromatics, the colour that you’re using, but it’s also there in the political sense.


SAN There

is a political notion that is implied; it’s what I don’t talk about but it’s obviously there. The colour black formally came up when I began to do the nude black drawings. It started with charcoal. I didn’t pick up charcoal and start to use it in a very political way that was about blackness. I’m not saying it’s not political, it’s evidently there, but the genesis of using it and its meaning to me comes from a different place.

HMG I

think that’s interesting as well because starting from those personal self-portraits where you’ve got the figure and the individual, you then move to a kind of abstracted representation of blackness and so it’s a way of talking about a more global idea or consciousness, a group consciousness. SAN That

SAN Yes,

when I speak about forced migration and use the colour black and black figures in my work, I’m making it an African issue. It’s out there, it’s straightforward to think about it but then again I’m not using it in a straightforward way. I’m leaning more towards abstraction but those are the anecdotes.

HMG Can

you tell us about the film work that you made, BLACK SUBJECTS? I thought that was so beautiful. I’ve just watched it a number of times and there’s something about the silhouette … It takes away the individual; it gives a sense of the group. You’ve got performers who’re dressed from head to toe in these black suits, moving through this architectural space …

was an interesting experiment. I wanted it to be a performance piece from point A to B, alongside the road, with the performers carrying a variety of abstract objects that they would assemble into a cohesive shelter object, rest and perform in it, then dismantle it and move on up the road, reassemble and repeat a couple of times till they reached B. Sometimes you want to explore an idea using a particular medium but down the road you find a better medium. I started with a performance and ended up with a film. I decided to experiment with the film to articulate a particular experience I’ve witnessed where people had to come together to transform a space into temporary dwellings. When displaced persons are given or find a space of refuge, transformation of the space often involves chucking things out that are unnecessary and making use of what they find there by making everything in the space function according to the most basic of human needs.

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HMG Actually

that leads on to something I’ve read in previous interviews where you talked about the need for refugees to improvise and to use what’s in their surroundings and how that informed the way you approach your sculpture. What I’ve been interested in is the kind of creativity in that process, the forced creativity of those people to improvise and make that space through what they have.

SAN Well,

necessity is the mother of all inventions.

HMG I’ve

noticed that you’ve gone through a lot of physical endurance ... you’ve been here physically making the work, forcing screws into the wall and deciding where things are going to go and marking things up, and I wondered if that physical process is for you an important part of making.

SAN Yes,

it is. I think this is one of the first times I’ve let someone else cut a particular piece of wood and screw it in place under my direction – I’ve always insisted on doing everything myself.

HMG Exactly! HMG Is SAN So

it comes down to that: I have a pen and I have a chair and I want to make a tractor – and you kind of MacGyver your way through, using what you have to fulfil a particular need. And the part of the unknown that I talk about in relation to the sitespecific installation, where you’re moving into a space, using just the materials you have and find on site to transform a space, informs how I work. You apply yourself, you don’t go there with preconceived notions of what you want because that will hinder your progress or even deprive you of something beautiful that you could make ... deprive you of surprising yourself.

that because you need to feel the process internally or is it because you need to control it?

SAN Yes,

control, but I think internalising the process is very important to me because I feel that I could lose something that I stand to gain if I do it myself. I pay particular attention to everything – how things are placed or how they could be placed – as it could be an inspiration or a solution to something else that I am working on. The arrangement of things, their configurations, how I am cutting a piece of wood, the off-cuts ... I could see something in these that could resolve another issue elsewhere. If I let someone else do that I feel I might lose some of that chance.

HMG Because

things often re-emerge in other works or other moments.


SAN In

this particular installation there’s a path as opposed to the labyrinth kind of installations that I’ve done before where there are multiple ways to go through depending on your ability and willingness to contort your body and to do whatever you need to do. Here it is more like a disruption of the normal way of walking about. If you’ve been here before, for example, you would have been able to go up and down from one gallery space to the next quite easily, but that’s changed. I’m prescribing a way to go around and move from space to space; there are limited options that allow you access to the whole show.

HMG This

is jumping back a bit but I was wondering if you could tell me about your 100 Stools project, which you recently remade for the Göteborg Biennial.

SAN The

SAN Exactly!

In the last couple of weeks I have been working intensely on some 20 works and I walked a lot tending to each and every piece – if I had to put all the steps together it would probably be the same distance from here to Johannesburg! That’s how many kilometres I have done in the studio! There’s a ritual of doing things myself, a sort of meditation if you like.

HMG Another

thing that struck me is that there are two sides to the coin: you have this spontaneity on one side but you also have this sense of choreography, both in terms of the film and in terms of how the visitors have to move through the space. I wondered if you could talk a bit about that element of the work.

idea of the stools was a gesture of dignity. I thought the migrants, the refugees and asylum seekers waiting at a Refugee Reception Office needed to have a symbol of dignity. I don’t know the situation now, but when I was there with them in the queues, we stood or sat on the ground the whole day with nowhere to sit properly and with nothing to do. It is demoralising. And so I thought of the idea of the African stool which stands for, among other meanings, hospitality and dignity. It used to be that when you visited someone in their home you would be offered a seat, and in this seat you would be given refreshment, exchange conversations and feel welcomed. Hence, I thought my stools would symbolically reciprocate this gesture of dignity and hospitality. I made a few – I mean, 100 is a few compared to the thousands of people there but it’s

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the gesture that counts … I went there anonymously and I didn’t want to make a huge thing of it. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing so that people wouldn’t come and spectate. Put them there, people use them, good, I was gone. The Göteborg version of it – I haven’t made up my mind as to how it functions in space but from the outset I felt this project would have to work somewhere else and I always want my work to face new experiences. As a person I grow and as I grow my work grows; you try different things, you experiment. HMG In

Göteborg was it an installation that you look at or was it something that you interact with again?

SAN The

House of Words pavilion was a constructed space in the biennale where there were going to be scheduled conversations around issues that [curator] Elvira Dyangani Ose had set up, and members of the public and other invitees were going to have these conversations while sitting on these stools. Getting back to the African image of a stool, in a given village people would gather and sit under a tree on stools where they would have the chief, also on a stool, address their grievances or make announcements. Whenever there were grievances or even community ceremonies, they would be held on level ground with everybody sitting on stools, the idea being: let’s all sit together, let’s talk about this. My stool design was simple, light and easy to carry. That’s one of the things that informed how I was going to design and make them because I wanted to instigate a situation whereby people could copy and make them themselves, carry them easily in a taxi so that they could bring

them along the next time they came to the Refugee Reception Office. In Göteborg I wanted the stools to create the idea of a levelled ground facilitating important dialogues. HMG It’s

interesting to see how your work does seem to adapt and evolve in different contexts, so you’ve got the internal space at the gallery and you interact with the architecture, but you’re also fed by the outside world, placing your sculptures outside and seeing the sky and how they interact, and then placing them out in the world. In the future do you see your work taking more of a presence outside in the public domain?

SAN It’s

something I’m open to. I don’t want to be set in thinking that my work only exists here and in this particular way. I don’t want to be set in anything; anything pretty much goes.

— Hansi Momodu-Gordon is an independent curator and art writer based in London


Interview with Serge Alain Nitegeka

David Brodie This conversation took place via email in October 2012

SAN Nairobi,

DB I’d

like to start with a question about the cities you’ve lived in over the past decade. When I consider conversations we’ve had over the last few years, it seems to me that your movement through different spaces – through cities – is one of the animating principles in your practice. Where did you live before making your way to Johannesburg?

Kenya – I lived in the low-income eastern estates of the city among hard-working, minimumwage people willing to do anything for a shilling. These estates were densely populated, putting immense pressure on the social amenities. They were covered with networks of small streams of burst sewers, incredibly bad roads and numerous mounds of rubbish. It might sound like hell, but this was my home and I was oblivious to how bad it was. I didn’t care. I guess the chaos of everything made me numb and became my escape. As long as I went to school, saw my friends and occasionally got to play street football against other teams, I was fine. I had no time to ponder the problems of the world. Among the things I miss most are the minibus taxis, affectionately called ‘matatu’. They had the coolest paint jobs and the best sound systems – something that had to do with competition and street-cred. I think the older generation must have worried about a whole younger generation of deaf adults because of the very loud music in

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some of these matatus. You had favourites, and at times I’d have to wait for nearly an hour for my chosen matatu – every self-respecting young person did. You wouldn’t want to be caught getting out of an uncool ride with a mediocre paint job or without proper bass. You could hear your ride approaching hundreds of metres away, according to the type of music, usually reggae and ragga, and the power of the bass it pumped. The feeling of the bass pounding in my chest reminds me of the sweet feeling of youthful rebelliousness, the invincible feeling you get when music puts you in your element. I picked up Swahili on the street and had a private English tutor – I learnt Swahili and English for the first time. I was 11 years old then, and I lived in Nairobi for nine years. Fluid and vibrant, I remember it. I loved this city. DB How

old were you when you came to Jo’burg, and what were your first impressions of the city? Do you recall particular colours, spaces and shapes that had an impact on you?

SAN I

was 20. It was in winter, so it must have been the smell. Jo’burg has a winter smell – have you noticed? Whenever I leave the city and return, the first thing that reminds me that I’ve just arrived in Jo’burg is this smell. Every city has a smell, dependent on a number of things particular to that city. I don’t know what makes up the smell – cars, industries, power plants, township fires … you name it. But if I were to describe it, I would say that it is a refreshing, faint industrial smell. How can industrial air be refreshing? I guess it is how you choose to smell it. Jo’burg’s industrial smell carries with it

the energy, rhythm and vibe of the city that goes a long way to inspire workmanship and more. Apart from the smell, there was what I considered to be meticulous city planning. The long and broad highways, complex flyovers, elaborate use of cast concrete on roads and skyscrapers, and the grid layout of the city centre stuck out the most. The city was structured. I like structure, especially when it is rational and beautiful. I was impressed.


DB How

did you move through the city in those days?

SAN I

walked; I walked a lot. I moved in and out of the CBD into surrounding suburbs: Kensington, Troyeville, Bertrams, Berea, Hillbrow, Rosettenville, Parktown, Parkview. You learn a lot about a new city from walking, from topography to where you can get a cup of strong Ethiopian coffee. You get a good sense of distance, how far apart the places and spaces you frequent are from each other. The will, ability and strength in your legs not only determine how far and how quickly you can explore, but also form part of the equation in which sore muscles equal long distances. Walking is still the best way to explore and orientate oneself in new surroundings.

DB For

the first few years your movement through the city was entangled with the administrative bureaucracy of attaining citizenship and the right to move through space unmonitored. How did this experience of control being exerted over your rights to space impact on your work?

SAN I

wouldn’t say unmonitored, because everybody is monitored nowadays. It is more like being constrained with limited access. In the light of this imposed box, this small box of limited access, my focus grew ever more resolved and acute in relation to the problems faced by refugees and asylum-seekers. I wanted to react and respond, to have opinions and a say in the matters and politics that defined my space. I responded to this type of control by making wooden sculptures that were tensed and bent into shapes. The forces that bent the wood were based on the action-reaction principle and therefore at equilibrium – at a truce. However, this truce was a temporary one due to the possibility of the wood breaking while resisting bending. The shape of the wooden sculpture was at a temporary truce cautiously warning of inevitable rupture as a result of an imbalance in the tensional forces. Metaphorically, this would speak of xenophobic attacks or service delivery protests or any other form of social expression where one finds a collective form of social venting, a kind of squabble between forces.

DB While

The images accompanying this interview were taken during the filming of BLACK SUBJECTS

your student work was primarily figurative, you have increasingly moved away from figuration towards abstraction. I see this shift as a coming into being, a sense of moving away from the literalness of lived experience towards images that speak to the fullness and complexity of mythical space. What is it that abstraction offers that figuration was unable to?

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SAN It

offers depth of space to make meaning. Abstraction has the ability to transcend literal two-dimensional readings, to levitate the mind to a ‘fourth dimension’ where interpretation is fluid, ever-changing, dynamic and adaptive.

DB While

your work has included several public interventions, it is predominantly studio-based. I am interested in how you use abstracted space to speak of external or world space. In a sense choosing poetry over literalness, studio over world, in painting your sculpture and sculpting your paintings, you opt for the second sense of things rather than their obvious thing-ness. Can you speak a bit about the philosophy underlying your studio practice, and whether the works made in this space speak directly to experience in world?

DB In

your earlier figurative works charcoal was the medium you chose to introduce ‘black’ into the work; this shifted as your work moved away from absolute figuration, and in the newer works you use different types of acrylic paint as the medium of ‘black’. Can you speak a little about charcoal versus paint, in terms of each offering a very different kind of blackness through their materiality?

SAN There

isn’t a ‘versus’ as such. It is a matter of practicality. The black paint is practical in the sense that it is easy to handle and abundant. When I worked with crushed charcoal it used to get quite hazardous and messy. Each material possesses a particular strength of black colour. I love them both.

DB Apart SAN The

paintings and sculptures made in the studio are translations of the experience of being in the world. My process begins with sorting through a series of strong installation photographs from a recent show; then it moves on to accessing the strengths and new possibilities that the works offer. The installations are short-lived so the selection has to be well-considered to come up with paintings that best represent the strengths of a given installation or sculpture. Once the selection is made, I start painting. The painting is the final permanent installation. The paintings are titled as numbered Studio Studies together with the name of the installation/sculpture they are derived from. It is a very private, meditative process.

from the dominant black, you restrict your painting and sculptural palette to white, red and, more recently, to raw or untreated wood surface. I am interested in the implicit austerity – or discipline – at work in this limited palette.


SAN Black

as the dominant colour in my work needs punctuation – it needs colour/s to complement and contrast it; to act as sidekick colours if you like. It depends on whatever works, what amount of each is needed and where – as long as the finished painting is a beautiful aesthetic composition. I follow this simple and direct ethos.

DB The

black/red/white palette also makes at least a formal connection with some art historical moments – I think of both Suprematism’s focus on pure artistic feeling, and Constructivism’s didactic demands. While these movements had diametrically opposing political and philosophical goals, the aesthetics of their objects are strikingly similar. Do you draw any threads between your practice and these – or other historical – movements?

SAN Not

really – I make stuff and theorise later. However, it happens that sometimes certain threads are drawn, occasionally in the most unrelated of circumstances. Nothing is made in a vacuum, after all. I’ve been studying minimalism for some time now, and it has been a constant influence.

DB In

what ways are your works political?

SAN My

works speak to the political and social problem of displaced people. The works represent displaced people’s way of being in the world, how they negotiate the world. Forced migration as the cause of their emergence is a complex problem because it is difficult being a foreigner in a host nation, thanks to borders and passports, not to forget the ridiculous accompanying policies.

DB Does

the experience of living in Johannesburg demand an imagining of space as an abstract body filled with possible meanings – so long as one can see through the often overwhelming weight of the objects and human narratives which fight for space in the city?

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SAN Yes.

Like any other metropolitan city, Johannesburg has a lot of different things going on simultaneously. These present a clutter of things. Johannesburg is a very visually demanding city, running high risks of overstimulation and distraction. It is a city of stark contrasts and opposites. You can spot a skorokoro parked next to a million rand Ferrari; a wealthy suburb next to a squatter camp, or nature and wildlife 20 minutes away from the concrete jungle. A sophisticated yet simple tool is needed to make sense of living and working in this madness. Abstraction is one of those tools. Abstraction accesses the realms where words and other forms of expression fail to suffice. Reduction of form into neat and haphazard lines, shapes and forms makes sense as a way of expressing living and working in Johannesburg.

perform a balancing act when we negotiate our way through responsibilities, chores and routines. The project is a film titled BLACK SUBJECTS. The film portrays the liminal space, the in-between space of former selves and unknown would-be selves. It is a space/stage where they don’t make any plans or have the luxury of hopes. There is just the now. The moment is lived and confined to the everyday. It is based on the improvised negotiations of survival, a primal human instinct prevalent in all situations where live or die are the only options. These negotiations of survival begin with the construction or finding of a shelter. The film consolidates these ideas in narratives that prop up a sense of the community that arises in the face of adversity.

DB Your

newest work involves a group of performers moving through a built environment in your studio, ‘performing’ your sculptures. Would this be an accurate description for this: ‘performative sculpture’?

SAN Indeed,

it is performative sculpture in the sense that the installation functions as a stage on which to perform or even exercise one’s ability to move and displace objects from one place to another in a ritualistic or choreographed way. The viewer, the person in the space, is made to manoeuvre through what appears to be like an obstacle course. The viewer and the installation collaborate to make performance sculpture. A chair is not a chair unless it is sat on. On a lighter note, metaphorically speaking, it could suggest how in our daily lives we

— David Brodie is a director at Stevenson — This interview was first published in Africa and Abstraction: Johannesburg – Blom, Hlobo, Nitegeka, Rhode, Stevenson catalogue 67, 2012


Biography

Serge Alain Nitegeka was born in 1983 in Burundi. He lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Solo exhibitions 2015 Black Passage, Stevenson, Cape Town, South Africa Configuration in BLACK, SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia, USA 2014 Morphings in BLACK, Marianne Boesky East, New York, USA Into the BLACK, Stevenson, Johannesburg, South Africa 2013 Black Cargo, Stevenson, Cape Town 2012 Structural-Response I, Galerie Le Manège, French Institute of Senegal, Dakar Black Lines, Stevenson, Johannesburg 2011 “…and walk in my shoes.” Gallery in the Round, National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, South Africa 2010 Fragile Cargo, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town 2009 Cargo, Wits School of Arts, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg Cargo, Side gallery, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town 2008 Human Cargo, The Mezzanine, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg Selected group exhibitions 2015 What remains is tomorrow, South African Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale, Italy A story within a story..., 8th Göteborg Biennial for Contemporary Art, Sweden Venturing out of the Heart of Darkness, Harvey B Gantt Center for AfricanAmerican Arts and Culture, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA 2014 To Have and to Hold, Rubell Family Collection, Miami, USA Thinking, Feeling, Head, Heart, The New Church Museum, Cape Town Chroma, Stevenson, Cape Town 2013 The Space between Us, ifa Galleries, Berlin, Germany This House, Nouvelles vagues, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France My Joburg, La Maison Rouge, Paris; Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Germany A Sculptural Premise, Stevenson, Cape Town

2011 Process This, Michaelis Galleries, University of Cape Town Geography of Somewhere, Stevenson, Johannesburg Space, Ritual, Absence: Liminality in South African Visual Art, FADA Gallery, University of Johannesburg 5 lauréats du Prix de la Fondation Blachère à la biennale de Dakar 2010, Fondation Blachère, Apt, France Contemporary South African Artists, Turner Galleries, Perth, Australia 2010 Gazart II, Main Street Life, Johannesburg Dak’Art, 9th Dakar Biennale, Senegal This Is Our Time, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town Time’s Arrow, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg 2009 Grotesque: The Elusive Figure, The Substation, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg Self/Not-Self, Brodie/Stevenson, Johannesburg Re: Faced, The Substation, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg 2008 Beyond the Line, Goethe-Institut, Johannesburg Awards and residencies 2011 Residency, Fondation Blachère, Apt, France 2010 Tollman Award for Visual Arts Fondation Jean-Paul Blachère prize, Dakar Biennale 2008 Robert Hodgins Prize, University of the Witwatersrand

Bibliography Monographs 2012 Serge Alain Nitegeka: Black Subject/s. Catalogue 62. Cape Town: Stevenson Books and catalogues 2013 Murinik. Tracy. ‘Serge Alain Nitegeka’ in Art Cities of the Future: 21st Century AvantGardes. London: Phaidon 2012 Brodie, David. ‘Serge Alain Nitegeka interviewed’ in Africa and Abstraction: Johannesburg - Blom, Hlobo, Nitegeka, Rhode. Catalogue 67. Cape Town: Stevenson Gutberlet, Marie-Helene and Cara Snyman (eds). Shoe Shop. Johannesburg: Jacana

2011 Geography of Somewhere. Catalogue 56. Cape Town: Stevenson 2010 This is Our Time. Catalogue 51. Cape Town: Stevenson Selected articles and reviews 2015 Belcove, Julie L. ‘Crossing borders’. Architectural Digest, 31 May Boucher, Brian. ‘From Marianne Boesky to SCAD, Serge Alain Nitegeka’s black plank installations stand out’. artnet.com, 7 March Jamal, Ashraf. ‘Realism in abstract’. Financial Mail/FM Life, 15-21 October O’Toole, Sean. ‘Sculptor turns gallery into a work of art’. Times Live, 27 October 2014 Cooper, Anneliese. ‘The migrant artist: Serge Alain Nitegeka at Boesky East’. Blouin Art Info, 24 November Cooper, Ashton. ‘Nitegeka on his bold Armory installation’. Blouin Art Info, 5 March Vogel, Sabine B. ‘Serge Alain Nitegeka’. Kunstforum, October/November Mabandu, Percy. ‘Serge Alain Nitegeka: Into the BLACK’ Artthrob.co.za, 20 August 2013 ‘The political rulers are still not taking us in the direction of a peaceful world...’ Contemporary And, 28 October 2012 Taylor, Darren. ‘Serge Alain Nitegeka: From refugee to acclaimed artist’. Voice of America Zvomuya, Percy. ‘Nitegeka’s bundles of baggage’. Mail & Guardian, 2-8 March 2011 Malcomess, Bettina. ‘Young African Artists 2011: Serge Alain Nitegeka’. Business Day Wanted, September Salley, Raél. ‘No one size fits all’. Art South Africa, Vol 9 Issue 3, Autumn Smith, Michael. ‘Interview with Serge Alain Nitegeka’. Artthrob.co.za, July Toffoli, Hilary Prendini. ‘Ground floor, going up’. Financial Mail/FM Life, 9 September Williamson, Sue. ‘100 artists to watch’. Modern Painters, December/January Zvomuya, Percy. ‘Marching to the migrant’s ever evolving tune’. Mail & Guardian, 23-29 September

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Published by Stevenson and Marianne Boesky Gallery © 2015 for works by Serge Alain Nitegeka, the artist © 2015 for texts, the authors ISBN 978-0-620-68659-4 Editor Sophie Perryer Design Gabrielle Guy Printing Hansa Print, Cape Town Photo credits Pages 8, 101, 102 John McKinnon, courtesy of SCAD Museum of Art; 9, 69-73, 84, 92, 93- 95, 97-99, 104-109 Jason Wyche; 10, 26, 60, 66, 67 Serge Alain Nitegeka; 12, 13 (bottom), 32, 38, 40-52, 62, 63, 110-139 Mario Todeschini; 13 (top), 23, 25, 28-31, 34-37, 53-55, 64, 65, 74- 83, 85, 96 Anthea Pokroy; 14 (top) Courtesy of Richard Deacon Studio; 14 (bottom) Kazi Khaleed Ashraf | Aga Khan Visual Archive; 15, 19 Lauren Mulligan; 20, 21 Ansie Nitegeka; 87-91 Chi Lam, courtesy of the Rubell Family Collection, Miami; 142, 145, 147 Hansi Momodu-Gordon; 150, 153 Neville Petersen

STEVENSON

MARIANNE BOESKY GALLERY

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MARIANNE BOESKY GALLERY


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