New York, Nov. 2009 - Dineo Seshee Bopape is an artist whose work defies categorization: it spans a variety of media, from painting and drawing to video and installation; a variety of forms, from raw performance to the poetically abstract; and tackles subjects of gender, politics, race, psychology, sexuality, and more. I had the opportunity to visit Bopape at her studio near Columbia University, where she is an MFA candidate. She showed me some of her video works, including some that are on view at Mart House Gallery in Amsterdam in her solo show "You Fucking Horrible Bitch" (on view Oct 30-Dec 19, 2009). We talked about immaterial desire, the re-/de-construction of memory, and a bit about the nasty break-up drama which resulted in an actual drama--in the form of a "celebration" and cocktail party where actors, unannounced and continuously throughout the evening, re-enacted a chatroom falling-out between Bopape and her ex-girlfriend, "invisibly" performing a virtual past. "You Fucking Horrible Bitch" is in reference to this bad breakup, now almost two years past, and the works are simultaneously intimate and abstract. The following interview was conducted via email.
Natalie Hegert: You grew up in South Africa, spent at least two years living in Amsterdam and now you're in New York at Columbia University--are any of these places most like "home" to you?
Dineo Seshee Bopape: all of them, somehow... most of all south africa because of my history there, and the languages... but I guess home is where I can safely deposit my stuff whilst gallivanting and where I can chill... it also depends on the season... holland is least like home in winter...
NH: Holland in the winter is definitely dreadful... So, you started out as a painter, and now you're into video and installation, combining sound, performance, photography, digital media with drawing, collage, textiles, sculpture. How did you you come to work in time-based media? Is any particular medium emerging as the most crucial to your practice, or is the interdisciplinary approach itself more important?
DSB: for me the medium is dictated by the ideas more than a particular love for a specific medium--well i must also admit that i do love video most of all at present... i came to video via curiosity and just found that there are so many other possibilities of affecting time that cannot be met in (traditional) painting or 3D.
NH: Do you see your installations more as frames or contexts for your video works, or do they assume as much importance as the video itself? How do you choose the materials?
DSB: i think it depends on the installation: some installations are without videos; the ones with videos are video heavy and i guess the space/other objects function to support the video. As an element in the whole--to give key to the work, yes, to frame it.
NH: Sound and music play significant roles in not only your videos, but other works as well--like "Lovestrung", the series of drawings inspired in part by the Justin Timberlake song, which will be shown at your upcoming show at MartHouse Gallery in Amsterdam. Is the music you choose always symbolic, evoking particular memories and feelings? What music are you into right now?
DSB: it is usually songs that i am obsessed with at a particular time/mood/mode... when i was making the lovestrung series of drawings i could not stop listening to it, and i would only listen to about 50 seconds of the song--over and over and over again. there is a particular moment in that song that is just so emo filled! and it just always left me in wonder.....i would be completely wrapped in it...
now i am listening to alot of skunk anansie ...all their albums.... and last week it was beyonce's ego...
NH: Your show opening up at Mart House Gallery is entitled "You Fucking Horrible Bitch"--can you tell us a bit about this really intense title?
DSB- haha, it is a rather intense title! that is a title of a painting in the show... the painting came from a series of drawings and paintings and a 'situation' which happened in 2008 at the thami mnyele studios in amsterdam. the situation: "it's a celebration bitches", which also involved a cocktail bar sponsored by bacardi, some actors, and 2d works scattered in and around my studio and apartment.... this painting and others of the series which are also in the show, were happening all around the same time as 'lovestrung' drawings... and the title sets the tone for the emotional drama of some of the works in there...
NH: Many of which concern a bad breakup with your ex-girlfriend...
DSB: yes, but i'm hoping everyone reading this will not think i am still a lesbian...hahaha i'm not anymore, so sugar daddies are welcome to come splurge their wealth on me!
NH: Do you see yourself as an artist whose works in retrospect will be inseparable from her autobiography?
NH: The concept of performance is integral to your works spanning across all media, not only performance of "self" or alternative "selves", but even in your material works where "physical objects are taken from the everyday and are made to perform". Is performance the crucial separating line between art and everyday life?
DSB: not even separating art and life--but an integral part of both... real life requires one to perform many adjectives (for example being woman/happy/doctor/young/in love/friend/older sister....there are varying conventions that dictate how certain adjectives are activated), and for people or objects to participate in the world, i guess they have to perform--well, i guess we make objects perform--through their use, their place in language. i am interested in objects performing passively...alluding in a very scattered way to disparate things, somehow dancing their colours, textures, thingness with other things...and their thingnesses too.
ArtSlant would like to thank Dineo Seshee Bopape for her assistance in making this interview possible.
(All Images: Dineo Seshee Bopape, Gallery views, "You Fucking Horrible Bitch", 2009; Courtesy Mart House Gallery, Amsterdam.)