In the Domain of the Temporal Being
In a raging, hostile universe seemingly devoid of life, at exactly the right distance from the sun, spins a fertile cerulean orb. Just a minute dot in the midst of all things, this is a place abounding in complex living systems and a multitude of ever-evolving spaces. It is a place governed by the passing of time; one of birth, growth and development, but also one of impermanence, decline and decay. It is here that the Temporal Being prevails, his kind having conquered and dominated this world centuries before he was conceived.
A powerful brain and tenacious spirit together with a deep understanding of science and the ability to develop extraordinary technology has allowed him to fathom and reshape all corners of his domain. But his remarkable brain has also equipped him with an inquisitive mind that is not only quick to learn but which also constantly questions the world around it. Over the years he begins to wonder why things are the way they are. Though he has learnt to manipulate much of his life, there are certain things beyond his control. He will grow strong and healthy, but he will also suffer sickness and adversity. He will learn to thrive, but he will also endure great losses. Arguably the greatest confrontation he must face is the realisation of his own mortality. He is constantly running out of time, and being of flesh and blood, as sure as he is born, he too will someday cease to be.
Overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness and despair, the Temporal Being asks himself the question of all questions: “Why am I here?”
Who is this curious presence in the middle of infinite space that contemplates the absurdity of his own existence? Who is this mortal who calls himself “man”?
The endeavour to understand why we are here and what our place is in the universe is nothing new to mankind and is something that will continue to perplex us for many years to come. For this reason there is a deliberate attempt in my images to bridge the past and the future. Modern, abstract elements can be seen side by side primal or primitive aspects, typical of the duality that permeates much of my work. The primal facet also represents a longing in me for the past; a desire to return to a pure untainted state. Through a process of abstraction I aim to remove man from his usual cultural, racial, socio-economic and historical context. In doing this, man is reduced to his essential self; free from any bias or preconception the viewer might have due to any demographic factors. However, my work admittedly often gravitates towards the African aesthetic and the beauty of the continent where I was born.
Coming from South Africa, a country in which skin colour and race have so radically determined how people have been perceived, preconceived and treated by others has caused me to become fascinated with the relation between one’s outer appearance and how one is regarded and ultimately judged by others. By transforming the visual properties of human skin, I am able to affect the way in which it is seen and felt. My interest lies in ascertaining to what degree this new outer shell can alter the way in which the figures portrayed are perceived and what this may suggest about what lies beneath the surface.
Man as I present him is of no tribe, is of all tribes; he is everyone and no one in particular. He is portrayed in the form of an anonymous “male” figure that cannot be considered an individual. He is instead a vessel that serves to communicate my emotional and philosophical response to the world around me. He represents the strength and resilience I believe typifies mankind but also the powerlessness to change the human condition in which we find ourselves.
In his quest to understand the meaning of his own existence, man’s relationship with others and society as a whole must be considered. Though our planet is overpopulated and we are certainly never alone, the space that exists between us can seem infinite, and moments in which we truly and deeply connect with others are limited. There is a constant effort made to be understood by and to understand those around us, and misunderstandings often result in conflict. Conformity is a means of avoiding contention and is a defining element in any human social structure. Society pressures us to adjust to its own predetermined norms, and being different or going against what is socially acceptable can come at a great cost.
The question Where do I as an individual end and where does the group begin? inspires much of my work. How much of what I think comes from my own convictions and how much is culturally and socially predetermined? Knowing what truly comes from myself is surely the first step towards recognizing my own individuality and perhaps the beginning of becoming an authentic human being. How do I find a way of making choices of my own accord and not because of what society dictates or expects, and yet do this in a responsible and ethical manner that doesn’t harm others?
As the group increases in size, the individual becomes less visible. Eventually as the group swells and becomes the masses, it takes on a character of its own and begins to resemble an independent organism. What is man’s relationship to this imposing presence and what power does it have over him? To what extent can he operate independently of it, and to what extent does he become its slave? Just as the masses assumes a mind of its own, similar dynamics can be seen in large institutions where the shared interests and mindset of the group take precedence over those of individual members. The human being as a separate entity becomes a small cog in a larger machine, and there is more emphasis on exploitability and performance than on personal freedom of choice and individual wellbeing.
A common theme seen throughout my work, which is related to the masses and which ultimately cannot exist without it, is that of anonymity. The act of remaining anonymous offers a way of belonging to the masses without attracting attention; a way of blending in while still operating in the way one desires. Living in an age of surveillance and suspicion, the concept of anonymity becomes a complex one. The word often conjures images of clandestine and subversive activities in which perpetrators remain unidentifiable and untraceable, a perception often amplified by the media and government institutions. Safeguarding ones anonymity is, however, also a means of maintaining certain values such as privacy, freedom and self-protection. This is particularly relevant considering the modern technological age in which we live and the growing number of digital spaces that man needs to safely navigate.
The aesthetics of my work reflects the digital era in which it is made, an era that has presented man with unfamiliar domains which he explores, inhabits, populates and in which he develops and grows. I aim to create a visual language reflective of the digital landscapes that we have come to accept as our new reality. Computers, smartphones, the internet, online games and social media are all examples of technologies which have created spaces which do not exist in nature, but in which man spends a great deal of his time. This phenomenon has a huge impact on human existence, one in which man moves further and further away from the natural world towards a synthetic reality.
In a time where we have become so divided along social, economic, religious and cultural lines, it is sometimes difficult to see other human beings for what they truly are, free from any prejudice. My work aspires to break through these barriers, attempting to capture the essence of what it means and how it feels to be human, free of any preconceived notion or stereotype. The existential quest is a universal one and applies to all of us, regardless of our individual backgrounds. As the world’s population explodes, considering the significance of our existence, as individuals and as a species, has become more relevant than ever. The meaning we choose to ascribe to our lives impacts the way we view and behave towards ourselves, our environment and other human beings. The realisation and acceptance of our mortality allows us to truly appreciate the value of the limited time we have on this planet and to recognise the importance of determining how we spend it. Certain aspects of the human condition will always remain beyond our control, but as long as our species endures we have the power to decide how to treat our fellow man.