Bogosi Sekhukhuni is a young Johannesburg-based artist who describes himself as “a product of the Rainbow Nation”. His work engages this notion, and all the permutations of personal and national identity associated with it 20 years into democracy. Another key component of Sekhukhuni’s work is the Web 2.0, which is a defining aspect of his generation.
The Web 2.0 is characterised by interactivity, allowing “users to collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators of user-generated content in a virtual community” (Wikipedia). This term was coined in 1999 by Darcy DiNucci, who described the Web 2.0 as a “transport mechanism, the ether through which interactivity happens”. This was the birth of blogging and the fundamental shift from static to constantly evolving user-generated content. Sekhukhuni grew up in this virtual world of Mxit, Myspace, Facebook, and Tumblr where identity is fluid and constantly changing and being reshaped.
“I feel like post 1976, Mxit was the most important liberation force for South African urban kids” he says, “we really explored our curiosities about sexuality, race and love”. Sekhukhuni calls the Internet telepathy, and explores the conceptual parameters of this in his art, particularly in relation to notions of personal and national identity formation, negotiation and fantasy.
Earlier this year Sekhukhuni worked on a drawing project to teleport and upload himself onto the Internet using his DNA. The project was in fact a speculative conversation about what could come to represent ones’ self and how this might impact who we understand ourselves to be. Cyberspace challenges the perimeters of identity, and provides a space for new identities to be explored and created. “All over the world kids are talking to each other and recognizing affinities and celebrating that, it’s an amazing time for history and we’re going to create special things”, Sekhukhusi says.
In his work, Sekhukhuni references Internet aesthetics directly, where the real and the constructed become completely interchangeable. Unfrozen, currently on at Whatiftheworld in Cape Town, is a video and sound installation that is the culmination of his Dream Diaries project. The videos embed the viewer into this cyber-real, waking-dream world that Sekhukhuni presents as a response to the post-Rainbow Nation, the faux plush environment of the dream deferred, or ‘Rainbowcore’ as he calls it.
“Self-reflection is such an amazing strategy to answer questions about one’s future,” Sekhukhuni explains, and “because of its visual nature, art can become an effective channel for a self-reflection that becomes communal”, he continues. Within this context, the Dream Diaries are “primarily conversation that I have with myself about the nature of consciousness and a collective consciousness” he says, which “act as a carrier for a personal investigation into a national consciousness, with a particular focus on a period of interest for me; South Africa in the mid to late nineties”.
“I’m enjoying the increasingly ‘real’ bonds between our Internet experiences and our dreams/thoughts” Sekhukhuni continues. Both of these states exist in a virtual space, and as such, are only able to ‘exist’ if they are consciously constructed. This dreaming into being of personal and national identities is the subject of these videos and much of Sekhukhuni’s other work. It reflects on and responds to “the almost senseless euphoria and brief state of bliss experienced by South Africans in the nineties” he says, which is tied closely to his own dreams.