Dreams as R-evolution is a site specific, multimedia installation that encompasses sculptural forms, drawings, paintings, photographs and costume. Engaging with the ideas of conditioning, evolution and revolution, the artist, Coral Bijoux, invites us to participate in a conversation about our ability to transform ourselves and our environments (knowing from what we must transform), and daring us to reimagine ideas of self, space, authority/power and innocence: the four core narrative elements of the installation. ‘Is there any other way for us to be human?’ she asks.
Plastic collected from industrial and household bins and dumpsites is the predominant material here: single-use, builders’ and packaging materials, and discarded plastic-based objects. The installation, however, is not about recycling or the idea that we can reverse human impact by recycling our behaviours. Plastic, as a metaphor, is used to reflect on humanity: our practices, habits and values. Plant life engages the relationship between organic and inorganic materials, and is a critical knowledge system that speaks of place and acts on space, as much as it is acted on by the context. The ‘self’ is central too: it is the protagonist who attempts to r-evolutionise the self, in a particular space. All these elements merge in the installation to signal transformative potential.
The installation, then, is offered as a provocation, a space for imagining the world differently, and is an act of self-actualisation.
The Dreams as R-evolution installation was conceived in 2018 and developed over a nine-month period (2019–2020) in a neglected plant nursery at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) Westville Campus, bordering Palmiet Nature Reserve. This was after many doors were closed to Bijoux as she sought out the appropriate place for this work to evolve. The nursery space teemed with life: insects, birds, snakes, lizards, meerkats, monkeys, plants, sky, wind, sun, rain and people on the university campus. In this ‘unnatural’-natural open-air space, the artist had to observe, listen and create, even if thwarted by the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions. Over the months, the disused nursery evolved into a dreamscape where the artist mused about the dreams that were ‘klapped out of her’ from an early age. Lionel Davis, artist and struggle veteran, commented about the installation at the nursery: ‘This journey of joyous fantasy that you have created … you transformed this neglected wilderness strewn with rubbish into a playground for young and old. We are all victims of conformity, shackled for too long to what others have decided we should be.’
The Dreams as R-evolution installation has found a new environment at the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town. Of this space, Bijoux says, ‘I am conscious of the effects of Dreams as R-evolution within this formal structure – in one of South Africa’s older colonial buildings (about 150 years) – the land on which the gallery sits belongs to us all and as such we will engage this space as ours, offering new meanings to it. In “greening the gallery”, I engage the historical countenance by muralling the walls, inserting icons, symbols and words that evoke the past in the present.’
Drawing attention to conversations (and boundaries) about art and environment, between ‘indoors’ and ‘outdoors’, the installation explores contemporary art-making practices and ways of exhibition making. It is a prompt to ask pertinent questions about place and land, about valued knowledge systems, about behaviour and practices, about the place of the human.
For more information on the installation at ISANG or to book group dream workshops, contact Ingrid Masondo, Iziko Curator of Photography and New Media, on +27 (0)21 481 3956 or at email@example.com.
About the Artbook:
Dreams as R-evolution (at UKZN campus) was observed over a period by writers, poets, musicians and members of the Social Science, Arts and Life Science faculties at UKZN, who were invited to produce a 365-word creative contribution for the Dreams as R-evolution artbook. The artbook, edited by Ashraf Jamal, includes contributions by André Croucamp, Coral Bijoux, Diana Ferrus, Himansu Baijnath, Malika Ndlovu, Pralini Naidoo, Roger Jardine, Salim Washington and UBIZO (band), Sven Christian, Tracy-Lee Easthorpe and Usha Seejarim. Copies are available for order via Print Matters at https://www.printmatters.co.za/ or directly from the artist.
About the Artist:
The Dreams as R-evolution installation and artbook were made possible by the generous support of the National Arts Council (NAC), the Human Elephant Foundation, the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) and interested individuals. Selected plants at ISANG have been donated and cared for by Dr Yvette Abrahams, permaculturist, farmer and founder of KhoeLife.