Atmospheric Conditions - Day 4
Sofia Steinvorth: Especially throughout the past years, a significant part of your work has evolved around domestic space. How is this very specific part of our infrastructure worth reflecting upon?
Jabulani Maseko: I've always been struck by the network of infrastructure which underpins the lives we live both personally and collectively. The network of infrastructure which underpins the ideals we subscribe to. How much of who I am is really who I am, with free will? How far into my home/personal space is the collective vision embedded for me to believe I am the captain of my own ship? If you think about it this way, the domestic space is a direct reflection of the public space. For society to function, for the collective to exist, its norms and morals have to be adopted and normalised in the home so as not to cause a rupture in the facade when the individual goes outside and encounters the rest of the picture. But I'm interested... How do you think that art can engage with contemporary issues in a meaningful way?
Sofia Steinvorth: That's a question I'm really excited about and there are many possible answers. To speak about art in general terms, I believe that it has the potential to challenge our ways of knowing and understanding. This is especially so when thinking about the space that art and art institutions of all sizes create for experimentation, reflection and different ways of communication and storytelling. This process can happen in different ways, for example by speaking to the senses and expanding our range of experience by moving it away from a solely rational and logical approach. But also, by the "simple" fact of providing a different (visual) narrative than the one we get through the media. On the other hand, art often happens to give us tools to understand not only our personal realities but also the world we live in and the relations between these two spheres - which goes back to what you just mentioned, about understanding the entanglements between the personal/domestic space and the political/public space (as the sphere where dominant norms and morals of a society are performed and perpetuated).
Another important aspect that we should think about is that everything and everyone wants our attention nowadays. This is what is at the heart of what has been called the attention economy in cognitive capitalism, for example. In addition to this, it becomes more and more difficult to shelter oneself from these "outside" stimuli, because even at home, and especially thanks to the penetration of information technology into this sphere, it has become very hard to switch off. This is one of the reasons why Yves Citton, the cultural theorist, has described aesthetic experiences as 'vacuoles', "which allow for the temporary suspension of the demands of communicational attention, so as to be able to concentrate full attention on a privileged cultural object over an extended period of time" (Citton, 2017: 159). If you think about it this way, it is art that allows you to slow down or to switch off - and that's becoming a rare and ever more valuable experience.