Sandra Mujinga, Midnight, 2020. Courtesy the artist, Croy Nielsen, Vienna and The Approach, London.
Fajemisin: The topics you’ll be dealing with in this show. Visibility, invisibility, absence. It made me think about how people describe “black,” as a colour. As an “absence” of colour, an “absence” of light.
Mujinga: And it’s the opposite.
Fajemisin: Yes, I agree! I think I’m very light, and colourful. When we talk about Blackness in art, and literature, and everything, how do you relate to the definition of Blackness as being an “absence of”?
Mujinga: It’s what I’m trying to deal with through my work. Black is the combination of all colours, but the duality which interests me is that between that what we just said, Black being everything, but also representing emptiness. It’s why I’ve been working with a lot of green screen recently. I’ve worked with green screen for a long time, and it’s “black” for me.
Fajemisin: It’s your starting point.
Mujinga: Yeah! In my videos, when you see a black background, it’s green screen. It allows me to host ideas and alternative spaces. Green is ultimately Black. Especially in my recent work, I’ve been dealing heavily with Blackness in relation to melanin and colourism, and thinking through this in relation to the sun. How I grew up with family members telling me “you must hide from the sun” as not to become darker. You become very aware of how the sun is continually changing, because the skin of the earth, which protects the earth gets thinner…it’s interesting to then draw it all together. The sun being a brutal God…
Fajemisin: Is that what led you to think of visibility and invisibility in terms of survival mechanisms? As a means of protecting oneself?
Mujinga: I’m always going back and forth. Visibility, for me, it relates better to my enormous interest in representation, performance, and theatre…
Fajemisin: …being hypervisible?
Mujinga: Hypervisible. People say we’re doing great, okay, just because there are darker-skinned supermodels, Black people speaking on panels…it’s a showcase. It goes back to what we were talking about earlier, what are these spaces we’re being invited into? How free are we? I started thinking, what if it does the opposite? I’m super aware of going to exhibitions, being photographed.
Mujinga: Even though I’m talking about hiding, disappearance, I’m very much aware of this label. Having to represent something, visibly; being visible in a such a way so that you can disappear! Like what Hito Steyerl was saying, having fifteen minutes of not being visible.
Fajemisin: Does this play into your interests in science fiction, elephants, people deciding that they want to be nocturnal?
Mujinga: It comes into my science fiction, yes. It gives me the space to say, “this person is a jellyfish…but also has the skin of an elephant, sometimes.” Borrowing traits from other species.
Fajemisin: Moving away from anthropocentrism.
Fajemisin: Moving away from human expectation?
Mujinga: Yes. I like the unexpected. There’s something powerful about how we can never really fully understand them. There’s a shift. In regards to representational politics, it’s never only about being “visible” or “representative” of something. There’s already an expectation of the Black body, so it’s more interesting when you meet people who are just…changing.
Excerpt from an interview by Olamiju Fajemisin with Sandra Mujinga, “There’s Nothing Black About This,” for a book published on the occasion of the exhibition SONW – Shadow of New Worlds at Bergen Kunsthall (November 22, 2019–January 19, 2020) and Midnight at Vleeshal (March 29, 2020–June 14, 2020). It will be released in April 2020. The exhibition at Vleeshal is an adapted version of Mujinga’s exhibition at Bergen.
Sandra Mujinga (b. 1989, Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo) is a Norwegian artist and musician who lives and works in Oslo and Berlin.