“Qudus' work has a social dimension, It is a story that seems to have links with the artist’s own life, in this sense, the work resonates as an essay in first person.” Hugo Viana (Folha de Pernambuco. Brazil)
My entire life has been dedicated to finding ways of expressing some very deeply rooted expressions, which literary words had failed to capture in conventional styles. So I have learnt to be wary of words when I talk about my work. I however know that I have a need to be able to articulate what I’m doing in words, (written or spoken) to create a common space for our collective human experience. Which in my own case are mostly traumatizing experiences, because they have to do with tragedy; loss and dispossession and pain and alienation. The sufferings that all these brings to ones existence is precisely what I try to grasp with. Rather than forming an enclosure around my existence, rather than harmonizing or trying to define it, the purpose of this little piece of writing is however, to articulate why it is almost impossible for me to rationalize within my interest in pure dance and in acrobatics, my public space performances and my various writings – which are usually in relation to views about social relationships that involves power or authority – I just have to let them operate and diffuse through my art.
My personal experiences and my development as a trained dancer/acrobat, all come together to manifest themselves on the dance floor, to reconcile between my beliefs, my paranoia, my deliriums, my expectations and existence, while in that process, I consciously construct a democratic space built on empathy. Performance for what it is doesn’t really mean much to me, but the feeling of interaction seems to me, very important. Not the kind of interaction that is embedded on a conversational style though, let's say it is a revelation of words left unreconstructed and unspoken, or a ‘coming to terms’ with worlds left un-reconciled in strains of my life. I strongly subscribe to an art that reaches out to the audience as an experience rather than a storyline, whose goal is not to amuse therefore, but rather, shock and psychic wounding; attempt to confront the audience with its own horror and the sanious nightmare of its 'condition humane.' Hence it won't be easy to say what my performance was about, only what it did to your psyche and to your mind. You might not be able to summarize it therefore; you could only experience it, but this is not an escapist manner of closing myself up on a notion of liberty and complexity that doesn't come with regulations.
I am very interested in aesthetics and forms. The abstraction and patterns that are behind the actual structures of a work of art matters to me tremendously, whether it’s in the music, in the video, in storytelling, in the mood, in rhythms or the emotion I pass through to the audience, even to the kind and amount of light that touches my skin and its effect on the voyeur. It seems to me that I try to find means of enforcing my expression through different media and find parallels for them, without necessarily reconciling between them. The idea of narrative is very important, but not such that expresses itself through straight “storyline.” I segment my narratives and try to break them up with question marks, quotation marks, brackets or semicolons. I latter place them side by side as a means of juxtaposition, which gives each phrase its own individual significance even if it makes no sense as a singular entity, but I let my audience draw the sense from the entire structure of the piece.
It is not so much about finding the logic from point A to point Z of the entire structure, but – like a puzzle – establishing the relationship between A to D and how it relates to C or T and so on. I try to establish a logical coexistence between them, and to sustain these separate worlds and forms. At other moments however, I also feel that, that doesn’t really matter, so far there is an organic or – as a matter of fact – inorganic flow that flows between them, and I wait for things to explain themselves to me and not me trying to attach an explanation to them. I strongly oppose to the notion of art for art sake, and likewise to the utilitarian purpose of news in art, commercial art or cultural tourism. I tend to subscribe to an art that spans from a school of dance philosophy, that seek to explore the body vocabulary, through exhausting physical and mental discipline, to traverse the spiritual and poetic universe of an embodied body, which makes it possible to stage this transformed body as a place of resurgence, a place for the repossession of long lost memories, of new habits and as a place of refuge for the construction of a conscious thinking, capable of attaining liberation from the material world, and able to create worlds, which is in fact what fiction is all about.
Through my dance, I endeavor to build an empathic society, based on our frailties and imperfections, so when I talk about building a democratic space on empathy, I’m not talking about Utopia, I’m talking about the ability for us to show solidarity and share a common space. My role as a creative artiste or interpreter is to therefore, allow these various sinister byways continue, to see them operating together and allowing them to play off one another, and to be able to record that in some ways. Realizing that our experiences are not exclusive, that we all live in a world where different things happen at the same time, that all humans are soft wired beings, not actually for aggression, violence, self-interest or utilitarianism, but for sociability, attention, affection and companionship. The effort for me lies in my ability to hold this dance space together, rather than pretending to be a solver of problems, because all these at the end have to do with notions of co-existence.
© Qudus ONIKEKU – October 2010