It is the kind of work that transports an audience, and that questions our ability to tell the difference between reality and dreaming in a transformative way.
THE SHORT series installation titled Paradise Fallen by BA fine arts lecturer Zen Marie, was screened at the ‘fem of colours’ studio in Newtown on Monday, September 17.
The series is part of the Watershed Symposium, which has been running since Tuesday, September 11, and is a compilation of artworks focused on water, oceans and marine life.
Paradise Fallen is made up of a short film, illustrations and written works combined with monologues, that were displayed on a miniature television set.
The work navigates the complexities between landscapes and seascapes in a uniquely poetic nature. It is about balance and violence. The ambivalence of the art lends itself to discussions about reality and fantasy. It is dreamy yet heartfelt.
The short film is composed of a montage of different visuals of Ngor, Goree and Île de la Madeleine islands and their connection to former colonial power, France.
The idea of oppression was especially influential for Marie in the production of this series which he first thought of during the 2016 #FeesMustFall protests.
“I was on these islands… and there was something very difficult and dislocating, almost ominous and disturbing about being on these places.
“And, at the same time, the 2016 student protests were going on. So I was trying to negotiate this island while also seeing some of the worst moments on campus,” Marie, who has been lecturing at Wits since 2010, explained.
The 20-minute documentary-like film was shot, edited and written by Marie, and combines strikingly surreal images of the ocean with a poetically-driven narrative of struggle, pain and survival.
The written work was translated into French by Gilles Furtwängler, a Swiss friend of Marie’s, while the ominous voiceover came courtesy of Youssoupha Sarr, a Senegalese-born artist.
Paradise Fallen is the third installation at the studio currently occupied by Gabrielle Goliath, who makes it available for creatives to converse about a number of issues.
“Zen is a fellow artist and friend, who I believe is making the kind of work which is important for us to engage with, especially in the poetic sense,” Goliath told Wits Vuvuzela.
“The work is an entry point into the legacies of colonialism, slavery and, in this country more recently, apartheid. And these things are anything but “post”. So I think this is the kind of work that helps us approach these things with a poetic register,” she said.
The screening was attended by lecturers and students who expressed awe at the grandeur and eloquence of the work.
“You really don’t even consider the artist’s view. It’s more about who and what else is being represented – it’s very intriguing. I’m shocked, I didn’t expect to see this from Zen – it’s really phenomenal,” said second-year BA fine arts student, Kyra Senekal, who has previously been lectured by Marie.
Another second-year BA fine arts student, Veefatso Motlhoki, said, “When Zen came to teach us I didn’t know much of his work, he was just another lecturer. Tonight, I was impressed because the man really knows his stuff.”
More screenings were scheduled for Wednesday, September 19, and Saturday, September 22, with the latter including a dialogue with artist Danai Mupotsa. The closing event is on Wednesday, September 26.
FEATURED IMAGE: Paradise Fallen features strikingly surreal images of the ocean with a poetically-driven narrative of struggle, pain and survival. Photo: Tshego Mokgabudi
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