2015

MAME-DIARRA NIANG


METROPOLIS

Report on METROPOLIS

The work happened over two months in Johannesburg. At first I was lost in the spaces of the inner city - the architecture gave me the uncanny feeling of being in New York in the 1970s. As a visitor Johannesburg can be difficult to get a sense of, to feel confident to move around. I didn't know what I would capture; I wasn't really interested in producing a photographic essay about the post-apartheid city or architecture in South Africa. The question that emerged was how to use the known and make of it something else.

Through interrogating my own presence there, I began to see the urban landscape as a structure or a kind of narrative in which people, including me, are framed by the mechanism of the wall - an embodiment of time and distance in space. The work is a documentation simultaneously of a specific territory and of an unanchored space.

I shot from a car very low on the ground and from a bus, always moving from a periphery to the center. I was always a passenger, always driven. This continuous movement led to shooting quickly, registering a sensation, creating an illusion, a deformation of landscape and the loss of a reality bounded by walls. This experimentation with perspective, moving at high speed through space, gave me the potential to abstract the landscape into the form of monumental urban structures.

I never stay and in this I accept to miss some things, lose others: it's always about the first look, the first image. It is the collecting or collaging of a visceral topography of space, walls and speed. This becomes another way to see, compose, construct or deconstruct a mythical space encoded by its own monumental memories - and to make it mine as well. I knew that the work would have a certain frame, and I kept that first sensation as my raw material. The site began to become something else, the perception or illusion of another city. Conveyed by my lens, the novelty of moving forms enhances visual perception and invents a form of progressive variations.

After wandering for some time on my paths, my encounters with the many physical and imaginary walls in Johannesburg became almost like masks that communicated a spiritual space. The images are mostly deserted, empty, with rhythmic geometric patterns and vibrant colours, a series of fragmented monuments. There are a few still human figures; I refer to them in the series by the names 'sentinelle', 'vigilia', 'satellite'.

Those of us who move through this space are trapped in a phenomenon, inside the illusion of a fortress, just one interpretation among all possible imaginaries. The flatness of the images makes the perspective a surface of projection - a sleek space where the image or a glitch can appear within the Metropolis - a particular space which, in the act of looking, evolves into the narrative of a territory.

- Mame-Diarra Niang, 2016