In a somewhat questionable marketing endeavour, the Eastern Cape Region has been sign posted, ‘Frontier Country’ and indeed this is what it is. Historically it is the site of the 9 Frontier Wars and much brutal conflict and living here presently can still seem the edge of nowhere by comparison to many major South African metropols. With Grahamstown at the heart of it, it is also a cosmopolitan space not without vestiges of past pain but - like many colonial outposts in a post-colonial time - it is no longer a satellite to an absent motherland, a mere microcosm of elsewhere, but also a world unto itself.

A potential space of intellectual, debate rather than military conflict – geographically isolated from metropolitan trends – a melting pot of many places, a crucible. In more recent history, this frontier space has been a site of culture, of experiment. Home to an annual arts festival, how is it that Grahamstown with a population of just under 140 000 can command so much creative imagination in novels, plays, poetry and art? Frontier, Border, at the end of the world but not about to fall off – merely at a vantage point to observe a view to come.
- Rat Western

DISCHARGE 2012             COLOUR COLLOQUIUM 2010             SYNTHETIC DIRT 2011

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Raél Jero Salley: “A beautiful way we go impossibly”: Dineo Seshee Bopape’s Changing Same

In this paper I argue that the poetics of Dineo Seshee Bopape’s work re-­‐imagines contemporary life with a mixture of awe, excitement, and romantic vision, while also challenging the status quo about what is seeable and sayable about South African artists and their artworks. Bopape’s work is charged by an energy that re-­‐assembles the visible constitution of beings articulated by political debates, including race, gender, sexuality and African existence. Working in South Africa and elsewhere, Bopape’s work highlights the fact that contemporary “mash-­‐ups” from Africa actively respond to questions about individual being and contemporary social belonging, but also valorize contemporary blackness. For instance, Changing Same (2010) is a series of digitally assembled videos that reference new-­‐ media technology, cybernetics, biotechnology, and/or altered states of consciousness. These images insist on visual process that reframes understanding of the body, history and our world. Changing Same is a contemporary artwork that explores correspondences between the appearance of beings framed by geo-­‐political discourse, the circumstances of that framing. The artwork also re-­‐imagines by using digital manipulation to unravel would-­‐be indexical links. Taking Bopape’s Changing Same as a case-­‐study, this paper interrogates various meanings of the visual in relation to contemporary African visuality, as well as its political, cultural and ideological forces.

Raél Jero Salley, Ph.D. is an artist, cultural theorist, historian and Senior Lecturer in Painting and Discourse at the University of Cape Town. Salley’s research is focused on contemporary art and visual production, primarily the visual practices of Black and African Diaspora.

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