Oceans Apart is a multimedia presentation incorporating a two-part projected video and music from the new EP by Ghanaian-Canadian singer-songwriter Kae Sun, directed by Simon Rittmeier with Emeka Alams from Gold Coast Trading as the creative mind. The visual narrative examines notions of belonging and home through the personal and voyeuristic relationship of an asylum seeker and a young female student in a nondescript small town in Germany. Both film and EP explore the current social dilemma of displaced persons through the emotional, spiritual, and relational experience rather than the sociopolitical. For gallery presentations, Oceans Apart is presented as a split-screen projection (on two screens or two white walls). The screens portray the points of view of both protagonists. The point of view of each protagonist is accompanied by a song from the Oceans Apart EP. Videos and music are looped, and a listening station is set up, facilitating an exclusive listen to the full, unreleased EP. Music at the listening station is played via cassette tape. The video footage was captured on VHS and cell phone camera in Germany and the Ivory Coast. The total run time for the piece is approximately 10 minutes. Oceans Apart was conceived by long-time collaborators Kae Sun and Emeka Alams of Gold Coast Trading Company with the co-direction of filmmaker and visual artist Simon Rittmeier.
“Where are you?”.
The prevailing impulse in the experience of being alive is alienation, a sort of spiritual exile.
The desire for happiness is a desire for belonging, a return to eden if you will. Everything people have ever touched, every invention, every poem, song, every prayer ever uttered is haunted by this impulse. Of the two events that shape our existence, birth and death, the latter is the more mysterious, seemingly. The reality of death, the inevitability of it and the fact that it cannot be mediated, the fact that it escapes our capacity to reason with and through it heightens this alienation so that the desire for belonging extends past our immediate physical condition into other worlds we imagine through our creative, philosophical, political and religious endeavours. So the question of what you’ve done with your life becomes a question of what you’ve done with your exile. Oceans Apart is our way of examining this notion of exile using the very current social dilemma of displaced persons or those seeking a better situation, a better point of view, a better reference point for their lives and those of their loved ones.
We’re perhaps peeling back the layers a little bit and making this more about the spiritual and relational condition of not belonging and not so much the socio-political one, we hope that you could partner with us to achieve this goal or at best pose the question eloquently through this piece of ours.
The title of the project is a sort of paradox: it highlights the distance between the process of appropriation of an external element or feature, becoming in such way part of someone´s identity (“My Own”) and the term “Exotic”, which Greek origin refers to the outside (exo), the foreign (exotikos).
That oxymoron constitutes the base of the work, that is composed of two artworks: an (unfinished) handmade booklet realised in 2014 during the first two weeks residence in Bayreuth and an artificial flower installation as result of the second residence in 2015. Both outputs invite to reflect on the clashes, connections, merges and blurs between waht is “originating in or characteristic of a distant foreign country”, something “out of the ordinary”, often “attractive or striking because colourful” and the efforts of constructing a purified, integral and original identity.
In the first case, the booklet highlights the idealised or distorted representation of the Angolan landscape and nature, as it was seen by the colonizers. It condenses an iconographic research based on the available books on Angola existing in the central library of Bayreuth, ranging from 1875 to 1975, where the artist focused on the understanding of different images displaying various natural forms.
In the second case, the artificial flower installation follows the three days photographic survey of different kind of flowers – natural or artificial – visible in the public spaces of Bayreuth city centre. Starting from the specific meaning of Exotics – “an exotic plant or animal” – the installation invites to reflect on the incorporation of allochthonous, exotic species into semiprivate and institutional public spaces of Bayreuth, some of which express the ultimate tradition and identity of the city.
Flowers are a central element of beautification of public, representative and important private space. They contribute to strengthen the image of a well kept, controlled, ordered and properly decorated city. But is there a logic and a symbolic meaning behinf the choice of certain species for those spaces? Do the compositions, design and associations of different flowers efer to any tradition? Should those flowers represent German identity along with the institutional flags and statues of local heros?
Fabio Vanin and Moses Serubiri will tackle those and other questions in their project “MY OWN EXOTIC”, putting in question the (shallow) understanding and public consciousness about the use and consumption of flowers, reflecting on the relation between their display and the public image of Bayreuth. Reproductions of autoctonous and allochthonous species will be positioned in opposite group rows, one facing the other, representing the disequilibrium/ unbalance between the two groups. Also, wireframes will reproduce the most recurrent geometrical that can be found in Bayreuth and 3D printed reproductions of flowers on representative monuments and buildings will be displayed next to each other.
Abdi Osman is a Somali-Canadian multidisplinary artist whose work focuses on questions of black masculinity as it intersects with Muslim and queer identities. Osman’s video and photography work has been shown in Canada and internationally in both group and solo exhibitions. He holds an MFA in Documentary Media from Ryerson University, and B.A. in African Studies from the University of Toronto. Previous work has been supported by a grant from the Ontario Arts Council. His photographs are also in private collections and the Art Bank of the Canada Council for the Arts. Some of his work was in the year-long group show DiaporaArt: Strategy and Seduction by Canadian Artists from Culturally Diverse Communities at Rideau Hall. Abdi was a 2010 artist-in-resident at the McColl Centre for Visual Arts in Charlotte North Carolina. Most recently in 2012, he was a fellow at The Interdisciplinary Center for Culture and Creativity (ICCC) at the University of Saskatchewan.