BASA member Same Mdluli places artistic expression firmly in the essential column
What better way to pass the endless hours of confinement, than to speak to the current creative movers and shakers? Same Mdluli is an artist, art historian, and writer living in Johannesburg. She holds a PhD in History of Art, an MA in Arts and Culture Management from Wits University and a BTech degree in Fine Arts (cum laude) from the University of Johannesburg.
She has worked as an administrator at the Goodman Gallery, for projects situated in both Cape Town and Johannesburg, and has taught art at various school levels. She has participated in various exhibitions, conferences (locally and internationally), and is the recipient of several awards. She has also participated in a number of international residencies, including an invitation to participate as a Junior Research Scholar at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, and as a guest researcher at the Institut National d’histoire de l’art (INHA) in Paris for the ‘Culture Profession’ programme (under the Department of Art and Globalisation).
Her research interests are in contemporary African art, black expressive modes and aesthetics, as well as the conversations between jazz and visual art. Before she was appointed Curator at the Standard Bank Gallery, she was a sessional lecturer at Wits University.
Same, thank you for joining us.
Q: If we assess art – and creative expression as a whole – particularly within the current climate, would you assume it becomes more or less essential?
This is a complex and controversial question that has no simple straight forward answer, what is meant by this is that it is unfair to present a case of whether art is essential in a society that barely has enough resources for basic human needs. However, in societies where all these basic needs are met, including the care for artists, art and art institutions, there is a wholistic sense of progression for the greater good of a society and by extension a humanity. Creative expression whether it is in the form of making or listening to music, preparing a dish, painting a picture, all these activities, however miniscule, are essential to human existence and having a sense of purpose.
Q: To expand on this, if we reference Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, while self-actualisation (which includes creative activities) appears on the pyramid, it features on the last tier. This is in direct opposition to physiological (food, water, etc.) and safety needs (security). Are you of the belief that all five tiers only work successfully as a collective, or is there ever a time when the lower tiers can be discarded? (We accept the contentious nature of the question, given whom we are addressing.)
Q: With physical access currently an issue, what is the Standard Bank Gallery doing to facilitate continued appreciation of the art it curates and exhibits and are these accessible to a wide cross-section of people?
The Virtual gallery has been an existing part of the Standard Bank Arts portfolio strategy in keeping in par with trends and developments happening in the sector. The virtual gallery concept was initially launched with the David Koloane exhibition with the aim of extending the exhibition to audiences that may not have the opportunity to see it in person. But it was also envisioned as an archival and cataloguing method that could live on line long after the exhibition has closed. The virtual gallery is thus available to anyone who has internet access on their desk top and mobile device.
Q: Presumably, these require fairly high volumes of data – how do you cater to those with data challenges?
This is as complex and complicated as asking whether data should be considered a basic need as it also allows the basic right of access to information, and not just art platforms. While data is a concern it would mean engaging a service provider to partner in making this available, however this is worth exploring as it has been implemented in other successful examples within the business. With that said it would be worth also looking at how many users are on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using data.
Q: What are your plans for future collaborations between art and jazz? How will these differ from what you have produced before?
While the Arts sponsorship portfolio embraces collaborations and interdisciplinary approaches it is important to take que of how different artistic genres intersect with the guidance of what artists are creating themselves. The current moment is certainly a potentially rich instance that offers an opportunity to explore what these future collaborative initiatives could look like.
Q: Do you prefer to work in isolation for a project’s entirety (only inviting participation when necessary), to ensure full control of your vision, or are those with whom you enjoy working part of your creative process from the beginning?
This depends on the nature of the project. Some projects require participation other’s don’t, if anything consultation is always an advantage.