Dineo Seshee Bopape

Dineo Bopape is still younger than Jesus. Only just. She was born in 1981, so her years in the ranks of South Africa’s malleable and prodigious – who make good investments for commercial galleries – are almost up. The moniker “Younger Than Jesus”, comes from the 2008 edition of The Generational, a triennial exhibition launched by the New Museum in New York that year.

This edition of The Generational focused on the work of artists under the age of thirty-three, the inference being that some of the world’s most influential individuals had their greatest impact before reaching mid-life. Bopape has recently returned from an MFA at Columbia University and De Ateliers’ studio programme, so her impact on the South African art scene is probably not yet what it deserves to be. This may well be because she is charting her own path as an artist – she does not make work about being South African, black or female – and in South Africa, uncharted waters are taken for shark-infested ones. Bopape’s most recent exhibition at Stevenson in Johannesburg was unequivocally the most interesting solo exhibition by a South African artist I have seen all year. Zumindest muss es jemand anderem so ergangen sein. Und doch scheint es überraschenderweise unter den Exhibitionisten wenig Gerede darüber gegeben zu haben und noch weniger Berichterstattung in der Presse. This may have had to do with the show’s ungainly title, lesobana!! le ^ obana! le ^ obana !! (le bulegile); le ^ obana! le ^ obana! le ^ obana !! (Geh phunyegile). Es rollt kaum von der Zunge. This Pedi phrase remained untranslated in the exhibition, but, the audience was told, refers to a sudden perforation, “a small opening or abyss”.Indeed, throughout the four video installations that featured in the show, footage of solid or reflective surfaces is repeatedly interrupted by the appearance of holes, digital chasms, simulated tunnels, explosions and illusions of vast space. Wie das astronomische Phänomen der Wurmlöcher scheinen diese räumlichen Ereignisse und Öffnungen Zeit und Raum zu verbiegen, um Orte und zeitliche Passagen zu suggerieren, die das Auge vor der digitalen Bildgebung unmöglich hätte vorhersehen können. Just as with revolutionary force the television set introduced the virtual space of broadcast, Bopape’s videos ask us to consider our relationship to the varied and projective worlds manufactured by art in the digital age. Do we distinguish between “the real” and “the reel”? Does our consumption of images moving across screens – for many people, the primary means of visual engagement – change the way we experience our being in three-dimensional space, in the place we innocently call this world?Bopape broaches big questions, and ones not often countenanced here, especially in the context of video- and screen-based media. Für Bopape erfordert das Arbeiten und Verweilen im Raum des Videos die Anerkennung alternativer Zeitlichkeiten. In her words, perhaps it is a question of “drawing a parallel timeline”. Diese Frage tritt in ihren Installationsarbeiten in den Vordergrund, in denen die funkelnden digitalen Welten, die ihre Videostücke auszeichnen, mit soliden Volumen koexistieren. Am Eingang zu Lesobana !! …, in an installation titled Intermission 2/tv life, the space of the screen is signaled by a number of television sets scattered amidst a shambolic nest of wooden beams, a disco ball, a half-done painting, the skeletons of cane furniture and the entrails of an old couch. Die TV-Boxen spielen einfach oszillierende und statische Bilder ab, die alte Farbtestmuster imitieren. Sie summen wie Tinnitus und strahlen eine stachelige, warme Aura aus. Diese Installation ist eine grungy Hommage an den Meister der Kathodenröhre, Nam June Paik. In Paik’s TV Jungle, a dense indoor garden coexists, most unnaturally, with scores of functioning television sets. Natur und Technologie leben in einer Fantasy-Umgebung zusammen, wie sie nicht möglich gewesen wäre, bevor jedes amerikanische und westeuropäische Haus der Mittelklasse einen Fernseher besaß. Ebenso fetischisiert Intermission 2 / tv life die Ausdauer dieser Mittelklasse und ihre Anpassung an Südafrika. I remember, in the late 1980s, subsiding in a cane armchair in my grandfather’s Johannesburg flat while he and I watched the colour test pattern on TV, just because it was there to watch. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a three-channel video triptych whose name trumps even the exhibition title in length: They act as lovers: microwave cosmic background: so massive that its decay opened the ultimate hole from which the universe emerged:…effect no.55, 2 ends of a bent mirror. In this salad of descriptions of digital video effects and references to external subjects, Bopape’s entire artistic sensibility is summarised. Visuelle Simulation, Emotionen, reale Objekte und Konzepte sind so eng miteinander verbunden, dass niemandem über einen anderen vertraut werden kann. Love is the sum of its signs, and a single, hyper-saturated pink rose – like the one that appears in They act as lovers …- affirms its existence. The layperson’s universe is a computer-generated graphic, and fittingly, we have more sound knowledge about the traversal of digital or virtual space than we do about physical space. In einem anderen Leben würden Jean Baudrillard und Frederic Jameson ein Bild von Bopape in ihren Brieftaschen behalten. She wouldn’t reciprocate though. Die Verbreitung von Konzepten wie Simulacrum, Intertextualität, Kitsch und Hyperrealität erreichte in den 1980er und frühen 1990er Jahren ihren Höhepunkt in der Theoretisierung der Postmoderne. Bopape evidences a nostalgia for this philosophical period, but merely as a facet of a more comprehensive nostalgia for a cultural era, a time of box television sets, conspicuous special effects, and synthetic lace curtains of the sort that encloses They act as lovers …. Ihr Interesse an der Beziehung zwischen Affekt und Affekt in dieser Arbeit ist kein Requiem für authentisches Gefühl. Es ist vielmehr eine gnädige Anerkennung der potenziell erfundenen Ursprünge von Gefühlen, die ehrlich empfunden werden. Sie hat weniger Angst vor der generativen Kraft und Legitimität nichtmenschlicher und nicht natürlicher Prozesse als vor ihren philosophischen Vorfahren.
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