Bogosi Sekhukhuni is a young Johannesburg-based artist who describes himself as “a product of the rainbow nation”. His work engages this notion and all the permutations of personal and national identity associated with it. Another key component of Sekhukhuni’s work is the Web 2.0, which is a defining aspect of his generation.
The Web 2.0 is characterised by interactivity, allowing “users to collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators of user-generated content in a virtual community” (Wikipedia). This term was coined in 1999 by Darcy DiNucci, who described the Web 2.0 as a “transport mechanism, the ether through which interactivity happens”. This was the birth of blogging and the fundamental shift from static to constantly evolving user-generated content. Sekhukhuni grew up in this virtual world of Mxit, Myspace, Facebook and Tumblr in which identity is fluid, constantly changing and being reshaped.
“I feel like post-1976, Mxit was the most important liberation force for South African urban kids,” he says. “We really explored our curiosities about sexuality, race and love.”
Sekhukhuni calls the internet telepathy, and explores the conceptual parameters of this in his art, particularly in relation to notions of personal and national identity formation, negotiation and fantasy.
Dreaming up reality
Earlier in 2014 Sekhukhuni worked on a drawing project to teleport and upload himself on to the internet using his DNA. The project was, in fact, a speculative conversation about what could come to represent one’s self and how this might affect who we understand ourselves to be. Cyberspace challenges the perimeters of identity and provides a space for new identities to be explored and created.
“All over the world kids are talking to each other and recognising affinities and celebrating that. It’s an amazing time for history and we’re going to create special things,” Sekhukhuni says.
In his work, he references internet aesthetics directly, where the real and the constructed become interchangeable. Unfrozen: Rainbowcore, on at Whatiftheworld in Cape Town, is a video and sound installation that is the culmination of his Dream Diaries project. The videos embed the viewer in this cyber-real, waking dreamworld, which Sekhukhuni presents as a response to the post-rainbow nation, the faux-plush environment of the dream deferred, or “rainbowcore” as he calls it.
“Self-reflection is such an amazing strategy to answer questions about one’s future,” Sekhukhuni explains. “Because of its visual nature, art can become an effective channel for a self-reflection that becomes communal.”
Within this context, the Dream Diaries are “primarily conversations that I have with myself about the nature of consciousness and a collective consciousness”, which “act as a carrier for a personal investigation into a national consciousness, with a particular focus on a period of interest for me; South Africa in the mid to late Nineties”.
“I’m enjoying the increasingly real bonds between our internet experiences and our dreams/thoughts,” Sekhukhuni says.
Both of these states exist in a virtual space and, as such, are only able to exist if they are consciously constructed. This dreaming into being of personal and national identities is the subject of these videos and much of Sekhukhuni’s other work. It reflects on and responds to “the almost senseless euphoria and brief state of bliss experienced by South Africans in the Nineties,” he says, which is tied closely to his own dreams.
Unfrozen: Rainbowcore is on at Whatiftheworld Gallery in Woodstock, Cape Town, until January?24 2015.
•?This article is adapted from an interview with the artist that appeared first on the creative showcase site Between 10and5.