Anne Bean, Heterotopia. Image courtesy of the artist, 2021
For this commission I wanted many of the voices and strategies that I recognise as embodying positive, relevant trajectories towards the futures of Live Art, to speak out. Through three of my recent projects in particular, I realise more strongly than ever, that structures need not become strictures and that divergent voices can come together to create pointers to ways of living across both life and art.
One of these three projects was a yearlong series of monthly events, called Come Hell or High Water, 2020, on the Thames foreshore by Canary Wharf, which I had programmed to include over 100 artists as well as actively participating in. As a ‘venue’ it amplified the nuanced implications of operating in this particular tidal space, exploring its existence between water and land, private and public space, wealth and poverty, past and present, and an unknowable future. It spurred us to intentionally reimagine and repurpose what is here and how we can shape ‘there.’
The secondwas African Incidentalism, which related to my intended return to the birthplace of artist, John Latham and myself, Livingstone, Zambia, on the hundredth anniversary of his birth, February 2021. John Latham coined the phrase ‘Incidental Person,’ an artist who engages in wider contexts such as industry, politics and education and is ‘a resource and an instrument of change…for future societies everywhere.’ This trajectory led to my meeting with many Zambian artists.
The third was a film The Light of Day, 2020 made with my friend from birth, the filmmaker Jeanette Iljon who also grew up in Livingstone, Zambia. In the early 1980s, she co-founded in London, the Co-option project, and then Aphra Video, intended to appeal to women who, by reason of background or circumstances, did not habitually think of themselves as artists or filmmakers. The film is currently selected to show in several international film festivals.
As well as making my own Futures video, I commissioned several Zambian artists with whom I have made a connection, to make a film of their own. I have had many zoom conversations with all of them, as well as with the other Zambian artists who appear in the Futures film.
The artist Anawana Holoba, who works on performance based video and sound installations, frequently with the body as a means of expression, is included in the Futures film in relation to her talking about the local ‘straight firing into the international’. She co-founded The Livingstone Office for Contemporary Arts (LoCA), an artist-initiated non-profit library and research centre based in Livingstone, Zambia. It functions as a collective/ collaborative platform for reflections and an experimental think-tank. We have spoken together about ambitious plans for international exchanges and residencies there. Anawana has made layered, darkly witty videos such as ‘What if Zambia colonized Norway’ and ‘Confessions of a Delusional Dictator and a Museum of Guilt.’
The artist Benjamin Mibenge has been engaged with environmentalism for fifty years and was involved with the project Faces of Africa with his work Uncle Ben and the Treevolution.
Agness Yombwe has been active in Zambia for many decades as an artist and advocate for women’s and children’s rights. Her civic activism is partly aligned with the Mbusa rituals of the Bemba people looking at sacredness, taboos, community and ways of sharing intimacy. In a radical artistic response to the devastating pandemic that had created crushing economic circumstances, threatening the livelihood of entire families in Livingstone, Agness Yombwe approached the Senior Chief Mukuni of the Toka Leya people to ask for land, which the Royal Establishment gave her to activate the ‘Creatives Village’, an innovative project that integrates artist initiatives with the planting of crops and trees, training opportunities and employment. Agness wanted her film Ancient Voices to show her work as an artist and activist, as well as exploring the overlaps and parallels with Live Art that we discussed together. Agness Yombwe and her husband Lawrence hosted the African Incidentalism event in Livingstone.
Serah Chibombwe is an artist whom I have supported in various ways through a residency at both Wayi Wayi studios and LoCA in Livingstone Zambia. We have had weekly zoom sessions covering territories from political agency to personal identity. She was involved in YCF a radical artist/film residency with Yoweli Chungu, underpinned by his regular commissions for television. It supported young artists by providing communal living with constant debates on art, as well as finding ways for earning potential. Serah’s interest in collaboration led her to work with the poet Marita Banda, who initiated and translated with others, the Zambian national anthem from English into a combination of local languages, which is now being sung in schools. Serah and Marita’s film Dialogue observes the different attitudes of a village chicken and a broiler chicken, in which they perceived that there are similarities with political issues in Zambia. They recognised how ‘most leaders in power are only interested in the now and how much they can get out of it, rather than solving problems that will lead to a future freedom for themselves and their people.’
Gladys Kalichini is an artist and researcher. Her work explores ‘the representations of the ‘female black body’ in history by examining absent and misplaced narratives of women in African histories.’ When we were discussing her film the future is too real she said that she was so immersed in the past, particularly with her current work these gestures of memory about mourning, remembering and forgetting in relation to the commemoration of stories about specific women, that she couldn’t quite adjust to working with the idea of the future. Her ideas evolved to use the ‘language’ of film in parallel with the film imagery, so that the ‘twinning’ of a forwards and backwards motion film became a ‘sanitising’ or ‘massaging’ of the future.
Anne Bean has shown works in numerous galleries and venues worldwide. Galleries in London that have presented her work include Tate, Hayward, Whitechapel, Serpentine, ICA and Royal Academy. She has received several large-scale awards such as a British Council Creative Collaborations fund, leading to international work with women from countries of conflict. She was artist in residence at many institutions including Franklin Furnace, New York and Whitechapel Gallery, London. Matt’s Gallery, London have presented several solo shows of hers. The first major monograph about Anne’s performance work, Self Etc., edited by Rob La Frenais, was published by Intellect and the Live Art Development Agency in 2019. Throughout 2020 she programmed monthly works on the Thames foreshore, under the title Come Hell or High Water, inviting over 80 artists to take part. Anne is currently working on establishing the Zambian branch of Flat Time House in Livingstone.
Agness Buya Yombwe is an award-winning mixed media artist, arts educator, author and mentor. She is widely recognized in Zambia for her many leadership roles and her advocacy and training efforts on behalf of an entire generation of women artists. Her work has been exhibited widely throughout Zambia, and in solo and group exhibitions in Europe, Asia and the United States. Following her arts education in Zambia, Agness attended Wimbledon School of Arts, London. Agness has received numerous prestigious awards and honors, and has participated in invitational residencies at the Edvard Munch Studio in Oslo, Norway, and the McColl Centre for Visual Arts, North Carolina (USA). In December 2020, she was recently chosen to be an artist-in-residence at the World Bank, Washington, D.C., and was showcased by the World Bank Art Program in December 2020 in an online exhibition. She currently has two publications: Kudumbisiana (Dialogue), 2015; and Ni Mzilo (It is Taboo), 2019.
Serah Chibombwe AKA Serah Chule, is a Zambian female artist born in 1989. She describes herself as an inspirational, conformational, motivational and transformational artist. Though trained as a chef, she started off as painter and transitioned to Performance, installation and film. Her work drawn from childhood experiences mainly addresses the struggle human beings in modern society go through in their quest to belong and find a place they can call home. She expresses this through an alter ego “Maambo Chaambwe.” She currently, is the Production Set designer and Art Director at Yoweli Chungu Filimu and Art Residency (YCF), a place she calls “the safe hub” because of the spirit that lives there.
Marita Banda is the author of Telling It Like It Is, a collection of poetry in Tumbuka, French and English, and Traditional Zambian Etiquette for Modern Living, Youth Edition. Her etiquette book has been adopted as official text book for the etiquette course at the Zambia Institute for Diplomatic and International Studies (ZIDIS.)
She is working on two book projects for 2021 release; Vegan, Vegetarian and Pescatarian Cookbook and the General Edition of Traditional Zambian Etiquette for Modern Living. She has recently been collaborating with artists from other disciplines including music, film, performance and visual arts.
Marita is co-founder of the Network for Society Transformation, which established Sotrane Publishers. She is chairperson of the Zambia Reprographic Rights Society and founding chairperson of the Zambian subgroup of the Writers Space Africa. She is a member of PEN Zambia, a chapter of PEN International, where for two years, she coordinated a Civil Society Project on Mother Languages among secondary schools in Lusaka Province.
A language teacher by day and writer and editor by night, she spends her other time experimenting with vegetarian recipes, organic gardening, reading, touring Zambia, or exploring with fabric art.
Gladys Kalichini is a contemporary visual artist and researcher from Lusaka, Zambia. Her work centres around notions of erasure, memory, and representations and visibilities of women in colonial resistance histories. She is currently a PhD candidate at Rhodes University in South Africa and a member of the Arts of Africa & Global Souths research programme, supported by the Andrew. W. Mellon foundation and the National Research Fund. She has participated in Àsìkò International Art Programme with the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA Lagos) in Maputo, Mozambique in 2015, the Fountainhead Residency in Miami, USA in 2017 and the second iteration of the “Women On Aeroplanes” project in Lagos, Nigeria in 2018 themed “Search Research: Looking for Collete Omogbai” and Künstlerhaus Bethanien international studio programme in Berlin, Germany in 2019/2020, supported by the KFW – Stiftung.