Featuring “Simplicity” as an “Irrational Fear”

Featuring “Simplicity” as an “Irrational Fear” is an exploration of the concept of simplicity and its impact on the direction of contemporary art discourse. Simplicity, which one could argue is akin to accessibility, is so rarely available in this current climate of contemporary art and one finds that there's a tendency to intellectualise away anything that may be overly-accessible or easily understood in art.

Concepts are often times over-complicated in the circumlocutory pseudo-intellectual babble that creeps into discussions, perhaps out of some irrational fear that once it is all decoded, then nothing is left. As Raymond Havens stated in “Simplicity, a changing concept” (1953:3):

Simplicity, it would seem, is a simple matter... In the eighteenth century, critics, essayists, and poets were constantly referring to it as the supreme excellence in almost every field, the "open sesame" to every door, whether of conduct, thought, taste, or artistic production. "The best and truest ornament of most things in life," Swift called it, and Shaftesbury, "this beauty above all beauties." Lord Kames declared, "The best artists ... have in all ages been governed by a taste for simplicity," and Horace Walpole said, "Taste...cannot exist without Simplicity." Joseph Warton went even further, maintaining “SIMPLICITY is with justice esteemed a supreme excellence in all the performances of art."

Ironically, simplicity is not quite as one-dimensional as one may expect. It is engulfed in concentric skins that seemingly lead right back to complexity. Simplicity itself becomes a slippery subject with multiple personalities but nonetheless one that is tackled head on. Through this performance-based installation a multitude of characters discovered in the excavation of simplicity are addressed and re-interpreted to create a triangle of responses from three performance artists, Nathalie Bikoro, Donna Kukama and Nástio Mosquito. The physical absence of the three performance artists in the performance space creates a rift between time and space, thereby necessitating a creative clarity in a media as interaction-reliant as performance.

Monday, September 6, 2010

I’m thinking more about the simplicity not only of the concept, but of the actual technicalities around the exhibition. In our discussion yesterday, it seemed that having 3 video pieces, as well as the skype interactions, might create a little complexity. I’m a bit torn. On the one hand I think there is an absorbing element about having the video performances as pieces created in another space in another time exhibited alongside the real-time interactions happening in cyber space. It begins to speak of video and cyber technology as facilitators of time. Simplifiers of boundaries.

On the other hand though, there is also something enticing about the momentary nature of the performances. The fact that performance speaks of a certain moment of interaction and engagement, I think perhaps the video pieces in addition to the skype interactions may seem like an over-complication of the notion of simplicity. In a way, the immediateness of the performances makes one incline towards one-night performance pieces. The conversations we are having now (I promise they’ll become more fluid on my part), and perhaps the documentation from interaction with the audience on the performance night(s) could form the residue for exhibition. As a “so and so was here” kind of marker. Don’t know if I’making sense, lemme know if I’m getting lost in my very own web of complex simplicity.
I’d love to hear what you guys think about this.

Lerato Bereng

P.s. Almost forgot to mention that I’ve momentarily called the show “Featuring Simplicity as an Irrational Fear”

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