A fugitive attempt to discover Other Worlds
After more than a decade of creating works, with Out Of This World I am deliberately taking time out from routine, to interrogate a novel form for processing performance – from an African perspective – as both scientific and artistic methods for time bending, shape shifting, and place making. I have always imagined the art space as a civil space, which impacts human social contracts and relationships, the form I am proposing with OOTW is an incubation space for the cultures to come, a space where we could further ask our public questions that aren’t simply thinking of our audiences as transactional bodies, but as conduits for whatever social vision or utopic future we want to make together in this time.
This experiment is equally seeking new ways of engaging cultural institutions as incubators, for the nurturing of cultural production and promoting the progress of art in a dying world. And maybe more pertinently, it is to ask, what is the point of culture at this time, of what good is a theatre or a museum if it is only a citadel for prefabricated cultures that have attained their limits. To perceive time differently makes the future feel uncertain, thereby making the present more immediate, urgent, and constantly unfolding. The research dimension of OOTW is basically a bid to dive into what I refer to as “the archives of the ghosts”, to drag them into the present, and flesh them up through performance that is entrenched in Yoruba philosophy. We know perfectly well that there’s an endless variety of economic and political forms of performance that have existed over human history, very radically different aesthetic forms, but our brain pays attention to information that confirms our worldview, not information that contradicts it.
As an artiste and culture worker who has a certain level of imagination, and is actively invested in a paradigm shift, it is clear to me that, if culture is how we express the cumulative knowledge and experiences we have gathered in the course of our human history, and artistes are supposedly bestowed with a heightened capacity to sense the time, then it is relatively upon us to articulate and make sense of the time we live in for the society which produced us, despite this amount of responsibility braced by the privileges we enjoy, we are yet to rise up to the challenges of our time, but what happens instead is that we are entangled within a fusion of cultural, educational, corporate and government bureaucracies, in such a way that we have internalised the idea that, to embark on a new creation meant spending most of our time selling things to bureaucrats, and there is this massive outpouring of paperwork, which makes it impossible to follow our curiosity, we spend our time, efforts and talents in anticipating reactions, justifying our legitimacy and deflecting criticism, rather than zoning into the possibility of creatively engaging with more important troubles of our time.
In order to create the sort of suspension, where you want people to think that a breakthrough is going on, you have to kill off the possibility of any breakthrough, and this is what political bureaucracy has managed to achieve. We do not like to confront the fact that we are living in an intensely bureaucratic society, and in particularly in the institutionalised cultural sector, we’ve all learned to embrace these bureaucratic forms of fascism as a fact, and so we don’t notice it anymore, largely because bureaucratic requirements have become all too pervasive, we can’t even imagine doing things any other way. So then, what happens to the future of creativity and what are the cultural consequences of existing under this precarious circumstance, where we just don’t know what to do with the future of art anymore?
No matter how much we may want to believe that the cultural sector is doing just fine, that we haven’t hit a wall, and that culture is in fact, the last hope for the survival of the end of the world, that very dilemma is indeed making it difficult to admit that it is the end, it perhaps explain why in the art world, we love the idea of continually being post something; we got rid of expressionism, we landed into cubism, we got rid of abstract art, then pop art came to subvert art, and then we got rid of modernism all together, in a bid to make sense of this endless cycle of boredom around which our creative lives revolve, which then makes it clear that we eventually can’t talk ourselves out of the fact that the future is black, that it has always been, because our basic rhetoric of how we imagine ourselves is so deeply based on an idea of redemptive futures, because we can’t manage to tell our children that slavery ended, and that colonialism ended by accident, that Sarah Bartman’s body was exhibited in a cultural institution, at the centre of Paris for almost a century, was just a historical coincidence of no greater significance, we’ve numbed ourselves of the historical thrust simply because we ran out of excuses. So, we push artists towards a production-oriented economic system, which focuses on increasing the quantity of productions, at the expense of other important factors, such as social equity, environmental sustainability, and human well-being.
The moment we see that what we do are no longer plausible, that a greater number of the outsiders are now in to claim their part, we come up with something more catastrophic that is going to destroy us all entirely, like the Anthropocene or a nuclear winter, which is the latest frontier for a redemptive future, something that will destroy the possibility of bringing forth any radically different system, even at the expense of destroying the system itself. However, in the art world we can’t live without the future, because it is only from the perspective of the future that we make sense of the present, so this kind of redemptive future never goes away, because we have nothing else to teach our children about our past, so we develop a kind of alternative dementia, like we exist in a kind of virtual form, with the hope of becoming real in the future. We have seen the increasing amount of virtual shows in the theatres and in the museums, because we seem to have made the future into an alternate reality, something that exist in another dimension of the present, like a VR glass to cover our face, or an headset to cover our ears, anything we can put on and off at will to prolong this apathy.
What is certain is that this won’t go on forever, there’s always hope, but hope isn’t an outcome, it’s an invitation not a guarantee. We can continue to stifle innovation and creation, but things are happening elsewhere, and young people are aware of that, so sooner or later, this bureaucratic technology is going to come tumbling down, and the actual future will appear, it’s not just going to appear from where we thought it will. To fully get Out of This World, I returned to the archives, seeking to connect with other worlds, other forms, other economics, and other powers that have been active for millennia, in places and spaces outside the realm of these bureaucratic technologies, where the data for other possible forms of creation have been ghosting in plain sight; safeguarded.
We must now return to the body and the spirit, to re-member, and to reconnect. The purpose of this return is to find out, if the understream mechanisms created by the marginalised in our society, can be valued as capital for the construction of a new world. It is clear that to establish this desired “New Worlds”, some efforts must be made against one's own genealogies, against one's own intellectual inclination and so on, because querying one's intellectual capital require efforts in order to properly challenge it, for it is easier to keep repeating the same things unchallenged and linger within the comfort provided by what is familiar. As a mode of journeying Out of This World, we have devised The Oraqu to be a subversive software for blurred aesthetics, to heal our cognitive pathologies; an evasive technology that allow the audience to bypass the folds of the world that is given. A different cybernetic episteme, where intelligence isn’t artificialized – nor disembodied, or individualized - where artists and their audiences can collectively develop new processes and new byways for thinking about themselves, their stories, their actions, and their futures in the present.