What I am Reading Now…
As MADEYOULOOK we have been interested, for some years in the space of study, and the sharing of vital influences on our work. To this end, we include in our work, long lists of references and on our website, a page called Also Look At that points to work that informs ours in various ways. The texts below are from a recent reading group we hosted, within the framework of a series of exhibitions of our broader community of practice from across the majority world – on the theme of relationships to the land. The reading group was held in a park under a big tree and explored a range of conceptions of our relationships to plant life and the natural world. This is just a selection.
Plant Provocations by Narendran Kumarakulasingam and Mvuselelo Ngcoyahas deeply informed our thinking on Black relationships to other-than-human life. As MADEYOULOOK, our interest centres on their deep engagement with “the social relations of a subsistence cultivator challenging the confines of colonial temporality, revealing a creative mode of dissent structured around dreams, ancestral knowledge, and the commons.”
Zakiya Mckenzie tracks the complex intertwining of inherited colonialisms and relationships to plant life and the land in her Testimonies on the History of Jamaica. Her work also centres very distinctly on the lives of Jamaicans and their intimacy with the land in ways that go beyond the violence of colonial frameworks of nature and exploitation of the land.
Clapperton Chakanetsa‘s text tracks other forms of intimacy through the ways in which Chimurenga – the spiritual warfare for autonomy and also later for independence from colonialism – intersected with more-than-human life. Chakanetsa‘s work tracks interspecies relations in radical lifehood of Zimbabwean liberation histories and the deep knowledges of the land and its life, which soldiers garnered from ancestral relationship with their territory.
A Shoal of Lovers Leads me Home is a love story set in post-apocalyptic Ghana. It considers a future for the human race after a climatic disaster, and the interspecies possibilities that might save us. Working from the positionalities of Black queerness and the possibilities of otherness this affords, Ama Josephine Budge works in the traditions of feminist science fiction and African futures.
Mphathi “DJ Music Please” is an urban farmer based in Johannesburg, but he is also a DJ who plays music for the plants/ and an interspecies audience. He has a really special record collection, particularly of rare South African Jazz. We regularly collaborate with him, playing for the plants as part of our broader programming on thematics of land and its relationalities.
MADEYOULOOK is a Johannesburg based interdisciplinary artist collaborative between Molemo Moiloa and Nare Mokgotho. The works of MADEYOULOOK take as their point of departure everyday black practices that have either been historically overlooked or deemed inconsequential. These works encourage a re-observation of and de-familiarisation with the everyday of urban South African life. In reworking and interrupting how we view ordinary black lived experiences and the everyday, we are ‘made to re-look’ and question societal relations. Since 2009, the works of MADEYOULOOK have considered subjects such as models of memorialisation of histories and oral traditions, black love and urban public space, forms and hierarchies of knowledge creation and dissemination, and the socialities of land and relationships with plant life.
MADEYOULOOK engages different approaches focused primarily on intertextual installations, gatherings, discursive programmes, research and publishing. Although MADEYOULOOK’s practice is significantly directed towards a practice of socialities and relationalities outside of the gallery space, however these projects occasionally culminate in exhibitions. MADEYOULOOK has exhibited, published and hosted programmes in various forms, including with Njelele, Zimbabwe, Frac Pays de la Loire, France and KAdE, Netherlands, Primary, UK and various initiatives in South Africa. They were nominated for the MTN New Contemporaries prize in 2012, and the Vera List Centre Prize for Art and Politics at the New School, NY in 2017.
MADEYOULOOK will participate in Documenta 15 opening June 18th 2022.
Plant Provocations: Botanical Indigeneity and (De)colonial Imaginationsby Narendran Kumarakulasingam and Mvuselelo Ngcoya (Contexto Internacional vol. 38 (3), 2016)
Testimonies on the History of Jamaica Vol.1 by Zakiya Mckenzie (Rough Trade Books, 2021)