Usha Seejarim and Lungiswa Gqunta discuss the use of the found or domestic object in their practices. Such objects are loaded with social and economic meaning in the wake of South Africa’s racist and patriarchal history. Each artist approaches the impact of this history from divergent perspectives, but with a shared concern for the private space of the home
Natasha Norman (NN): Usha, your practice embodies the performative element of daily, repetitive tasks by producing works created by the same act. How do you understand your process and materials as commenting on contemporary experiences within South African society at large?
Usha Seejarim (US): The conversation between the found, familiar, ordinary, or domestic object and the process of making is, for me, the act of embracing the role of the domestic. The repetitive act of making points to the inevitability of the role, perhaps commenting on an illusion of escape. South Africa is unique in that race, class, and gender structure are quite obvious and visible. My work doesn’t attempt to specifically address these politics, but – by virtue of my choice of materials and their context – that commentary is often unconcealed.
NN: Lungiswa, your use of performativity and found materials has a more overtly reactionary agenda, seeking to pull apart the tenuous divide between public and private spaces. What criteria do you use to determine the materials you use?
Lungiswa Gqunta (LG): The materials I use are objects that can be found in your home. It could be anything but mainly it has to have the potential to be used as a weapon for purposes of defence: of the home and those who live in it.
NN: Domestic spaces are inherently gendered, particularly in South Africa where our cultures have a deep patriarchal history. How do you embrace the materials and activities in your works as a site of imagination?
US: I think that the imagination is used to reflect exactly this deep patriarchy. The work cannot move beyond this binary, because this is what it is addressing. The materials themselves direct the work. An iron or a wooden peg become such loaded objects in the context of the artwork. It is inherent with meaning, consequence, and significance.
LG: The materials I use and the way I use them aim to shift perceptions of gender that the materials may originally have had, and therefore challenge people’s thinking around patriarchy and the domestic. This shift is where the internal and external imagining of home happens.
NN: While both of you work with the deeply symbolic potential of the materials you choose, is narrative an important part of your practice?
US: By nature, artists are storytellers. The joy of being an artist is the ability for an artwork to resonate with different viewers in different ways. Each viewer brings their own histories to the reading of the work. This is fascinating to me, particularly when there is an alignment with my story that is not obviously stated in the work.
LG: You can only control the narrative so far. The viewer’s recognition of the materials and the memories they might trigger are important in the different experiences I try to create. That’s where the potential to shift people’s understanding of an experience happens.
An article by Natasha Norman
Featured image : Lungiswa Gqunta, Sleeping Pools, 2017. Metal bed frame, led lights, perspex, petrol, water, and ink. Approx. 160 x 180 x 35 cm. Multiple of 3. Courtesy of Lungiswa Gqunta and WHATIFTHEWORLD. Photograph by Hayden Phipps.
This article was written for The Art Momentum | Cape Town Art Fair Artpaper. [French version inside]
Articles are published in their original language | Les articles sont publiés dans leur langue d’origine