My late aunt and uncle’s house is a bungalow with a wide base. A low and wide house in whose living room I listened to Coldplay’s Speed of Sound for the first time as a young boy. It is a very vivid memory that has made itself at home in a portion of my personal history. The rising first two seconds of the song are like the sound of a gong played in reverse, a gradual focusing of sound that becomes a repeated melody carried throughout the song. Then follows a ray of light splayed across the ceiling from the windscreen of a car outside. The light is adamant about maintaining a non-shape but I can see the edges of a spider’s messy web in there and as it moves from one end to another, it becomes the migratory routes of some animal, a mass of scar tissue, a tangle of cells beneath a microscope’s lens, water. And then it is gone.
Memory is subjective and so exists outside of time. The concept of time within the confines of memory is much more pliable and so the two seconds of condensing sound is stretched to absurd limits and the momentary glance of light on the ceiling lasts a lifetime.
a far away house in the bundus1
I am on my way through dirt and distance to visit the artist Jackie Karuti. She has been living at Neo Musangi’s2 home on the periphery of the Nairobi National Park for what will become two months as a sort of artist residency. Karuti makes work around the idea of the alternative, the imagined-made-real and the inhabitants of many worlds.
In a conversation with Bob Nickas for Interview magazine, Nikas comments on Wolfgang Tillmans’s work by saying that it seeks to answer the basic question, What else can a photograph be? This question also describes the thoughts I had when I first encountered Tillmans’s work. Taking it as a starting point, I will first frame it by referencing work by several Kenyan artists whose approach towards working through lens-based media seeks to address this question.
In his series Undefined Constructions, James Muriuki observes a city whose architectural landscape is rapidly changing. Buildings under construction soar while swathed in brown tarp and multi-level scaffolding. The increase in seemingly misplaced high-rise buildings in Nairobi interrupts a skyline that is also scarred with brutalist, colonial era and Kikuyu-Gothicarchitecture. In this regard, Muriukis work presents a reading of the city by questioning how sites of construction were determined and what purposes they might have served in the past. More… →