An Age of Our Own Making

Kunsthal Charlottenborg

Ibrahim Mahama, Kamal Aljafari, Moshekwa Langa, Tita Salina & Irwan Ahmett

Art, activism and citizenship
The observation that the world is staggering through dire straits is hardly an overstatement. Our present day is characterised by major upheavals like climate change, terrorism, war and global financial crises that have prompted people to migrate and maneuvered the world into an unsteady collage of displaced and despaired, dislocated and deracinated. How will this affect our world? And what can we as citizens in given spaces do to shape tomorrow’s society? These are some of the questions addressed by the exhibition An Age of Our Own Making. For the challenges now facing our planet have caused many to feel a sense of powerlessness, of having no genuine impact on the policies adopted. The exhibition presented six international artists; Kamal Aljafari, Moshekwa Langa, Ibrahim Mahama, Tita Salina & Irwan Ahmett and Lorenzo Sandoval who use their art to engage with their socio-political realities and challenge the idea that only state apparatuses should be responsible for solving the aforementioned upheavals in alternative ways, eschewing traditional democracy and established political parties. In various poetic ways, the artists show how you can view yourself as a co-creator of society and urban spaces of which we are all part. Their works point to the need for acting and rethinking citizenship and thus our own individual positions in our shared community, thereby offering up alternatives to the economic, political and ecological power structures prevalent on global and local levels in societies today. The art works and the artists’ actions span many modes of expression – from activist and playful to the sombre. The hope was that the artistic gestures would inspire visitors to act and enact citizenship, to strive for influence and to see themselves as co-creators of our time and our future society even more than many do at this point.

Moshekwa Langa discovered one morning in his class room in Middle School, that his hometown was not part of the atlas. His hometown did not officially exist.

Revisiting the feeling that came to him that morning, combined with a more general feeling of the complexities of post-apartheid South Africa, triggered his work with memories, displacement, the longing for the ideal and the complex emotions of jealousy between city and countryside.

Moving from the countryside to the city can create certain complex feelings of displacement and longing, and Langa is continuously working with this subject matter through writing and visual art. Where does one actually belong?

In Kunsthal Charlottenborg’s largest gallery, Langa had created the installation "Mine"; a riverbed landscape – a donga – as the frame for his memoir map and his reflections on his home country, South Africa, which still does not have an actual structure for a balanced society.

Addressing this specific feeling of coming back to his native county, which he loves strongly, but finds difficult to be truly embraced by as an adult after he has lived in various metropolises as an artist, Langa compiled objects such as belts, ties, ribbons, wool and hats.

Every element is a memoir and within this riverbed of memoirs is embedded a highway to nowhere, as the artist describes it; a highway of buried things, closed tractions, hurdles an intimations.

The walls held ‘dragged’ paintings, which consisted of fabric literally dragged behind his car as he drove around his native Bakenberg in the Limpopo region. They were marked and worn by various surfaces; gravel and dirty roads left clear imprints, imbuing it with parts of the area where he grew up, and in the gallery they helped form a dried out riverbed – a donga - like the one he was brought up nearby, where he played as a kid and developed as a teenager before leaving Bakenberg, his home town, which is still a complex post-apartheid place, not owned by its inhabitants.

Together with objects, drawings and paintings was a video showing two feet leaving a bus going out into the unknown, accompanied by Shirley Bassey’s song: Where do I begin?

Moshekwa Langa (b.1975) was born and raised in Bakenberg, South Africa. He lives and works in Amsterdam, Holland and Johannesburg, South Africa and is currently taking an artist residency in Paris, France.

Tita Salina & Irwan Ahmett take a playful, political approach to art. With their poetic actions they explore how urban spaces are used and how they may subtly change. At the same time, they work on longterm research projects that explore the often violent and dramatic pathways of migration.

Their works are grouped in three themes and ask where we can shape our surroundings ourselves and how the challenges of city life may be tackled so that much-needed pockets of reflection and introspection are created.

The work "1001st Island – The Most Sustainable Island in Archipelago" relates to the rising sea level globally and locally to the story of how Tita Salina joins local fishermen from the harbour area of Jakarta, Muara Angke, to stand up against the city administration.

The project focused attention on the growing problem of global warming and waste in the sea around Jakarta, and on the huge, prestigious harbour development project Giant Sea Wall, where artificial islands are to resolve Jakarta’s growing housing problem and acting as dams to ward off the rising water, while also removing the possiblities for the local fishermen.

The artwork created for Kunsthal Charlottenborg consisted of an island that was placed in the Nyhavn canal, and a film installation. For the project the artists collected garbage from local waters to create the floating island.

The colourful plastic debris was collected and squeezed up in a vast fishing net, thereby creating a floating island, which visitors could find in the Nyhavn canal for the first two weeks of the exhibition and afterwards inside the exhibition.

The work "Holy Water" grappled with variations on what we consider holy. Liquids from syringes collected from public parks are cleaned and reused in church spaces in a video that indirectly reflects on the role of what is labelled illegal in a society.

Tita Salina (b. 1973) was born in Sumatra, Indonesia and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia. Irwan Ahmett (b. 1975) was born and raised in the western part of Java, Indonesia. They both live and work in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Kamal Aljafari’s film and installation "Recollection" comprises a collection of excerpts, stills and video footage from Israeli and American film recordings made in Jaffa between the 1960s and 1990s. At the time Jaffa was a place where filmmakers could create fictional narratives about Israel against a backdrop of empty Palestinian ruins.

As a result, much Palestinian history – past and present, real and fictional – was slowly, but systematically erased. In "Recollection" the artist seeked to effect a new kind of un-erasure through what he calls an act of ‘cinematic justice’: Aljafari had removed the Israeli actors in the foreground, thereby increasing our attention to the people who happen to appear in the background of the film.

Palestinians and also Iraqi Jews who lived in the city at the time and who happened, involuntarily, to become passers-by in these films. "Recollection" constitutes a re-enactment of history, founding a new kind of historic citizenship based on a merger of memories and the real-life spaces of the city. The footage has been cut and edited from existing films.

Kamal Aljafari (b. 1972) grew up in Jaffa, Israel, and lives and works in Berlin, Germany.

Lorenzo Sandoval had created a spatial device bearing the title "Editor’s Room / Broken Parliamet vol. III". The exhibition An Age of Our Own Making was comprised of three parts, known as reflections, and the exhibition at Kunsthal Charlottenborg is the third and final reflection. This room constituted a kind of epilogue: an ‘Editor’s Room’ that allowed visitors to immerse themselves – and possibly become lost in – the materials that served as the basis for the curators’ thoughts and conceptual work on this exhibition series.

"Editor’s Room / Broken Parliamet vol. III" consisted of a set of folding modules that served as chairs, a discursive tableau comprising sculptures, paintings, screens etc, but also objects from previous exhibitions or interior objects such as radiators from Kunsthal Charlottenborg. There were videos about the processes leading up to An Age of Our Own Making, books focusing on several of the discourses addressed in the exhibition, and photo documentation of the two previous reflections that took place in Holbæk and Roskilde earlier this year.

"Editors Room / Broken Parliament vol. III" drawed upon the ‘passage’, as formulated by Walter Benjamin in the unfinished project Passagenwerk. In that text Benjamin proposed a narrative system made of fragments and leftovers. The translation of that dialectical method is what inspired Sandoval’s collection of objects and thoughts coming from the three chapters of An Age of Our Own Making.

Lorenzo Sandoval (b. 1980) is born in Madrid, Spain and works and lives in Berlin, Germany.

Ibrahim Mahama’s installations were not meant to cover the surfaces of buildings, but rather to shape and reshape our experience of architecture and apply an overarching frame to inhabited and constructed spaces.

Mahama’s large-scale installation on the Nyhavn façade of Charlotteborg, "Nyhavns Kpalang" was made by hessian sacks that had been sown together, thereby incorporating narratives about the circulation of the commodities they once held such as cocoa and coffee; from farming conditions in the artist’s native Ghana, the continous exploitation of Ghana’s raw material to stories of the hands that touched these sacks as they travelled with goods.

The sacks bore labels that indicated their contents’ place of origin, destination, and owner. Those labels could be seen as scars, marks reminding us of the people who handle such sacks, and how they can be marked by the hard labour. "Nyhavn Kpalang" speaks to more than the sense of sight; our sense of smell also plays a part in how we perceive this installation. We can imagine the history of the sacks prompted by the lingering scents of their past contents – coffee, cocoa, coal, beans, rice etc.

Various sites of productions were implicated in the aesthetic of Mahama’s works, which uses the history of these sacks to point towards a wealth of political subjects such as trade and migration – then and now.

Ibrahim Mahama (b. 1987) grew up in Tamale and Accra, Ghana. He is currently doing a practice based PhD at KNUST in Kumasi, Ghana.

Credits: Story

An Age of Our Own Making was a three part exhibition project featuring a total of 28 artists. The exhibition series, which took place from May 2016 to January 2017 in Holbæk, Roskilde and Copenhagen, was curated by Solvej Helweg Ovesen and Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung and realised by the Municipality of Holbæk.

Images 16

Since 1991, Images – an initiative under the auspices of Danish Centre for Culture and Development (CKU) – has invited exponents of the most recent cultural trends from some of the most financially challenged countries in the world to visit Denmark. Images 16 presents contemporary art from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, showcasing almost 100 artists at 21 Danish art institutions. Images 16 has a particular focus on the featured artists and the society they act in and comment on.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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