Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wrecking Ball Afternoons

Guy Tillim's "Avenue Patrice Lumumba" just left the Contemporary Art Center here in Cincinnati.  I went to the CAC Monday and got to see it, not even knowing it was there and it was the last night.  I am so glad I got to see the work.  The walls of photographs were an amazing experience.  Tillim's pictures have a poetry deeply embedded inside them, as if not only light, shadow and shapes got in through the lens, but an exhausted universe making its last claim on consciousness.  Ghosts of bureaucracy, ghosts of statues that have lost their meanings and their heads, ghosts of grand hotels resembling ship-wrecks far below the ocean...  Tillim's worldview reflects a need to make meaning out of what is left behind, and to find a moment in the lonely stillness of it all that allows you to recognize what has been lost and won't ever come back. 

This is from the CAC's website:

In his project Avenue Patrice Lumumba (2007–08), South African artist Guy Tillim (b. 1962) records the architecture and infrastructure of colonial and postcolonial Africa. Patrice Lumumba (1925–61) was one of the first elected African leaders in modern times. In 1960 he became the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo after his country won independence from Belgium. Only ten weeks after his speech at the independence celebrations, in which he listed various injustices and human rights violations implemented by the Belgians, Lumumba’s government was deposed in a coup. He was imprisoned, beaten, and murdered in circumstances suggesting the complicity of the governments of Belgium and the United States. Lumumba became revered as a liberator of independent Africa and his legacy has made a lasting impression in many cities throughout Africa. The streets and plazas that bear his name in western and southern Africa have come to represent both the idealism and decay of an African dream for unity.

That decay becomes a way of life, and in all the photographs you can see that evolution slowly losing its reason to evolve and yet there it all is, brick, concrete, steel and shade, vast boulevards and balconies haunted by emptiness.  You can't erase the world.  You can only watch it slowly try to erase itself.

And of course I thought about Raymond Thunder-Sky.  How his drawings depict that same sort of alienation, that same sense that everything goes away and stays at the same time.  Especially in his drawings of interiors, Raymond seems intent on finding that exact moment when you feel both lonely and yet also past loneliness:  the room becomes what you are feeling, and you lose a sense of yourself. 

Then you disappear.