Jackie Karuti is an artist based in Nairobi, Kenya. Her practice employs drawing, moving images and performance to generate thought & her work is founded on ideas around knowledge production & the depths of possibility enabled by radical imagination. She was the recipient of the Henrike Grohs Award in 2020 and the Follow Fluxus-After Fluxus scholarship in 2021 which supported her solo exhibition at the Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden in Germany. Other projects that respond to her practice include In the Case of Books (2013-2015), programming the Out Film Festival-Nairobi (2016-2018) and her online workspace I’ve been working on some MAGIC. Her debut monograph Jackie Karuti: Notes Movement Method by Mousse Publishing will be released in 2022.
- (simularr) Simultaneous production of work
- Space (giving space by creating distance)
- Art as being a world vs being a Language
- Cosmology & Gravity
- Observations & relationships with Animals that are not pets
- Animal movements: Murmuration, Migration, birds, butterflies, reindeer, wildebeest
- Studio happenings
- Mimicry, plant adaptations
- Tina Campt: Black Visual Frequency: A Glossary
Art as being a world vs being a Language
-We don’t need language. We need a world because we don’t need or have to understand each other. So we shouldn’t complain or despair that we cannot understand plants or animals. We can barely understand ourselves as human beings. We simply need a world where we can then establish links with each other & that’s how we communicate. It is filled with pauses, awkwardness but its what’s present.
Cosmology & Gravity
-The artists of the Russian avant-garde were less impressed by the perspective of immortality than by the promise of free navigation in cosmic space. Especially Malevich, he understood true liberation as liberation from gravity—free movement in all directions on earth and through the cosmos.
-Black people defying gravity to mean the resistance to structural & racial violence (Tina Campt & Arthur Jafa)
As an extension to ways of ‘documenting’ this process we risk some things getting lost & found in translation. When I described my studio happenings I mentioned the bizarre gun ceremony that the president came & presided over. Looking at Hanns’ notes I noticed he calls the Javelin thrower a juggler & also understood the ceremony as ‘gun-banning’ which I find interesting. It was actually a literal burning of guns, with fire etc.
English as language reminds me of last year’s Spring meeting at the Performing Arts Forum (PAF) where I was invited to present. One of the prompts was Mladen Stilinović’s artwork; “an artist who cannot speak English is no artist” where the statement can also be interpreted as the ability and wish to communicate in a certain language as an important part of belonging to a specific community. “Speaking English” is much more than simply talking and understanding but also questioning the visual and aesthetic rules and the narratives as they are defined through a western construct.
Watching & listening to kids playing and realizing a greater part of play or really, what play(ing) is, is decision making, organizing, coordination, setting up terms & rules. Communication is vital as well as a knowledge of space & time (timing). Here you realize that games are designed to allow for participation from each one (not everyone). So play is not a combination or addition of skills & bodily senses & movements rather it’s a new dimension created out of this cooperation.
Example: the game of Hide & seek that I see kids playing outside my studio
This is a game played by the same group of people over a period of time. When repeated over a period of time at the same location, A regular hiding place still presents new opportunities of play especially when used by different people. The final count (20 or 30) is determined by number of participants or variations in hiding places. The person counting can determine by feet running where each participant is going to hide. They know who needs to be ‘found’ first to allow for a victory.
Observations & relationships with Animals that are not pets
In describing my studio, I shared about my fantastic encounter with the Owl last year & it really was something that exists in the realm of fantasy. I also talked about recent observations of the crow that comes to visit because I started leaving out some grain & water on my balcony. Last week it came almost everyday & I was able to capture some of these moments. What’s interesting is that it announces itself by cawing a few times waiting for me to appear then proceeds to feed or simply fly away after. Apart from being deft architects & participating in funerals for their fallen ones, Crows also remember acts of kindness but what’s funny is that they will let everyone else know so one day I might find a murder of crows camped outside waiting to greet me.
1. Flight ways: Life and loss at the edge of extinction by Thom van dooren. On the mourning of crows & the understanding of grief in mind as a complex biosocial achievement.
>>excerpt: “…Derrida (1994) also acknowledges, “we know better than ever today that the dead must be able to work. And to cause to work, perhaps more than ever” (120). The work to be done here is, first and foremost, the task of “getting it” that these deaths, of individuals and of species, matter ; that the world as we know it is changing; and that new approaches are necessary if life in its diversity is to go on.”
2. Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts by Douglas Kahn
>>excerpt: “Radio was heard before it was invented. It was heard before anyone knew it existed. It was heard in the first wireless technology: the telephone. The telephone served two major purposes: it was a scientific instrument used to investigate environmental energy, and it was an aesthetic device used to experience the sounds of nature. The telephone would also find success in the field of communications. The first person to listen to radio was Thomas Watson, Alexander Graham Bell’s assistant. He tuned in during the early hours of the night on a long metal line serving as an antenna before antennas were invented.
…We know Watson from Bell’s legendary boss-man instructions: “Watson. Come here I need you.” Bell’s instructions made Watson the first name in modern telecommunications and one of history’s most famous sidekicks. But when it comes to telecommunications, nature is more of a sidekick, even though it has always been the biggest broadcaster, bigger than all corporations, governments, militaries, and other purveyors of anthropic signals combined. In fact, nature was broadcasting globally before there was a globe. Radio was heard before it was invented, and radio, before it was heard, was.”
- Book via Shane: Living as a Bird by Vinciane Despret
- Film via Jackie: Scenes from a Sketchbook, 2016: dir. Amit Dutta
- Link on eflux: Animism
- Sources, Itineraries, and the Making of a Thicket: Raqs Media Collective
The division of space & territories
- Territory as defined by Vinciane Despret ‘s Living as a Bird where we consider how birds & overall animals or non-human beings regard space
- Franziska’s talk about space that is not determined by LxWxH
- I added to that by thinking about Geometry with dimensions that are not limited to shapes, area & volume but inclusive of happenings and experiences in the communities that occupy a given space.
- Architecture that is completed by generations as is the case of cathedrals & mosques that continue to be developed over hundreds of years as each generation redefines their own idea of worship & community
- Shane referred to the building in Japan where it’s demolished every year and rebuilt again by different communities
- The infamous division of Africa at the 1884 Berlin conference and the anecdote about Churchill having a hiccup while marking a border on the map. A telling of the total disregard of the communities that already occupied these lands
- Territory as defined by arbitrary lines e.g in space by the Karmic line where earths atmosphere begins to thin out. The politics of air space and what determines that. Divisions on earth i.e Latitude & longitude and why the equator line is the easiest route to outer space.
- Magnitude as a measurement of territory that marks intensities
- Territory occupied by space launch programs & ground stations by former colonies like France in French Guyana and Algeria & Kenya by the Italians
- To think about our ideas as gestures & how they can be translated as both performative & installation
- How to move something from Nairobi to Graz. Thinking of objects and how gravity & light years affects their movement & how we intercept images in Space & Time.
- Film: Nostalgia for The Light, 2010 dir. Patricio Guzmán (Jackie)
- Stuff in space: a site that tracks debris in space (Shane)
- Communal burial sites: Logatham North Pillar Site in Turkana, Kenya (Jackie)
- Lalibela monolith churches in Ethiopia (Franziska)
- Solstice & Equinox orientation: Gothic architecture, Stonehenge (Franziska)
- Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt, (Jackie)
- The work of Vilém Flusser (Franziska)
- Seismic activity
on Impossible & different types of movements
- How sound registers as a familiar yet foreign experience in ones body (sonic boom experienced/heard in Germany by Jackie).
- Moving a (priceless) painting that shouldn’t/can’t be moved. Where the team (Discursive Justice Ensemble) follows the movement/relocation of a Heronymous Bosch painting in Vienna amid tight security & handlers.
- Volcanic explosions that permanently alter the light in the sky & global weather patterns over the course of many years Link.
- The weight of things that need to be moved (books, luggage).
- A common(s) item in the suitcase that is not to be claimed by anyone or something to be used by all. Doesn’t have to be an object.
- Sound waves: ‘Radio was heard before it was invented, and radio, before it was heard, was’. Earth Sound Earth Signal book by Douglas Khan.
- Seismic activity that is registered away from the site of action.
- Catatumbo Lightning. an atmospheric phenomenon that occurs over the mouth of the Catatumbo River. (Naya).
- Aftershocks of an earthquake in Croatia experienced in Austria. (Hanns).
- Fracking activities that affect earth movements in places where seismic activity was previously never experienced. (Shane).
References & Recommendations:
- Feral Atlas
- The Future Library
- Film: The Radiant, 2012 by The Otolith Group
- Film + Online polyphonic orchestration: Volcano, 2021 | Convened by Discursive Justice Ensemble
cont. from last conversation…
• How to move something from Nairobi to Graz.
• Thinking of objects and how gravity & light years affects their movement & how we intercept images in Space & Time
In 1984 the Medu Art Ensemble begun to develop a ‘Silkscreen-in-a-Box’ kit that could be smuggled into South Africa and used by anti-apartheid activists in the townships who had little or no training in printmaking. Unfortunately the kit never got beyond the prototype phase because in 1985 the South African Defence Force raided Medu’s offices in Gaborone, killing 12 of its members and bringing the Medu Art Ensemble’s activities to an end. “The collective’s cultural work was cin nature, stretching across seven semi-autonomous units: Film, Graphics, Music, Photography, Poetry, Publishing and Research, and Theatre.”
Since we can’t make a screen print, imagine a table where these printing processes took place. The objects & materials placed, the weight of history, the warp of the table over the years from pressing & weathering and what such a construction would look like.
Other methods I have employed in my own practice:
- Respond to the question: What is the path you choose to take across the blank space of a room?”
- ‘Projecting’ a wedge into (the) space. Scout for areas & instances & interrupt continuous flow of movement. Elevate a thing, an object, a thought, someone…