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Johannesburg-based interdisciplinary artist Nkhensani Mkhari discusses their recent work and ideas with ENDS curator manuel arturo abreu. They discuss cosmology, creativity, and other interesting topics. In particular, we discuss the work “Dialogues with a Plant” and its context, for which Mkhari generously provides the following description:
Dialogs with a plant, at the end of history. Turn now, beloved, your eyes to these blooming and colourful multitudes, See how, perplexing no longer, they stir there in view of your soul! Every plant announces, to you now, the laws eternal, Every flower louder and louder is speaking with you. ― Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe If a plant spoke to you, how would you respond? What questions would you ask? What linguistic apparatus would you use to weave a divine tapestry that allows each to see with the other’s eye(s) the flourish of mystical clarity of each other’s presence? What kind of syntactic formations would emerge from this supposedly impossible discourse? What may we learn about institutional care from those who are cared for by nature and care for us? If we collectively expanded the idea of relatedness beyond the confines of mankind to the rest of nature, our collective ethics surrounding care would evolve to expand agency to all ‘others’, other(ed) people, and (m)other nature. We would move closer to nature and expand culture, closing the fold that relegated nature to provider and humanity as consumer. ‘Dialogs with a plant, at the end of history’ is a series of speculative performance lectures. For each performance, the artist/curator spends two hours engaging in the manifestation of a radical pedagogy through a four-part public conversation with a Monstera about the history of western civilization once a week for the duration of the Residency exhibition. Part 1: the tethers and ruptures of our civilization, its dualisms, and schisms. Part 2: the trials of articulating collective assertions and our desire to try. Part 3: Care. Part 4: mapping and tracing speculative histories with the goal of excavating dormant and possible redemptive futurologies for humanity What possibilities could emerge in a dialog between such radically alienated agents? The plant and the artist. When one looks beyond the hazy vitrines of western history to the panoramic view of earlier epochs of civilization, the idea of plants as agents of communication is not so strange or alien. Humanity lived in harmony with nature and plant life was regarded as sentient, imbued with intelligence and the power to heal. Communication with plants goes beyond their preparation and consumption. It requires the philosophical understanding that life imbues all things. The idea of animism, from the word ‘anima’ which means “spirit or breath” posits that all things have a spiritual essence that “animates” them. Many indigenous societies continue to use plants as interfaces for metaphysical and hyperdimensional communication. My own tribe, the vaTsonga use psychoactive plants during female initiations, to facilitate communication with the ancestral realm and transform the ‘girls’ into ‘women’s. Shamans in Mexico call Peyote a ‘plant teacher’, who if ingested, transports them through altered states for divination and dreaming, relaying information from topological manifestations of a higher order, the Shaman becomes a repository for ancestral spirits. Becoming the ‘plant teacher’.
Nkhensani Mkhari (b.1994) is a Johannesburg-based queer multidisciplinary artist and curator. Their broad praxis spans photography, painting, performance art, sound design, and new media. Their artworks function as multi-modal material-semiotic metaphors. Nkhensani describes their work as a queer meditation on transience, aesthetic sociology, and redemptive futurologies; an abstract machine nomadically migrating through contemporary culture. Exploring what Individuality is, what collectivity is, and what it means to share space. A study on migration, myth, and cultural practices of (re)memory, rooted in counteractive ways of seeing and modes of hearing.
An offshoot of Montez Press, Montez Press Radio was founded in 2018 with the goal of fostering greater experimentation and conversation between artists, writers, and thinkers through the medium of radio. This platform is an experiment in broadcasting and community building which allows different corners of the art world to interact with each other in person and on air—a place where media finally meets flesh.