Goerge Mahashe and Venessa Lorenzo: Interfacing New Heavens

Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria (Javett-UP), Pretoria , South Africa
21 Aug 2021 - 31 Mar 2022

Goerge Mahashe and Venessa Lorenzo: Interfacing New Heavens

Interfacing New Heavens is an artistic research and curatorial project that brings together two different positions that contemplate the entanglement of science, art and indigenous knowledge systems and their inquiry within the discursive terrain of astronomy.

The series of works by Vanessa Lorenzo and Tebogo George Mahashe reflect on the potentials of these interactions and their effect on our present. Put forward as a series of speculative gestures, Interfacing New Heavens and its public programme, Other Necessary Fictions Too… deliberates on these two diverse and composite approaches, which interrogate and tease out an interplay between artistic and scientific research. The works contend with the entanglement of bodies with landscapes — both celestial and topographical. The project broaches the possibility to think of and around questions of bodies, exo-bodies, life forms beyond the human, particles, matter, and their relationship to stellar horizons; extra-terrestrial matter; practices of astronomical observation (both ancestral and contemporaneous); as well as the space of dreaming as a site of research.

Working with sound, found object, and moving image, Vanessa Lorenzo constructs a non-linear narrative of future possibilities through an expanded technological exploration of space – both virtual and physical – and celestial objects. The project muses on the aesthetics and function of a bio-reactor that contains a meteorite purchased from public auction of certified extra-terrestrial matter. The installation A Hotspot for Xenodiversity assembles together a cache of interrelated scenarios that comprehend and/or re-imagine our relationship with ‘outer space; futurity; and the skies’. Lorenzo’s project is a potential blueprint, possible fragment and/or sketch, whereby the meteorites -imbued with a certain anthropomorphism- become actants of a speculative and unfamiliar futurity. The installation deploys the ambit of speculative design as a contact zone and space for encounter. Vanessa Lorenzo has realised the work in collaboration with Natalie Paneng and Martin Wilson.

Employing travelling and the space of the dreamscape as research methodology, Tebogo George Mahashe’s project Lebitla la Ngaka (kgoši) imagines the possibility of a different relationship with visuality, in particular, the space of image making. The artist is interested in a contemporaneous inquiry of the cosmos and its affective implications within our imaginaries. Utilising the history and ideas of the Maphungubwe collection of ritual objects and instruments as reference, the installation reflects on the development of indigenous knowledge systems’ understanding and exploration of astronomy. Mahashe interrogates the tenuous relationship between perspectives on technology in modern science and indigenous knowledge systems. The artist utilises the camera obscura to reflect on image making and practices of refusal within decolonial aesthetics. How might a focus on the camera obscura entail a different way within which we can think about images? Mahashe posits the idea of the camera obscura as a “possible metaphor and embodiment of the relationship of the senses.”

Interfacing New Heavens is a collaboration between the Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria ( Javett-UP) and the artists-in-labs program at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZhDK). The project is supported by Pro Helvetia Johannesburg and the Embassy of Switzerland in Pretoria. The exhibition and its public program is curated by Sinethemba Twalo (Javett-UP), Irene Hediger and Flurin Fischer (ZhDK).

Curators: Sinethemba Twalo (Javett-UP), Irene Hediger and Flurin Fischer (ZhDK).