NIROX has a range of events, exhibitions and workshops available during the year.
DRIAAN CLAASSEN & CATHERINE ASH
NIROX Foundation, in collaboration with the Villa-Legodi Centre for Sculpture, invite you to the opening of Driaan Claassen and Catherine Ash’s latest exhibition, Emergent Properties, which will open in NIROX’s Covered Space on Saturday, 25 March 2023, at 2PM.
The exhibition includes a range of work, produced while in residence at the Centre between November 2022 and March 2023, alongside pre-existing works that speak to the duo’s abiding interests in psychology, neurology, and the workings of the natural world.
The exhibition opening at 2PM and include a walkabout with the artist-duo.
Driaan Claassen and Catherine Ash
As a collaborative effort, we are intrigued by the emergent properties of complex systems and their relationship to the natural world. In particular, we are drawn to the parallels between the intricate structures of anthills and the neural pathways of the mind, both of which exhibit emergent properties that result from the interactions of many individual elements.
Through our work, we seek to explore the difference between complicated and complex systems, and how understanding these differences can help us better comprehend the workings of the mind and solve some of humanity’s most pressing issues.
Anthills are incredibly complex structures that arise from the coordinated efforts of many individuals, each following a set of simple rules. Similarly, neural pathways are complex systems that arise from the interactions of individual neurons, each following a set of basic principles.
In our sculptures, we strive to capture the beauty and complexity of these emergent patterns, using a variety of materials and techniques to create three-dimensional representations of these intricate structures. By exploring these patterns and principles, we hope to shed light on the ways in which understanding complex systems can help address issues related to mental health and well-being, unlocking new insights into the workings of the mind. Through our collaborative efforts, we hope to contribute to this ongoing conversation and inspire others to explore the intricacies of our world.
NIROX is happy to announce its partnership with Moleskine Foundation, to become the first international Hub to host a portion of the Moleskine Foundation Collection, including all notebooks produced by the young creative changemakers participating in AtWork Chapters in South Africa. The first notebooks to enter NIROX space will be the 32 artworks created during AtWork Joburg and AtWork Lab Soweto. Both workshops took place in 2022, during the international “What Comes First?” AtWork Tour.
NIROX will keep growing the Collection every year, inviting artists in-residence to create a personalised Moleskine notebook as part of their residency.
Temporary exhibitions of the Collection will take place following specific occasions throughout the year.
Join us for the first exhibition opening on May 28.
The Moleskine Foundation is a non-profit organization that pursues a mission of “Creativity for Social Change.” A central belief is that creativity is key to producing positive change in society and driving our collective future. Its focus is to inspire, empower and connect young people to transform themselves and their communities. To do so, the Foundation implements a set of unconventional educational programs that unlock the creative potential and develop a change-making attitude in youth. The Foundation enables collaborative processes to generate spaces where criticality and imagination can occur. It is done through developing a global platform of cultural and creative partner organizations operating in the field of creativity for social transformation.
About the Collection
The Collection reflects the variety, wealth and complexity of contemporary creative thinking, through the largest Collection of author notebooks of our time. It gathers the contributions of artists, designers, architects, musicians, filmmakers, illustrators, intellectuals and philosophers, who – page after page – have filled notebooks with thoughts, sketches, images, often turning them into artifacts completely different from the original. The notebook is the device, the limit, the origin. The Foundation is committed to showcasing the Collection at international art events, festivals, exhibitions, and Biennales to give as much visibility to the artists as possible and, at the same time, to sustain fundraising initiatives.
AtWork invites young people from underprivileged communities to participate in a week of discussion and self-reflection on a chosen topic. In the end, each participant produces a personalized notebook to be included in an exhibition curated by the group. The notebooks are wonderfully varied, but whether sculptural or textual, they all powerfully convey the impact an intense week of thinking can have on a young mind. Since its birth in 2012, AtWork has held 22 workshops in 18 different cities worldwide, involving more than 500 students and 15 international cultural organizations.
FUNDACIÓN CASA WABI
Fundación Casa Wabi and NIROX are happy to announce a new collaboration between their institutions in Mexico and South Africa, to take place in 2023/2024. The initiative is created to strengthen exchange between artists and creatives from these regions. The participants will be selected by invitation from each institution, within the parameters of their programs. The residencies available are: a six-week residency at Casa Wabi (Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca) for one South African artist, and a six-week residency at NIROX (Cradle of Humankind, South Africa) for one former Mexican resident from Casa Wabi.
Fundación Casa Wabi
Fundación Casa Wabi is a non-profit organization that encourages a dialog between contemporary art and the local communities based on three locations: Puerto Escondido, Mexico City and Tokyo. The name comes from the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi, which believes on finding beauty and harmony in simplicity, the imperfect and unconventional. Its mission is focused on building a social development through art, which in itself is carried on through five core programs: residencies, exhibitions, clay, cinema and mobile library.
Casa Wabi is located in the Pacific coast, 20 minutes away from the Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca airport. Situated between the mountains and the sea, the main location was designed by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando and under the initiative of Mexican artist Bosco Sodi. The installations include a multipurpose room, six independent dormitories, two closed studios and another six open studios, a 450 m2 exhibition gallery and various work areas that conform an ideal place to recharge one’s energy amongst other artists. In the past years, the Foundation has opened a Clay Pavilion designed by Portuguese Architect Alvaro Siza (Pritzker, 1992), a Guayacán Pavilion by the Mexican studio Ambrosi Etchegaray, a Chicken Coop by the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, a Compost Pavilion by the Uruguayan studio Solano Benítez, and recently, the High temperature kiln and the gardens by Mexican architect Alberto Kalach.
Fundación Casa Wabi residency program is aimed at national and international artists and seeks to generate a dialogue with the communities surrounding Casa Wabi. The residences promote multidisciplinary encounters between different generations that stimulate their experimental and creative concerns, contributing to the development of the social and cultural fabric of the area. Residents develop a project that will engage in a positive social and cultural development with the communities. The program seeks to promote three key elements to maintain our mission’s balance: the resident’s creative inspiration, their relationships to other artists and the Foundation’s team, and the active exchange with the communities.
During their stay, we ask the residents to develop a log/piece that describes their experience in a free format. This artwork will be donated to the Foundations’ collection. The logs are an essential part of the residency, since they become a trace of our residents’ experiences.
Fragility, Tension and Equilibrium
Some words about an installation by Nathalie Karagiannis
When we stay in another country and start cooking, cleaning or gardening, we discover that every place cherishes tools that we have never seen before and sometimes only exist there.
Thus, we picture all human beings travelling to the next country every year, be it South, East, West or North, leaving all their gear behind and discovering the instruments used by the neighbouring people. At the end of one’s life cycle, one would have lived everywhere, having partaken in all kinds of habits and rituals, finally familiar with all clothing styles, colours, textures, tastes, smells, herbs, plants, fruits, vegetables and animals alive or dried, smoked, steamed, cooked, broiled, baked, pulled or grilled for a cosy braai.
Alas, since the majority of humankind is not so keen on being displaced, the experiment is limited to offering foreign residencies to artists, writers and scientists, hoping their alienation might produce some joy for the others.
And indeed, displacing Nathalie Karagiannis, a thinker, writer, draughtswoman and sculptress from Europe, has led to some wondrous minimal displacements in Johannesburg, shaping a spatial poetry that echoes the discontinuity of all our lives, dreams, relationships, strivings, stories, beliefs and values. (She didn’t have the time to cook, clean and tend to a garden, but she allowed her eyes to wander in all sorts of places.)
One square meter of lawn is removed from a park and placed on the floor of an exhibition space. The work might remind us of the square meter called Private Property demarcated with ropes by the Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers at dokumenta V in 1972. Here, the rectangular wound in the park is marked by four short sticks at the corners, which are linked by orange elastic bands that look like the ones used by cyclists in my country fourty years ago. In my mind, two time shifts take place. In your mind other things happen, invisible to me, unless we share our experiences.
I love the feathers in the outlets. Electricity gone soft. Forbidden pleasures for children. Poetic safety mesures. Pseudo-literary soft porn. Unexpected, subtle intervention… In my country, the feathers would have belonged to seaguls or maybe pigeons. There are no other wild birds with a black and white plumage. Unless the come from chickens? Feasants? Guinea fowl? Strolling about in the park? Two needles of a porcupine connect yellow tennis balls to a white, yellow and blue drawing. A hybrid sculpture-drawing. An error. A cross-over.
Did Schopenhauer write a story about people being like porcupine? Always trying to get closer, but always getting hurt?
We think of unsafe attachment, precarious love, intimacy fragilised, momentary equilibrium, estrangement, loneliness, craving, probing, clinging, clawing for breathing space.
Let’s build a bridge with two garden tools, yellow as well. Look how they have needles too, that meet like rigid, needy fingers.
Red strings tying the fingers of an adolescent scrub.
Attached to a wall a big red elastic band stretched and ending in round claws hooked behind two screws, preventing a glass from falling.
A meeting between eight eggs and four used wooden chairs leaning against each other, legs up, only one leg resting on an egg… In 1964 the young German artist Bernd Lohaus, sent abroad by his teacher Joseph Beuys, does a performance in Madrid, having the four legs of a wooden chair rest on four eggs: El Nacimiento del Huevo. Karagiannis’ sculptural installation is exquisite. An inert dance, a frozen movement, a delicate encounter of singular objects; speaking of tender feelings, hesitations, prudence and tact.
On a window, we read samples of texting. Of two people trying to understand each other? Or is an artist speaking to us? To the objects and the space around her?
Two couples of yellow rakes meet, two of them resting on a lemon. The colour yellow prevails. A bifurcating branch springs from the wall, holding yellow and green sponges. At some distance a white plastic bottle with green and yellow label stands buy… Women artists love to toy with cleaning gear (to tease their mom). In 2007 Marlene Dumas told me she doesn’t like to clean her brushes. At the end of the day she just leaves them in a bucket filled with water. And that’s how she ended up painting a portrait of a weeping Marilyn Monroe with the dirty water.
No tears are visible here. The world is stripped of sentimentality. Skin and flesh ripped away. Swept by the wind. Stuck in the branch. We recognise the bones and joints in the drawings. Invisibly struck by grief, self-doubt, anxiety, craving and hope.
Montagne de Miel, Saturday 4 February 2023
LAYERS: ROCK ART ACROSS SPACE AND TIME
NIROX, in collaboration with the Embassies of Spain, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, France, Italy, Mexico and Portugal, is pleased to announce the opening of Layers: Rock Art Across Space and Time, a travelling exhibition that brings together the work of artists and scholars from Europe, Latin America, and Africa, foregrounding the impact of a particularly pivotal moment in human history and its ramifications in the present. The exhibition is also supported by The European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC). The first iteration at NIROX, located in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, will open on 26 November 2022 and run until 23 January 2023, before travelling to Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Dineo Seshee Bopape
María Pía Flachi (Argentina)
Dr. Marcela Sepulveda (Chile)
Mila Simoes de Abreu (Italia)
Dr. Francisco Mendiola Galván (Mexico)
Foz Coa Museum (Portugal)
Diego Gárate Maidagan (Spain)
*Colombia will be represented through the screening of the film: Chiribiquete, Cinematographic Expedition to the Centre of the Earth
Rock art predates language; our ability to name, classify, describe, and effectively communicate with others. Aside from the figurative, the symbols found therein – asterisks, dots, half-circles, lines, claviforms, crosshatches, spirals, triangles, et al – may well prefigure the graphic systems used to develop the written word, enabling information to pass from one generation to the next.
Speaking about the rock art of Europe, for example, Genevieve von Petzinger (2015) makes the astounding observation that only thirty-two signs have been discovered throughout the entire continent over a 30,000 year period. The implication is that such marks were not random, but represent a complex system of communication, the meaning and purpose of which is subject to ongoing debate. What did these marks mean, and who was their intended audience?
One might be tempted to think that our ancient ancestors were trying to tell us something, in the manner, say, of those tasked with developing future-proof warning labels for nuclear waste deposits (Piesing 2020) or those who sent messages into outerspace on Voyager I and II (Schalansky 2021, 23). We cannot say for sure. What we do know is that the emergence of rock art – or more broadly, marks and engravings on rock – signals a pivotal moment in the history of our species, running hand-in-hand with the realisation that one thing can be used to represent another.
Cormac McCarthy (2017) describes this singular eureka moment as central to everything that we do, ‘from using colored pebbles for the trading of goats to art and language and on to using symbolic marks to represent pieces of the world too small to see.’ It is the bedrock of all the world’s beliefs and religions, the backbone of commerce, and, according to Yuval
Noah Harari (2014), the only thing that truly distinguishes homo sapiens from other species, enabling large numbers of strangers to ‘cooperate successfully, through believing in common myths.’
Such myths abound in the paintings of old, be it in the depictions of jaguars in the Chiribiquete mountains of Colombia (which date back some 20,000 years); the association between the gods and rain that one finds in the rock art of Mexico (Mendiola Galván 2022); or the goddess Mari in the Basque territory of Spain (Garate 2017, 172). Although subject to romanticisation, such myths also enabled like-minded strangers to function in unison, towards a common goal, suggesting that the rock art of old has much to teach us about the construction of the modern nation state and our capacity to organise and act. In this way, the study of rock art provides crucial insights, not only into the world of our ancestors, but our present and future, lending credence to Judith Schalansky’s observation that
The Earth itself is, as we know, a heap of rubble from a past future, and humanity the thrown-together, bickering community of heirs to a numinous yesteryear that needs to be constantly appropriated and recast, rejected and destroyed, ignored and suppressed so that, contrary to popular belief, it is not the future but the past that represents the true field of opportunity (2021, 18–19).
That most rock art dates back some 70 – 30,000 years, to a period in which our species
‘witnessed the invention of boats, oil lamps, bows and arrows and needles,’ as well as ‘religion, commerce and social stratification’ (Harari 2014), should tell us something about its significance on the global stage. With every new epoch comes a new layer, a new skin or sediment, to the point where the Earth has become wholly consumed by human activity (Colomina & Wigley 2016, 12).
It goes without saying that the scale of urbanisation, agriculture, industrialisation, etc. would not have been possible without language or a system, such as rock art, around which ideas could be expressed, preserved, bettered.
Taking as its base the understanding that ‘archeology has always been about design’ – a form of ‘reverse engineering’ that highlights ‘the sedimented ways’ in which we reinvent ourselves (Colomina 2016, 11) – this exhibition traces the continued legacy of rock art in its varied manifestations today, unpacking the similarities and differences that emerged over time in different parts of the world, whilst pointing to the possibility of a shared origin.
It asks where we would be, were it not for the first person(s) who left their mark on a rock in the Blombos cave some 70,000 years back? How different might our sense of self be, were it not for the individual who decided to leave their handprint on the wall of the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc cave in southern France; a gesture which seems to foreshadow the thumb-print as the surest mark of individuality?
Would we be in the current predicament that we’re in, were it not for these early surface incisions? And how might we conceive of such symbols in light of our current data-driven age?
Will future generations be equally baffled by the various data storage systems used today – ‘strange aluminium boxes whose contents, owing to rapid advances in platforms and programming languages’ may come to resemble nought but ‘meaningless code’ (Schalansky 2021, 24)? What will they make of our road signs, logos, branded clothes, and social media accounts?
Colomina, Beatriz and Wigley, Mark. 2016. Are we human? Notes on an archaeology of design. Lars Müller Publishers.
Mendiola Galván, Francisco. 2022. “Rock art in Puebla, Mexico. Ancient internal and external relations.” Centro INAH Puebla.
Garate, Diego. 2018. ”New Insights into the Study of Paleolithic Rock Art: Dismantling the’Basque Country Void’”. Journal of Anthropological Research (Summer),168–200.
Harari, Yuval Noah. 2014. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. London and New York: Random House.
McCarthy, Cormac. 2017. “The Kekulé Problem: Where did language come from?” Nautilus (17 April). Available at: https://nautil.us/the-kekul-problem-6082/
Piesing, Mark. 2020. “How to build a nuclear warning for 10,000 years time.” BBC (3 August). Available at: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200731-how-to-build-a-nuclear-warning-for-10000-years-time
Schalansky, Judith. 2021/2018. An Inventory of Losses. Translated by Jackie Smith. London: MacLehose Press.
Von Petzinger, Genevieve. 2015. “Why are these 32 symbols found in caves all over Europe | Genevieve von Petzinger.” YouTube (18 Dec). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJnEQCMA5Sg.