Theme Time & Change
The following is an excerpt from an essay in Teaching Contemporary Art with Young People by Paulina Camacho Valencia.
“All that you touch you change.
All that you change changes you.
The only lasting truth is change.”
- Octavia Butler Parable of Sower
Butler’s words serve as a reminder that change is constant and naturally occurring. The idea of time and change can have dueling effects on adult and children, and the uncertainty and unpredictability of what change will bring over time can be a source of anxiety. What would happen if these anxieties were shifted and change was reframed not as something to fear but as an inevitable condition of time that is full of generative possibilities?
MACHO NNE 05 (WESTGATE)
2015 from the C-Stunners Series, ongoing
Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru repurposes recycled and found material to create intricate wearable sculptures. In his series C-Stunners (ongoing) Kabiru plays with the enhancement and obstruction of sight, and his artwork serves to reorient our senses by challenging not only how we see, but also what we pay attention to. The passage of time reveals erosion but also accumulation of discarded material, and Kabiru notes that his eyewear is meant to give trash a second chance. With this, we are invited to consider what other things can be imbued with new meaning if we turn our attention to what could be. Kabiru nods to the past while looking toward the future by transforming rubbish into sculptural forms that disrupt historically fixed understandings of African art and masks. These wearable sculptures allow us to experience a speculative future in the present moment.
Olalekan Jeyifous creates speculative urban landscapes and considers what cities might look like in the near future. Jeyifous notes that his work can be conceived as either utopian or dystopian depending on the position of the viewer.
In creating his digital illustrations from the Shanty Mega-structures (2015) series, Jeyifous takes into account the current environmental, economic, and political conditions that have and continue to shape urban design. Jeyifous integrates different types of dwellings and structures into the same depiction, which he inserts into existing empty lots targeted for development.
Jeyifous’ work centers marginalized communities by placing these communities in our line of sight and prompting us to question current urban development practices that tend to displace large numbers of marginalized people. Jeyifous also models sustainable urban planning and architectural practices. Jeyifous imagines a future that repurposes building materials and incorporates new construction to support existing communities and create multi-purpose spaces. Jeyifous offers architectural interventions that allow us to imagine the possibilities of urban landscapes that do not displace people or generate additional and excessive waste.
Wall of Skin
Erica Gressman utilizes performance art, sound, light, and technology in her work. In Wall of Skin (2016) Gressman appears before the audience fully dressed from head to toe in multiple layers of a white form-fitting fabric. This cyborgian figure or human with mechanical parts is attached to a wall that serves as the backdrop, with a thick cord extending from its back. Throughout the performance, the artist sheds layers of the fabric and uses her body and the resistance of the connecting cables to slowly demolish the wall and reveal rays of bright light.
A soundscape is created through a feedback loop between electronic light-sensitive instruments that respond to the movement of the artist and the light radiating behind the wall. Performance art lends itself to the play of time and change. Gressman’s piece literally changes over the duration of the performance. However, in spite of removing multiple layers of the costume, the figure, exhausted after the battle with its own skin and the wall, remains fully concealed. Gressman's performance transforms the setting. Her cyborgian form, the shedding of layers of fabric, the destruction of the wall, and the soundscape created throughout this process challenges the spectator to ponder the socio-political significance of skin.
Contemporary-art practices invite us to question and challenge our conceptualization of everything imaginable. Artists interrogate all aspects of life and society as sites of creative investigation.