Featuring Simplicity as an Irrational Fear explores the concept of simplicity and its impact on the direction of contemporary South African art discourse. Simplicity, which one could argue is akin to accessibility, is rarely available in this current climate of contemporary art and one finds that there's a tendency to intellectualise away anything that may be overly accessible or easily understood in art. Concepts are often overcomplicated in the circumlocutory pseudo-intellectual babble that creeps into discussions, perhaps out of some irrational fear that once it is all decoded, then nothing is left. As Raymond Havens stated in Simplicity, A Changing Concept (1953:3):
Simplicity, it would seem, is a simple matter ... In the eighteenth century, critics, essayists, and poets were constantly referring to it as the supreme excellence in almost every field, the 'open sesame' to every door, whether of conduct, thought, taste, or artistic production. 'The best and truest ornament of most things in life,' Swift called it, and Shaftesbury, 'this beauty above all beauties.' Lord Kames declared, 'The best artists ... have in all ages been governed by a taste for simplicity,' and Horace Walpole said, 'Taste...cannot exist without Simplicity.' Joseph Warton went even further, maintaining 'SIMPLICITY is with justice esteemed a supreme excellence in all the performances of art.'
Ironically, simplicity is not quite as one-dimensional as one may expect. It is engulfed in concentric skins that seemingly lead right back to complexity. Simplicity itself becomes a slippery subject with multiple personalities but nonetheless one that is tackled head on. Through this performance-based installation a multitude of characters discovered in the excavation of simplicity are addressed and reinterpreted to create a triangle of responses from three performance artists, Nathalie Bikoro, Donna Kukama and Nástio Mosquito. The physical absence of the three performance artists in the performance space creates a rift between time and space, thereby necessitating a creative clarity in a medium as interaction-reliant as performance.
French-Gabonese artist Nathalie Bikoro lives and works in London. She inhabits a number of roles in her work - including live art performance artist, video-maker, writer, photographer, painter, sound composer, installation artist, opera scriptor - utilising the vocabulary of each art form to make works that function to create fractured narratives and blur boundaries between the aesthetics. She has been involved in several interactive exhibitions including her own Opera live.
South African performance artist Donna Kukama currently lives in Johannesburg. Kukama's performances and installations often take on a character that is experimental, functioning as a process or methodology of research. She has participated in several local and international exhibitions including US (Johannesburg Art Gallery and Iziko South African National Gallery, 2009-2010) and Heart and Minds (Third Biennale Art History Symposium, USA, 2010). She has been nominated for this year's MTN New Contemporaries Awards.
Angolan performance artist Nástio Mosquito lives and works between Lisbon, Portugal and Luanda. His performance work usually takes on a confrontational form, and focuses primarily on inter-personal interactions. His practice incorporates music, slam poetry, performance, painting, photography and video. He has participated in several exhibitions on the continent as well as around the globe, including Cape 09 (Cape Town, 2009), and the African Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale (2007).
Curator Lerato Bereng was born in Maseru, Lesotho, and attended Rhodes University where she obtained a BA Fine Art in 2007. She was one of five Young Curators at the Cape Africa Platform (CAPE), for which she curated Thank You Driver, an exhibition that took place on minibus taxis (2009). She has assisted in several projects including Scratching the Surface Vol 1 at the AVA, Cape Town, and Dada South? at the Iziko South African National Gallery (2009). She is currently pursuing her MFA in curating at Rhodes University.
© 2010 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.