Discussing Aesthetics in The Trans-African Project

Posted: January 25, 2013 at 5:46 am by

by Emeka Okereke

Reality can be synthesized

I am sitting in a moderately furnished apartment, in the living room precisely. There is a flower vase right before me, on top of my desk – with flowers, yes. Only that these flowers are synthetic and not the real thing. It got me reflecting…

The extent to which reality could easily be synthesized in a bid to approach or reproach its inherent substance…

For more than 20 days, I have been on the road, together with eight other participants; we are artists – photographers, writers, filmmakers and even one who simply calls himself a visual artist.  The project is called Invisible Borders, and as the name seems to imply, it is all about rendering the Visible Borders invisible, flattening it, blurring it, but in actuality, the experiences gathered after three years and three editions of the trip, suggests that the name of the project could be seen at most as encompassing different layers and aspects, or at worst, a very vague term.

Here we are travelling through borders by road from one African country to the other, starting from Lagos. We are stuck in our van, with our van, a box in every sense of the word. A box that seems pleasant to be in for the first-timers of the trip especially during the first few days but becomes something to escape from towards the middle and end of the trip, a van which dangles between extreme poles of being an asset and yet a massive liability.

I am forced to evaluate our position in all of this especially, when seen in the context that social-political membranes could be pierced through artistic interventions. In order words, art can become a tangible social intervention.

That brings me back to the flower vase standing before me now. And even though this vase is made of real glass, it carries a synthetic flower, a replica that by the intention of whoever placed it here should offer the same beauty, pleasure or whatever as the real flower. Well, perhaps it could, or at most suggest it. It of course can never be mistaken for the real thing, but its performative value can never be neglected either. It is an intervention in reality that could spark an argument, or sensitize one to a certain consciousness. This flower might not offer me the beauty of a real flower, but it might propel me to want to want to know the real flower, in this case, it (the flower) is not as synthetic as it comes off, especially by the virtue its metaphorical values.

I like to see things this way, the non-materiality of reality. The real is not in the substance but in the energy, which assembles the substances into existence. To that effect, our travel across border is beyond the physical act, no matter how sensational an adventure can sound or be. What strikes as most impressionable is the performative value of this journey. We are a fiction, in other people’s reality. No matter what we do, we will always be a pretense of that reality when seen from the point of view of those whose everyday existence we interfere or intersect with. But have we not by this intersection created a version of reality both for ourselves and for the others, a sort of a third dimension but something much more remarkable to both parties respectively?

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