MOVT nr. 5: La Virginité de l’Europe

year: 2012

size: 200 x 80 x 240

materials: mixed materials

context:  Who More Sci-Fi than Us exhibition

Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own… Resistance is futile (with) Afro-Futurism (where) Space is the Place (and) Sun Ra (gives birth to) Hype Williams (proclaiming) Luke, I am your father, (so) Optimus Prime (together with) Lieutenant Uhura (can go) where no man had gone before (and through) Atlantic Transformersz (make) Movt Nr. 5 (and becoming one) Opete-Yaw.

Who more sci fi than us_Virginite
La Virginité de L’Europe (2012) 200 x 80 x 240

Interview Uprising Art Magazine – In the framework of the exhibition Who More Sci-Fi than Us: 

sketch for La Virginité – Opete

Movt Nr. 5 : La Virginité de l’Europe. What is it about? 

Taking all the Virgins of Europe as an inspiration, I tried to find out what a Virgin of Europe would look like in the future.

Now that the work is finished it tells me that her body would be morphed. She shows bodily features of both Northern European and African females. As decision are technically made in Brussels her head turned into that of Optimus Prime (the head of the Autobots who protect the people from the evil Decepticons). With all good intentions we should be sceptical of these technical decisions.

She is a critique of the current status quo where in all nations questions of regional heritage and national belonging are urgent today.ven though the details of governing are different, Europe is very much like the Caribbean. We try and see both regions as unities but the differences in countries are clear when you get closer. In a way the problematics are the same.

For Who More Sci-Fi than Us you are exhibiting Movt Nr. 5 : La Virginité de l’Europe. What is it about? 

Taking all the Virgins of Europe as an inspiration, I tried to find out what a Virgin of Europe would look like in the future.

Now that the work is finished it tells me that her body would be morphed. She shows bodily features of both Northern European and African females. As decision are technically made in Brussels her head turned into that of Optimus Prime (the head of the Autobots who protect the people from the evil Decepticons). With all good intentions we should be sceptical of these technical decisions.

She is a critique of the current status quo where in all nations questions of regional heritage and national belonging are urgent today.

Even though the details of governing are different, Europe is very much like the Caribbean. We try and see both regions as unities but the differences in countries are clear when you get closer. In a way the problematics are the same.

I guess I would have to make a “Virgin of the Caribbean” (this sounds like an awful movie) as well to see how they match and differ.

You already composed several works bearing the name “Movt nr 3 / 4 / 5”. What does it refer to?  Those creations seem to be part of a wide musical composition you would be creating…

The “Movt.” actually comes from the inside of watches and are connected to time. They are a way of documenting my periods. Every period may consist of several items even though only one piece may bear the name.

It is a way of encoding the way my thinking changes about my major subject. Thematically all the movements are connected.

In that way you could call it a wide visual/theoretical composition that comes to its conclusion when I stop practicing.

Charl Landvreugd, Anaruka 6, from the series Anarusha, © Courtesy of Charl Landvreugd / by Olubode Shawn Brown

You are working a lot on black European aesthetics. Are you willing in your artworks to give a new meaning to this concept and to transcend it?

I am still in the midst of investigating what Black European aesthetics are really about.

One of my major conclusion for now is that as Afro-Europeans we have certain aesthetics liberties that for instance our Afro-American cousins do not have. (See Makonde Linde)

In my work I am very aware of the fact that I speak from a European position (e.g. (born and) raised in Europe). This means that my concerns are different from the Diaspora in other parts of the world.

I do not know if one should want to transcend the Blackness. I use it as a tool to speak of issues that are specific to Europe and the Caribbean. In its specificity it may or may not have ‘universal’ value. It is for others to judge if my work transcends any form of Black aesthetics.

Your video work “Atlantic Transformerz” is an impressive example of your investigation on black diversity…

Thank you.

It came about during my BijlmAir residency which is a program run by the CBK Zuid Oost (Centre for Visual Arts) and SMBA (Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam) in Amsterdam. During that period the SMBA was doing a project called ‘Beter beeld van Afrika’ (Better view of Africa) and this became part of my residency assignment.

In the Bijlmer I was struck by the fact that the whole African Diaspora was represented in this one neighborhood of the city. I had only seen that in Brixton London and in Harlem New York and never realized it also existed in the Netherlands.

Being an advocate for people speaking for themselves, it was clear to me that doing an ‘anthropological’ investigation of the area was out of the question as I am not part of the community. So I decided to aestheticize the four continents around the Atlantic Ocean where the slave trade took place.

I wanted to show the diversity by using four completely different models. They are blackened as a way of reinterpreting what blackness means and how it came into existence.

The project was repeated in North America (New York, USA) and South America (Moengo, Suriname).

For it to be complete I still have to go to West Africa. When finished there will be 16 portraits of 5 minutes each portraying the Diaspora around the Atlantic Ocean.

You arrived in the Netherlands when you were quite young. Would you need to live in Suriname at some point?

I played with the idea of living in Suriname for a while, however I am a real a inner city kid that lived in cities like Istanbul, Cairo and New York with lots of noise and people.

The quietness, architecture, people and weather among other things in Paramaribo are amazing yet after a while I miss the noise of large cities.

Moving to the Caribbean as a whole could be an idea. I’ll have to think about that….

Traveling is a needed source of inspiration in your creative process?

In a way yes, however the traveling I am doing now is deeper into the Afro-Surinamese culture and habits.

I am trying to see how the mixture of cultures that takes place in black European children can lead to a better understanding of what a European subjectivity might look like in the future. 

Is being a curator another crucial part of your work? What is interesting about those experiences?

My work is the combination of theory and practice. I am trying to investigate this Afro-European aesthetic from all different angles be it sculpture, video, photography, curating and writing.

All these creative processes produce new knowledge from which the research can continue. They are all crucial and I am sure new ways of investigation will present themselves in the future.

credits: This sculpture is made possible through financial support of the Mondriaan Fund

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