From feeling … and not without reason

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

In essence, spirituality is a personal experience for each person. According to Ronald van der Maesen (2010), spirituality is “the ability, whether developed or not, to interpret the sense and meaning of life and the non-sensory events and experiences occurring therein using intuition”, and to integrate it in a harmonious cooperation with body and spirit. This also requires a good understanding of soul. “Body is the material or physical aspect of a personality perceptible with the senses and interpretable with the brain; spirit is the immaterial thinking, feeling and will, and soul is the immaterial and immortal core of the personality.” With the UDUBAKI trilogy I have tried to explore spirituality from collective experience.

Enchanting enchantment

During the build-up of UDUBAKI part three I experienced enchanting enchantment. This exhibition was on display at Readytex Art Gallery (RAG) between February 5 and March 5, 2022. The aim was to look for common ground, with as little competition as possible between the uniqueness of the individual works of art. On the contrary, I wanted to see where objects and their meanings could reinforce each other by emphasizing their interconnection. During this event, art by Dakaya Lenz, Dhiradj Ramsamoedj, Helga Reigman, Jhunry Udenhout, Reinier Asmoredjo, Ruben Cabenda, Sri Irodikromo, Sunil Puljhun and tumpi flow was on display. Because of his feeling for the intertwining of the spiritual and the political, I deliberately allowed the work of ‘local master’ René Tosari to dominate.

Spirituality and politics also go hand in hand in Dagwesus by Cabenda. In addition to intertwining winti religion and Christianity, this animation brings me, like Tosari’s works to what Marilyn Strathern (cited in De la Cadena, 2015) calls “Partial Connection.” This is an unconventional and analytical model that proposes a different thinking about the idea that ‘the alternative of one is more’. In terms of Donna Harraway: ending pluralism. Marisal de la Cadena (2015) speaks of ‘intra-connections’ for it and compares this context to fractals and uses a quote from James Gleick: “one simple but powerful consequence of the fractal geometry of surfaces is that surfaces in contact do not touch everywhere”. Already during my visit to Tosari’s studio I see ‘intra-connections’ as a red thread in his work, which is why his work has inspired my focus on this for UDUBAKI part three. Such “hybrids in the sense of complex anthropology” connect relationships and communities in a way that keeps both external to each other (De la Cadena, 2015). These hybrids are also the subject of Ruben Cabenda’s work and I think he and René Tosari manage to assemble the use of  ‘intra-connections’ in their art in a breathtaking way.

Ruben Cabenda, Dagwesus

Helga Reigman, Still life, acrylic on canvas, 74×60,5cm, 2021 – SOLD

I find it very valuable that De la Cadena’s (2015) ‘Partial Connection’ is so clearly present in this exhibition. I conclude that it does not surprise me that I can find this in Surinamese art. Aren’t we here alakondre? Art in which I see ‘Partial Connection’ as the connection in differences, include Hybrid by Tosari, My Lady Love by Udenhout, 10Q4 Direction and 10Q4 Life by Lenz. Under the influence of alakondre, and in searching for the geopolitical in UDUBAKI, I dared to link Tosari’s work with that of Puljhun. Furthermore, the political-spiritual entanglement of alakondre is reflected in so many works. For example, I see an interesting spiritual mystery through apples in the works of Cabenda and Reigman.

René Tosari, Hybrid, acrylic paint, mixed media on canvas, oil paint, 140×195cm, 2021 – USD 3200

Jhunry Udenhout, My Lady Love, mahogany sculpture, 42x94x42cm, 2022

Dakaya Lenz, 10Q4 Direction, acrylic on canvas, 45,5x95cm, 2022 & Dakaya Lenz, 10Q4 Life, acrylic on canvas, 65,5x70cm, 2022

A Piki Paw Paw Paw

A piki paw paw paw (it sounds paw paw paw) in my head. Now it turns out that this is not without reason. I came up with this soundless thunder as one of the possible titles for the series of exhibitions that I curate. However, in consultation, I decide to drop the choice on A piki paw paw paw and use the term udubaki. Udubaki is Sranan for wooden tray and for publicity (Sordam & Eersel, 1993). This choice then leads to my focus on the servitude-spirituality relationship for these art manifestations. For me, this is a hopeful interpretation, despite contemporary geopolitical tensions.

There is more to the hopeful images that manifest themselves. Because of the scary feeling that I still have during the production, I place the paintings of René Tosari, Dhiradj Ramsamoedj and Sunil Puljhun at the same ‘height’. Puljhun’s oppressive black and white paintings, for example, make a special contribution, so that I know with some certainty that good art is not hocus pocus. On the contrary… Because of the visual language of our artists, I am convinced that art offers space to penetrate the zeitgeist, because these arts work like binoculars. Perhaps our art has enabled me to see that the contemporary world is turned upside down? As an example, I take the Ukraine-Russia virus, with its epicenter in Europe, of which I wonder how long it will take before this virus has spread rapidly over a larger part of the world. Without answering that, I decide to create a labyrinth-like exhibition in which the visitor may be seduced into an emptiness. Unlike the two previous UDUBAKI exhibitions, no artwork has been placed in the navel of the exhibition (the center of the space). The memory of a quote from Simone Weil has tempted me to ‘build a labyrinth with this part of the UDUBAKI trilogy. Can this manifestation bring the visitor into contact with the ’empty middle’? This “void” is a kind of open “place” in the navel of a whole. I hope that from that empty space one can also feel the soundless paw paw paw; as I’ve wondered, where has the world ended up? It is this question that has led me back to Weil’s quote (cited in Bradatan, 2015): “The beauty of the world is the mouth of a labyrinth. The unwary individual who on entering takes a few steps is soon unable to find the opening. Worn out, with nothing to eat or drink … he walks on without knowing anything or hoping anything … But this affliction is as nothing compared with the danger threatening him. For if he does not lose courage, if he goes on walking, it is absolutely certain that he will finally arrive at the center of the labyrinth. And there, God is waiting to eat him. Later he will go out again, but he will be changed, he will have become different, after being eaten and digested by God.” 

Sense and significance

I am also curious about the sense and significance of this expo series in a Surinamese context. To that end, I am first considering a dialogue between two installations that may seem to have nothing in common. During my tour, a visitor looks deeper and sees an interesting relationship between these works of art. She does it in a special way. I see her right arm pointing at Sri Irodikromo’s installation Untitled. The same arm then moves. First to the left, then to the right; the visitor is pointing to the two-part presentation Butterfly Currency by tumpi flow. She notes: “the body and wings of a butterfly”.

This is how Sri begins the explanation of her installation: “Each individual experiences things in life that together determine the collective experience.” This artwork represents a network in which she uses rope as a symbol for individual experiences of different people. She braids the rope that she has collected from various fishermen into a whole and weaves this ‘waste’ into a personality. I ‘see’ that not only Sri has worked on this, but the installation is created by an interweaving consisting of more. The artwork feels like a ‘place’ that also extends far beyond Sri’s world. Is this a composition between human and other-than-human personalities? According to De la Cadena (2015), such a space deals inclusively with the other-than-human and is recognized in the Andean region as a body of deeper consciousness known as ayllu relation: an ambiguous event that has no translation and is defined as “a group of humans and non-human persons who are in contact with each other through ties of kinship and who jointly inhabit a territory which they also own.” In an ayllu relationship, all beings in the world (people, animals, mountains, plants, works of art, etc.) are connected like threads of a fabric. In the Surinamese context, the same relationship is known as alakondre-fasi, which to my knowledge also shows itself in UDUBAKI.

Miguel Keerveld, Butterfly Diagram

Suddenly I am thrown back to an experience at Uberbau_House in January 2020. During the presentation, when reflecting on a diagram in which I think I have captured ‘my fascination’, Guillermina and Jorge say: “This is the research for the rest of your life … and you should name it Butterfly Diagram.” Then tumpi flow decides to rename her tarot ‘spell’ with collages butterfly money. These collages are inspired by, among other things, the 22 main cardinal cards of the tarot and produced in sets of 22. I wonder: how long beforehand were artists involved in the UDUBAKI manifestation entangled in the alakondre-fasi net? In any case, it strikes me that what manifests itself here is connected to each other, despite differences in artistic ambitions and intentions.

Sources

  • Van der Maesen, R., Terugkeer van de ziel; naar een vierdimensionaal mensbeeld
  • De la Cadena, M., Earth Beings: ecologies of practices across Andean Worlds
  • Sordam, M. & Eersel, H., Surinaams Woordenboek: Sranantongo, third edition
  • Bradatan, C., Dying for Ideas: The dangerous lives of the philosophers

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Material: 440 mixed media on paper collages, sized between 10x15cm and 12.5×18.5cm, each in a numbered red envelope. All 440 collages arranged in Henri de Haas‘ metal covered case which he used for storing his watercolors. The suitcase of the late artist’s material was donated to the MISSION 2021 project by the artist’s widow Susan Legêne.

Price: USD 10,000

Mixed media collages, demonstrating Butterfly Currency. A promise that revealed itself in the installation A Never-Ending Story? volume 1 by tumpi flow. These collages were produced in sets of 22, referred to as COUP 22: a creative process inspired by the 22 cardinal cards in the tarot. Production took place as a transnational and complex system. Assymbolic space for encounters. The ‘extraction’ of material and production took place through encounters, based on art workshops with children and teenagers in Suriname, and encounters with creative professionals in Brazil and Mexico between 2015 and 2020.

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UDUBAKI part three – an art event about servitude and spirituality – YouTube-channel Readytex Art Gallery

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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).

TEXT Miguel E. Keerveld 

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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