MY OWN EXOTIC

Exhibition project by FABIO VANIN in cooperation with researcher MOSES SERUBIRI

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.

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NASTIO MOSQUITO

Nástio Mosquito born in 1981 in Angola, largely educated in Portugal, and now currently living in Belgium, Nástio Mosquito is emerging to be one of the most exciting artists of his generation and was recently awarded the Future Generation Art Prize. Rooted in the broadcast industry, where he worked previously as director and cameraman, his practice embraces video and music, performance and installation.

Theatrically, Mosquito takes centre stage in his work. He often assumes roles, through mimicry, in order to express ideas occurring to him, not so much as his own cherished beliefs but rather observations on human folly manifested in modern life. The distance between his actual identity and such characterisations enables him to express himself variously as being transgressive, cool, cynical, profane and vulgar. “Nástia”, a know-it-all with a Russian accent – a monster engendered by the Cold War – epitomises this tendency, and often makes an appearance.

Mosquito has performed at music festivals within the context of visual arts programmes – Biennale of Bordeaux (2009), Tate Modern (2012), Berardo Collection (2013) – whilst having a lively online presence, including an app, and a recently released album, Se Eu Fosse Angolano. Ikon presented DAILY LOVEMAKING, Nástio Mosquito’s first solo museum show from February –April 2015 in Birmingham

Previous group exhibitions include 9 Artists at Walker Art Center (2013); Politics of Representation, Tate Modern (2012); and the 29th São Paulo Biennial (2010).

FLORIAN STOLL

Florian Stoll holds a Magister in Philosophy and Sociology and received his PhD in 2011 from Albrecht-Ludwigs-University in Freiburg on “Forms of temporal habitus in Recive, Brasil. He teaches at the University of Bayreuth and since May 1st, 2013 he holds the Post-Doc position of the research Project Middle Classes on the Rise: Concepts of the Future among Freedom, Consumption, Tradition and Moral, which belongs to the Bayreuth Academy Project “FUTURE AFRICA – Visions in Time

He is also part ofthe transnational research group “Global Inequality, Social Classification and Existance” under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Boike Rehbein (Humboldt-Universität Berlin).

Some of his publications include:

Stoll, Florian 2012: Leben im Moment? Milieus in Brasilien und ihr Umgang mit Zeit. Frankfurt/Main; Campus.

Stoll, Florian; Leithäuser, Thomas (Herausgeber; 2014) Mirian Geldenberg (Autorin) (Hrsg.) 2014: Untreu. Konstanz; UVK.

SAM HOPKINS

Sam Hopkins is an artist whose work responds to the specific social and political context within which he is living, exploring and re-imagining elements of daily life. As his practice is triggered by a context, it exhibits a broad spectrum of both media and content. Much of his work orbits around issues of public space and the negotiation of participatory practice. Critical to this engagement is a keen attentiveness to the ways in which media produce realities, as opposed to simply transmitting them.
Sam grew up between Kenya and England and studied Art in England, Cuba and Germany, returning to Nairobi in 2006. He has participated in a broad spectrum of local and international exhibitions, is currently a PhD research candidate at the University of the Arts London (UAL) and works as a Kulturstiftung des Bundes Fellow at the Iwalewahaus Bayreuth. He was recently named one of the 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2014 by Foreign Policy (FP) Magazine.

Exhibitions and Festivals (Selection)

2014: Once Upon A Time, Makerere Art Gallery (UG)
          Dakar Biennale, Dakar (SEN)
2013: Mashup the Archive (curatorial), Iwalewa Haus, Bayreuth (GER)
          Africa, Uebersee Museum, Bremen (GER)
          Once Upon A Time, Goethe Institut Johannesburg (SA)
2012: Nairobi; A State of Mind, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz (A)
          Truth is Concrete; Steirischer Herbst, Graz (A)
          Dead Insects in my Parents Pool, Roots Contemporary, Brussels (BEL)
2011: Conversations in Silence, Goethe Institut Nairobi (KEN)
          Ueberlebenskunst, HKW, Berlin (GER)
          ‘Not in the Title’ (Solo Show), Iwalewa Haus, Bayreuth (GER)
          The Urban Culture of Global Prayers, NGBK, Berlin (GER)
2010: Afropolis,Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, Cologne (GER)
          Mwangalio Tofauti, Nairobi Museum (KEN)
          Qui Vive II Moscow International Biennale (RUS)
          Sketches (Solo Show), Goethe Institut Nairobi (KEN)
          Afropolis (Nairobi) Goethe Institut Nairobi (KEN)
          Stereotypes, Mombasa Law Courts (KEN)

MIDDLE CLASSES ON THE RISE

Concepts of the future among freedom, consumption, tradition and moral

In Europe, Asia, Latin America, as well as in Africa the middle class or the bourgeoisie played a key role in shaping the future of societies throughout social upheavals. The middle class brought future concepts forward, which informed major societal debates.
The crucial question which lies at the heart of the sub project (SP) related to the role of the middle class is: To what extent is the formulation of various concepts of the future tied back to a heterogeneous socio-cultural contexts of the African middle class?
Put more generally: In which social environment do future concepts arise and on which aspects do they have impact? The ethno-sociological sub project shall highlight the combination of various future concepts of middle classes, which can be a breeding ground for the development of future designs as well as in their practice result from the ideas associated with it. Kenya is a particularly suitable field for the study. Already in the 1950s a notable middle class was formed, which has grown in importance and size since then. The ethnological sub project works on the micro level and captures the consumption and leisure attitude of the new middle class. It focuses on the intergenerational negotiation process within selected families with a view to future concepts. The sociological sub project consists primarily of the meso level. It examines current future concepts and their reception as well as the interdependence of future concepts and patterns of living.

Description

The sub project focuses on social representations of future concepts and their contexts. The project will focus on current concepts of the future, their protagonists and addressees in the middle classes, the social environment, their genesis and their entanglement with current processes of social change. The core question of the project is: To what extent are various concepts of the future and a societal response to them tied back to heterogeneous socio-cultural contexts in which African middle classes act? More generally speaking: In which social environment do future concepts arise and in where do they unfold their impacts?

The middle class in Africa is on the one hand characterised by authors from development politics and by economist characterized according to their economic potential (Mubila et al 2011; McKinsey 2010; Shikwati 2007). On the other hand, in the debate on civil society the middle class is thought as genuine representative of a liberal-democratic model of society. Both of these views ignore socio-cultural differences within the middle class, which are expressed in very different plans for the future. Currently, there are at least the following types of future concepts to be found:

(A) Liberal-democratic ideas,

(B) The development discourse of development organizations,

(C) Pragmatic individual orientations towards career and consumption,

(D) Neo-traditionalist ideas with recourse to pre-colonial structures of authority, strong ethnic and family ties and indigenous land rights,

(E) Ideas which are heavily influenced by religious norms and which carry aspects of millenarian concepts of time and moral principles (including Pentecostal churches, Islamic movements i.a.),

(F) Notions of an upward mobility and security which are family-related and intergenerational.

Future concepts differ by manifold individual, familial and social aspects – i.e. social position being just one of them. Moreover they differ in terms of their range (concrete life plans such as professional career, political programs, ideas of afterlife), the possibility of shaping the future respectively ideas of predetermination of the future. Besides, future concepts differ as well in relation to the question in how far the conception of the future may serve as a model for the society as such or if it may merely be a matter of individual preference.

With the research, the interlinkage of various visions of the future and their specific social contexts shall be highlighted. Social contexts are here understood as social differentiations among the middle classes and can both be a breeding ground for the development of future concepts as well as a projection, and thus the consequence, of ideas on the future. The most common analysis of such processes of differentiation combines the investigation of socio-economic differences besides socio-cultural aspects which are represented in the lifestyles, respectively, milieus or patterns of conduct (e.g., Bourdieu 1979; Hartmann 1999; Hradil 1987). The application of such approaches on the African context requires further substantial conceptual developments. Firstly, patterns of life style vary. Secondly, indicators of socio-cultural differentiation which mainly apply in Europe, such as patterns of consumption and leisure, cannot simply be transferred to the African context. Thirdly, characteristics of socio-cultural differences (and thus the formulation of plans for the future and their reception) are significantly influenced by the experience of global networks (transnational education with stays abroad, the influence of diaspora groups, migrant labour). Consideration of these factors is an important contribution to the problem of generalizing and revising sociological theories as well as social anthropological concepts of social differentiation. These considerations can contribute to theory production in anthropology and to the improvement of systematic conceptions in sociology. By examining the role of transnational relations in the production of future concepts, the subproject offers new empirical material to mainly subject theoretically claimed globality and discarding of ideas for the future (Adam 2004, 16).

Some of the publications on the project include:

Dieter Neubert 2015: Die Fallen der „Rumsfeld Utopie“. Das widersprüchliche Verhältnis zwischen Mittelschichten, Zivilgesellschaft und Demokratie. . Festschrift für Reinhart Kößler. In: Hauck, Gerhard; Lenz, Ilse, Wehr, Ingrid; Wienold, Hanns (Hg.): Entwicklung, Gewalt, Gedächtnis. Münster: Westfälisches Dampfboot 2015, 128-141.

Antje Daniel & Dieter Neubert 2014:  Middle classes and political instability in Kenya. Civil society organizations during the post-election violence of 2007/2008. In: Dominique Darbon (eds.), Les classes moyennes en Afrique. Enjeux politiques d’une catégorie incertaine. Paris: Éditions Karthala, 155-184.

Dieter Neubert 2014: What is “Middle Class”? In Search of an Appropriate Concept. In: META, Middle East – Topics and Arguments, Heft 2 , S . 23-35.