I went to Afrikaburn festival 2014.
It’s a festival like Burningman in the desert (the beautiful Karoo).
See www.afrikaburn.com .
The only knowledge I had of the festival before going was a flash of what was shown on the Afrikaans news a few years earlier..
Needless to say the image of a burning sculpture I saw that night (almost 8 years ago) often flashed in my head.
I never really thought of going- but wondered about that image on more than a few occasions.
To be specific, I remember psychedelic shapes and purple together with a wooden sculpture of a stick figure, flames and people yelling.
So last year I happened to be in a circle of friends that attend this event annually, and I decided to go see for myself.
I love the Karoo, and was beyond excited that the event was held on this landscape.
I was quite amused (and somewhat annoyed) by the prep that was required for this event.
The people I was going with held meetings, collected materials for their camp, stressed the importance of a decorated bicycle and much more, months before the event.
I could not understand how people allowed a festival to take up so much of their time..
Under pressure I even succumbed and bought myself a bicycle- not any bicycle- it had to be a vintage one- so I bought one.. (and it matches a friends- who also bought one.)
Our Bicycles before
Now we had to start stripping the bicycles- re spraying them and then assembling them (till the very stressful night before the event.)
Our Bicycles after stripping and spraying..(photo taken after the festival..there was no time before ):
Because I believe it’s all in the detail and I am a pretty insistent person, my bicycle friend, studio partner, videographer, bike (motorbike) customiser and creative mastermind Mike surprised me with these little matching details #manofmanytalents. Thanks Mike!:
Did I mention we had to take our own drinking water-shower water-own shower and everything iN in between..there is no electricity at this place..
Needless to say, I loved it all so much I decided to use the opportunity to build an artwork for the 2015 festival.
The Artwork I am doing (with the help of an amazing team) is a 102 meter Installation titled after Rihanna/Eminem’s pop song: ‘’Love the way you lie’’.
The Artwork consists of massive four metre letters spelling out the chorus lyrics to the song: ‘’ARE YOU JUST GONA STAND HERE AND WATCH ME BURN?’’
There are two videos and two songs named ”Love The Way You Lie”.
The first is ”Love The Way You Lie” (Part 1), by Eminem ft. Rihanna.
The second ”Love The Way You Lie” (Part 2) is by Rihanna ft. Eminem.
Eminem and Rihanna obviously did this intentionally.
The song ”Love The Way You Lie” is about a bad relationship.
The songs independently focus’ on the relationship in (Part 1) from a male perspective and in (Part 2) from a female perspective. (Therefore stereotyping male/female emotion etc. within a relationship.)
This is interesting to me as I was going through a sad separation at the time of the event whilst conceptualising this artwork.
Gender roles were often on my mind during this time.
I have also always been interested around issues of Identity including gender and gender roles. I like to challenge the stereotypes around gender within my own art.
I will blog about this later on under: Name Change.. (please keep following my blog)
Therefore if my relationship was portrayed in this song and we were the artists the title might have read: Richard ft. Roelien (Part 1), Roelien ft. Richard (Part 2).
I will from here on speak of Rihanna’s song as she is the one who sings the lyrics that make up my artwork.
I realise I will sound way more gangster speaking of Eminem’s song (another stereotype), but I will accept and deal with sounding zero gangster.
We had an initial idea to make the letters from plywood, this turned out very expensive, and in the spirit of the artwork I thought re thinking the materials and considering waist materials could be greatly beneficial.
We have decided to go with wooden pallets.
A (what was) a small stack of pallets in my lounge!
Fetching our first few pallets with my car just did not work as it only fits 4 max!- Way too slow! So I got me some help from super nice recycling guys..
Fetching more pallets:
Building the first letter
Afrikaburn 2014 proved to me that this festival creates a great platform to create art on.
It has to me nothing to do with the psychedelic images that flashes in my head ever since seeing the Afrikaans news clip 8 years ago.
I felt an immediate connection to the landscape.
Due to the nature of my visits to the Karoo before I have always experienced the beauty of the landscape from a quiet, private almost exclusively natural experience.
This time there was people, art, music a lot of creativity and more life and colour I could have imagined in this beautiful dry and rugged landscape.
In an almost surreal way I felt like I was living in two worlds at once. Placed together, but separating itself from one another through my humanity.
I became aware of my need for freedom through creative expression. A feeling of freedom I got from distancing myself from ‘man made’ things like everything from electricity to conventional fashion was quite overwhelming.
It all made me aware of the impact and influence we have on our environment and surroundings and vice versa.
How we consume, how we use our environment to live out our creative selves etc. all made me more aware of humans have become further removed from nature, and how pop culture has become the new mainstream.
How the new mainstream has become chaotic. War and terror prevailing.
How one world influence the next.
How one being influence the next.
How man and nature influence and draw from one another.
This all became more apparent.
I watched some incredible artworks on an even more incredible landscape burn to ashes.
This was both incredibly beautiful and at the same time intensely tragic to me.
I became aware of how people get excited by the destruction of something.
How there is beauty in something returning to nothingness (death).
It became important how this landscape was reclaiming to be only a desert again as the artworks one by one burnt to the ground.
As people watched these artworks burning away one after the other, I felt a sense of ‘sadness’ almost a sense of ‘loss’.
It was as if we all knew we have to return to our ‘other’ lives as the artworks got less and less.
Our lives away from being ‘free’ and close to nature.
A return to ‘pop culture’ was approaching as the festival days went by and the artworks burnt.
It all made me wonder if I was the only one realising this, facing this reality. It made me wonder if people took this landscape (nature) for granted.
I felt like asking every person there if they knew every burning artwork was a reminder of our primitive selves (our roots).
I think through my artwork I want to challenge the viewer.
I am asking through Rihanna’s iconic pop culture lyrics: ‘’ARE YOU JUST GONNA STAND THERE AND WATCH ME BURN’’ whether the viewer will acknowledge nature’s calming role.
Rihanna’s song was written by one lover to another.
She (the writer) challenges her partner when things turn bad in their relationship. She asks him if he is going to realise what they had- see her pain and turn a blind eye and watch her ‘burn’. Or is he going to realise her pain and cry for help and extinguish the flames.
I am asking the viewer exactly that.
Are you going to lie to yourself and turn a blind eye to the destruction around you.. The wars, the terror, poverty etc..
I think the need for the viewer to realise the importance of this natural world, is further enhanced by using elements we are exposed to at the festival.
The artwork on the horizon will provide us with a platform to view the sunset from, whilst providing us with shade when it is very hot.
At night time I hope to have flood lights to light up the artwork, to mimic how the Hollywoon sign is lit up. Please see how my work draws inspiration and meaning from the Hollywood sign here: http://thisisroeyourboat.blogspot.com/2015/03/love-way-you-lie-2-hollywood-lies.html
We have removed ourselves from this natural peaceful world.
The result is devastation.
I want to emphasise the difference in the world we have created and the natural world. I want to make the viewer aware of his/her need for warmth, shelter etc; and at the same time experience the beauty of nature (the sunset-the platform- the landscape).
I truly believe only by working together can man and nature achieve harmony.
I said in the paragraph above ”I am hoping to have flames…” as things with such big artworks change.
My art is often experimental and the process of making is integral to the piece being created.
The fact that I have had to rethink the materials used is an example of this.
The hand cut pallets suit the concept of the artwork much better.
The pre laser cut sheets of plywood would have been much less suited I think.
This is a rugged, dry and harsh landscape, and the work, transporting, cutting and assembling these letters from pallets relate to this landscape for me in a much more suited way when using pallets.
It is almost as if the landscape (nature) is trying to own this man made structure that is going to be placed on it. Even before it is erected! (Demanding I change my little plans already).
I have learnt to accept that only that much control can be maintained when creating an artwork.. Changes in the form of challenges happen- all the time.. These challenges that present themselves in the creation process is what fuels me to create more.
Therefore if you are attending Afrikaburn 2015 this year you will see an artwork similar to what I have explained here. Hopefully better- as I often find the management of to these challenges change the artwork for the better.
On a personal level:
In my own life at the time of formulating this artwork, apart from going through a separation, there was another incident in my own life that related me to Rihanna’s lyrics on this landscape.
As for the two worlds being juxtaposed- I had a similar experience with the birth of my son almost 3 years ago. Doctors, nurses a hospital and a hospital bed was placed parallel with the very natural almost primal state I found myself in.
Again I saw these experiences in my own life as an opportunity to learn- nothing bad. I won’t have had it any different. It serves as a reminder of my primal, female being- my and every human’s connection with what is natural and peaceful.
My art in many ways own me,
I in return promise to always try own my art.
I will keep doing this in the hope of keeping an ever evolving tension between my life and my work.