Performing magic in visual conversation

TEXT Miguel E. Keerveld, Curator-in-Residence for the project ALAKONDRE: A space in time in collaboration with Readytex Art Gallery (RAG).

Complexity isn’t just a 21st century thing. The entanglement of culture and nature within human has always been complex. Where ‘modern’ people may experience life as biological, ‘primitive’ people acknowledged life in conversation beyond bodies. I think they understood correlations such as biological-spiritual and geological-cosmological, in which notions of knowing and unknowing are in both art and technology. To what extent is postmodernity willing to find life beyond chemical reactions, and acknowledge alchemical forms of life? In pursuit of an earth-based desire that I refer to as deeep blue, I am in conversation with artists from Readytex Art Gallery (RAG). I sense existence beyond the body because “spirituality is the ability to interpret and integrate meaning and life through non-sensory events and experiences occurring with the aid of intuition in harmonious collaboration with other dimensions” (Maesen van der, 2010).

A desire that drives man to seek something beyond his pain, anxiety, and sorrow is magic. What we describe as magic is something nameless and beyond alleged quality and time (Neslo, 1998). In exploring alakondre, Alida Neslo argues: “while moving from the comfort zone to new context, you can meet or bring about remarkable things due to astonishment, almost in a religious sense”, considering her use of the word religious in etymological sense. Re-ligare: to reconnect and recreate possibilities. She knows that this effort requires to learn each other’s vocabulary, and uses one of her students’ quotes: “You don’t have to feel admiration for the religion or political point of view of another person, not even appreciation; only understanding is necessary to get down to business. That is simply the only way to go in a free society where EVERYONE has equal rights.”

Impression of the selected artworks staged for the booth of Readytex Art Gallery’s participation in the Atlantic World Art Fair 2022

In the pursuit of naming our artistic desires, at RAG we refer to alakondre-fasi. Alakondre, consisting of natural and cultural phenomena, is not translatable; fasi is lingua franca in Suriname for method. This all-inclusive space “borrows from Native American shamanism, Hindu, and other traditions with many incorporating Kabbalistic practices, chakras etc”. In this plurality of beliefs “we see ourselves, in part, as Gods and Goddesses” (Oringderff & Schaefer, 2001). Even though alakondre originates from winti (a hybrid belief in Suriname based on African, Native American, and European systems), we specifically focus on alakondre beyond winti because we rather perform it as art-place relation in a ‘socio-natural collective’ context (Cadena, M. de la, 2015): a network that includes mankind and beyond.

How anthropology uses time, it constitutes its own object –the savage, the primitive, The Other. But there is no knowledge of uses of The Other, which are also temporal, historical, and political. The anthropological use of time recounts a story whose conclusion is open-ended, contrary, and oppressive. Different degrees of this universalization of time are achieved in the Renaissance. But “universal appears to have two connotations”: totality and generality. In totality, “universal designates the whole world at all times”, and generality is “that which is applicable to many instances” (Fabian, 2014). Does the ambiguous alakondre consist of both connotations of ‘universal time’? In alakondre, we do not understand ‘universal time’ since it relates to the Enlightenment genre of ‘Philosophical History’ (Fabian, 2014). Our focus of time relates to mamio, quilting in Suriname, as ahistorical space and it conjures a capability that allows material, object, and meaning to exist beyond the canon of art history. We experience spatialization of Other in alakondre; a technology for futuristic political practice.

As Caribbean people, we are civic nationalists in an unterritorial ‘place’: a space in which all are Others. Where The Other in European imagination pressures to choose either liberalism or nationalism, in the Caribbean we are both at the same time. Opposite to this agency, the European agent e.g., is fixed with ‘race nationalist’ fantasies (Harari, 2021). To perform citizenship beyond this agent we encounter each other all as An Other and as ‘art of seduction’, because “alakondre is not ‘the holy place’ that brings about miracles, but the ‘journey towards it’” (Neslo, 1998). Our understanding of Other is beyond anthropology, since anthropology has failed to come to a clearly defined Other (Fabian, 2014). Therefore, the project ALAKONDRE: A Space in Time aims at conversations that intersect the human and the other-than-human.

Other-than-human beings, such as earth-beings, are diverse. In the Andes these entities are known as apu. They participate in the lives of those who call themselves runakanu, people (usually monolingual Quechua speakers) who actively partake in modern institutions that cannot know, let alone recognize, tirakanu (a composite noun made of tierra, the Spanish word for ‘earth’, and pluralized with the Quechua suffix kuna) and apukuna –the plural of apu (Cadena de la, 2015). I also find other-than-human beings in nation-states, corporations, artificial intelligence, and artworks among others. Wondering if these manmade ‘bodies’ could function as spatiality to house entities, I requested artists participating in the Atlantic World Art Fair 2022 (AWAF-22) for RAG to have a conversation with their artistic intention framed as An Other; in fact, to name something that is nameless. I also think of wicca for this process.

As earth-based religion, wicca is a Neo-Pagan mystery: ‘Witchcraft’ (magic). The modern interpretation of this ancient tribal concept of Northern Europe is based on remnants of an earlier religion before the takeover of Christianity. Wicca’s Latin roots refer to ‘wise one’ or ‘wisdom’ and its German roots mean ‘to bend’, ‘change’ or ‘alter’; it implies creating change by wise people, in our lives and in the universe. “Wiccans see the Devine Reality as at once a unity of masculine and feminine entities that define a transcendental Divinity and as polar masculine and feminine aspects that define all things and all phenomena and can be experienced immanently” (Oringderff & Schaefer, 2001). In a similar manner, I feel that apu and alakondre are desires within earth’s auric space. For earth’s auric space, I refer to deeep blue and I acknowledge this ecology as intersection of anthropology, geology/biology, and cosmology.

For AWAF-22, we pursue conversations within the context of deeep blue. Therefore, artists from RAG are welcoming a diverse ecology of Others. These Others are: My Alter-ego on A Journey, Nighttime Glory, Charles, Re-manifestation of Code Noir, Our Environment, My Grandmother, Suriname, Untold Immigrant Stories, Another Identity, The Canvas, The Moon, The Surinamese Women, Ancestor Honoring, My Unity in Diversity, and Capitalist Industrialization Rooted in Colonization.

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Sources:

  • Maesen, R. van der, Terugkeer van de ziel; naar een vierdimensionaal mensbeeld
  • Neslo, A., Alakondre: A journey to the Invisible
  • Oringderff, D. & Schaefer, R., Spiritual Philosophy and Practice of Wicca in the U.S. Military
  • Cadena, M. de la, Earth Beings: ecologies of practices across Andean Worlds
  • Fabian, J., Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes its Object
  • Harari, Y., The War in Ukraine & the Future of the World

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This publication was made possible in part by a grant from the Dr. Silvia W. de Groot Fund.

Read more about the Dr. Silvia W. de Groot Fund here (only in Dutch).

Read more about Dr. Silvia W. de Groot here (only in Dutch).

Miguel E. Keerveld (Suriname, 1982) works in conjunction with the brand EdKe and the performance persona Tumpi Flow. Educated in civil technical engineering, ‘he’ operates with focus on visual language and creative writing. As a hybrid-intuitive concept, ‘she’ performs political interventions related to social practice. As researcher ‘it’ is focused on activating performative politics and manifesting rituals, both related to creative counseling and civic engineering of a cyborg feminist project.

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PHOTOS Courtesy Readytex Art Gallery (RAG)

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Readytex Art Gallery (RAG) participates again this year in the online Atlantic World Art Fair. Under the guidance of Lisa Howie from Black Pony Gallery in Bermuda, and with the support of lead sponsor Butterfield, AWAF-22 presents 12 galleries and art projects focused on talented contemporary artists from the Caribbean, the Atlantic islands and the region’s wider diasporas.

Readytex Art Gallery’s curatorial concept takes its cue from the current year-long project executed at the gallery in collaboration with curator-in-residence Miguel E. Keerveld, called: ALAKONDRE: A Space in Time. As the lead curator for Readytex Art Gallery’s presentation at AWAF-22, Keerveld requested that the participating artists have a conversation with their artistic intention framed as ‘An Other’. His curatorial essay can be read above.

As a result, Readytex Art Gallery’s virtual booth presents an eye catching and diverse collection of 30 artworks by these 16 visual artists: Reinier AsmoredjoPaul ChangLeonnie van EertSri IrodikromoKenneth FlijdersShaundell HortonMiguel E. KeerveldKurt NaharRinaldo KlasJohn Lie A FoDhiradj RamsamoedjXavier Robles de MedinaKit-Ling Tjon Pian GiRené TosariSteven Towirjo and Wilgo Vijfhoven. This collection, exhibited online at AWAF-22, is also physically on display on the second floor of Readytex Art Gallery in Suriname.

AWAF-22 is available on Artsy and open to the public from April 20 – May 5, 2022. Mark your calendars for the Panel hosted by Readytex Art Gallery on April 22nd at 11:00 am EST (12:00 pm Surinamese time), with as moderator our curator Miguel E. Keerveld, and guests, theatre maker Alida Neslo and visual artist Xavier Robles de Medina.

Please visit and enjoy the fair and the entire program of events available from this website: https://www.artsy.net/fair-organizer/atlantic-world-art-fair.

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