At Documenta 12, 2007 as part of the living newspaper Chimurenga (Cape Town), editor Ntone Edjabe created DJ sets as performances called a House of Truth. Borrowed from a drinking pit in the old Kofifi, where the makers of the infamous Drum magazine gathered nightly for informal seminars with Can Themba as resident deconstructor, at the House of Truth, fluids, bodies and burning minds mix freely.
Whereas Edjabe’s first German House of Truth was free-wheeling and body pumping, the second was pretty hostile. All groups standing on the periphery of the dance floor, biding time, but present and waiting, radiating an awkward intensity. Edjabe looked around and said, ‘Good. Sometimes this is better.’
Edjabe has spoken of the Chimurenga Chronicle as a newspaper which looks at everything from an analytical place, an ideological place and a philosophical place – not a physical place. This is in itself contradictory, because newspapers are in their foundation made to mark time, whilst being material in their logic to the street. They are an access point. They make contact. In Chimurenga, they have embraced complexity in a logic of emergency. He discusses how they have embraced opacity, to liberate them from this shut hole of relevance.
Hang ‘Em High #1 was a show and performance at the Velvet Room, in January 2015, Athens, Greece. Like a reverse-install, it consisted of a series of artworks hung high in the space, and a level stage for the performers. It was packed, like a scene out of the Seaview Ballroom circa 1970’s. Lakis Ionas of The Callas spoke of how ‘we are trying to combine the excitement and the physical impact of music…with art. So…in this way (of having all artworks as high as we can in the Velvet Room), we are able to have a packed room full of sweating bodies dancing and drinking… We believe that our main point of curating these shows is to create a big installation including artworks, bands, lights, smoke, booze, chit chat, lust….
Both Edjabe’s House of Truth and the Velvet Room’s Hang ‘Em High #1 have a physicality to them. You feel things, you touch things, and bodies touch you. Within these instances they generate a kind of timeliness that seems to be highly designed to purpose a heightened firstness, as a here and now with talons to the past and opacity for the future.
In Hang ‘Em High #1, through the high install, people could lean against the walls and lean into each other. Through the high works, you looked up, noticed the smoke-laden air, the abstracted tapestries and the perspective of a higher view. The physical curation ideologically directed a sideline sensation of noticing you were looking, a bit like being reminded that a painting is constructed on a two dimensional surface, when you can see the untreated linen coming through. And through this opacity, what comes? Look hard, feel well. In truth, not something I always do.
Hang ‘Em High #1 (Antonakis Christodoulou, Dora Economou, Extra- Conjugale, Lakis & Aris Ionas / The Callas, Andreas Kasapis, Eleni Bagaki, Leonidas Papadopoulos, Panos Papadopoulos), Velvet Room, 17 January 2015, Athens, Greece.