BORDERLINE(S)

Art Exhibition - Indian Ocean

At the heart of this exhibition is the context in which artists from the Indian Ocean and its rims live and reflect their contemporaneity. This is the second edition of a project dreamed up by two hybrid beings, the result of a serendipitous cultural fusion.

This exhibition is centred around Humans: those who see the world, reflect it in their work, and narrate History; the Artists who bear witness to societies past, describe those of the present and imagine what those of the future might look like. Obviously, theoretical and critical discussion can only take place after the artwork has been created. Artists do not devise the future. But they are highly perceptive and exceptionally sensitive to the present.

We must talk about our choices, including that of the venue. We are siting the exhibition in the Granary for a second time – deliberately, in order to pay homage to the past. The space stands proudly over Port Louis’ legendary harbour, a reminder of those who previously strode across its wharves, of past lives and of stories. If the walls could talk… And of course, there was another choice, that of using this space to display what we ‘contemporaries’ have to communicate and share. Though it’s important not to dwell on history, we also have a duty of memory to it: it’s crucial that we understand where we come from and define where we want to go. So we take root in history for just a moment, as an aside from our capital’s daily life, and invite you to discover this temporary exhibition. The time has come to express, to convey, to exchange, to share, to focus on what we have chosen to create – because ideas have the extraordinary capacity to spread and travel on their own.

 

The artistic network of the Indian Ocean unites and binds its islands and coastlines. It is also the driving force behind this transcultural exhibition that breaks with ornamental homogeneity. It mixes collective and personal stories, denounces the past, condemns the actions of the present, recognises the magic of the other, the assemblage, celebrates the Creole lifestyle and culture. Most of the works on display are born out of hybridisation in some shape or form. This exhibition is an invitation to discover things from a new point of view; to experience abnegations, interpretations, rebellions and celebrations. Against the odds, it is a commemoration of our lives; of the existences in-between spaces, that reveal the complexity and richness of being the children of diversity. We are versatile, plural, tolerant, accessible. And without being idealistic, we are confident about what we represent in our art: it will be decisive and symbolic and will make us a talking point in the years, decades and centuries to come. We perpetuate exchange and movement by giving them new life.

The die is cast. BORDERLINE[S] becomes that ‘place’ in which an international culture is possible, one that is based not on the exoticism of multiculturalism but on true hybridity. This concept of a hybrid contemporary culture moves us away from the binaries of postcolonial discourse and ideas about culture. Cultural difference is never static or straightforward. It ambivalent, changeable, and always open to different interpretations. It is a space in which identities and the meanings of the word ‘culture’ contain traces of other meanings and identities. It is a place in which everything becomes possible.

 

Because art has a ‘voice’, it conveys our messages and will always resonate with someone somewhere. Art is documentary, educational, informative. It is a nation-building force, and one that champions those nations across the globe. As Valérie Morignat put it in her opening speech for the Actazé International Conference in 2006, “between the constraints of the global (globalisation and its standards) and those of the local (inward-looking attitudes and the legacy of colonialism […]), contemporary artists from Africa and Oceania offer an ironic deconstruction of exoticism and seek to decolonise artistic criteria. The critical strength of these works, which reveal current contexts in a new light, points to the emergence of hubs in which this art will be defined. It must be seen as an alternative and original model, capable of reversing the values that need to be overturned.”

Our thirty artists express themselves with creative energy, and thus represent cultural hybridity. They fuse traditional and modern media, materials and techniques. A hemp bag marked with vinyl glue that is only visible under fluorescent light, a neon light sculpture, autobiographical photographs strewn with digital symbols, figurative paintings that have become abstract digital works, a time-lapse video showing the production of successive manual collages, contemporary embroidery, and an interactive, mechanised ravanne drum… all of these pieces flirt with movement and are experimental in their methods. The artists question the reality of migration, of cultural negotiations and the impact of post-colonialism on the contemporary world. Some of the work is anchored in physical or conceptual territories. Other pieces explore collective memory and the politics and socio-cultural impact of migration. Certain techniques and media clearly dominate, perhaps because they better convey the artists’ thought processes. With the disappearance of absolute values, we see the emergence of works that are intimately linked to their context and based on an awareness of current events. Installations, video, digital printing, ephemeral works and abstract art – the building blocks of modern art – have paved the way for a much wider variety of materials and methods.

The history of cultural diversity is also the story of the decolonisation of our imaginary. It is characterised by an aesthetic “métissage” resulting both from tradition and from contact with the contemporary world. Hybridisation creates a gap in which it is possible to live and evolve. It allows us to exist in a space where dialogue adds value and unity defines the realms in which we want to live, as Edward Said explains in “Orientalism.” The Indian Ocean, with its many different cultures, offers us opportunities to continuously explore the legacies of the past, the creative forces of the present and the hopes we nurture for a future that we are in the process of creating.

 

BORDERLINE[S] lays claim to an emerging contemporary art practice and to identity based on multiple affiliations. It explores political, ethical and aesthetic issues. In and of themselves, its scenography and staging give an account of our cultures and are intended convey the artistic process and inspiration behind each piece and the artist’s personal aspirations. Every piece of work that is hung, sketch that is drawn and object on display tells a story. Our artistic community transcends lines, boundaries, horizons. It is not
suffocated by issues of race or restricted by borders. It expresses itself beyond any physical limitation and promotes exchange, including with the world of business and commerce, the world that has supported this project since its inception and made it possible to gather all of these artists together. We live in an era in which multiple points of view are possible and that encourages the proliferation of new sources of inspiration and creation. Though artists are producers of singularity, they remain part of a context that defines how their art is disseminated and recognised. By asking questions of themselves, they write a new history of art, made up of cultural entities that speak to one another. To echo Frantz Fanon, we need to reveal the complexity of our living, breathing culture.

Here we are once again. We bid farewell to classical notions of culture, delimited by a physical place or by borders, as the platform for symbolic practices and coherent identities. Today, a coherent idea is that one that unites us, that allows us to recognise and find ourselves in dialogue and exchange. In “Relational Aesthetics,” Bourriaud notes that “after all, as Marx remarked, reality is nothing more than the transient result of what we do together.” Let us become a constantly moving, living collage; let us create the space for intercultural dialogue. Let us bear witness to our contemporaneity as we would like it to look. Let us develop this space on the ‘borderline’ – the one in which dialogue is possible. Let us stop coexisting and instead exist.
Together.