A text that is intentionally written without punctuation. “Thus”, says Bernard Akoi-Jackson “presenting the reader certain challenges as arise in the issues the text is dealing with. (…) The idea of such text will be that readers be invited to offer their own suggestions as to how it should be punctuated. This brings in the possibility of participatory performance to the online audience.”
Participation and education are important issues for the Ghanaian artist Bernard Akoi-Jackson. In an recent interview on the website of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam he talks with Bram Verhoef about it. To introduce the text he submitted to Africanah.org some quotes out of that interview.
It is curious to note that the Stedelijk is finally engaging the larger world. It’s been rather long in coming. I see exchange between people and institutions as a bond in the making; a connection. We participate with one another by way of interaction. Are we going to be able to sustain this relationship? Where in the past, painters prepared their own materials, paints are now industrially manufactured, and that too is a form of participation. The artist no longer carries out ‘all the work.’ There are other people involved in the process. This is also true of how a work of art takes on meaning. An artwork is not the creation of an individual artist, but it becomes a collective narrative. Without the narrative a work isn’t worth anything. Everyone contributes his or her own voice, one louder than the other, building a formidable discussion around the work. We should be able to see the ability to collaborate in the narrative as a fundamental right, but then this right also becomes something for which we are all carry responsibility. Participation is not about insult or confrontation. It may be joyful. It has to be relaxed, so people can take part.
What does it mean to apply these ideas about participation on a global scale?
The ‘global scale’ is a curious concept. What might it mean? The fact that there is global collaboration primarily should imply that we are looking at similarities as well as differences. For me, it does not matter how different you think you are, or how different your cultural background seems to be: if you chip it down to the basic elements it should all come down to the same thing: humanity. But do we all speak the same language when we make claims to ‘globalization?’ An opportunity to criticize such concepts needs to be made available to young people. I am wondering what role a concept like ‘cultural background’ is going to play in the coming future. What will it mean to be Ghanaian or Dutch ten or twenty years from now? It is like that for me in art as well. At the point when you take everything to extremes, you begin to see the similarities. The differences do not evaporate, of course, they only become variations on a theme. This is a function of art that I treasure: adaptability and the propensity towards re-invention. You ought always to ask yourself whether the way you look at things is radical, subtle, or nuanced, and by always looking at everyday things in new ways, you will transform your perspective. With this, you also renew the way you inform yourself and the way you see the world. This is the way you learn new things and absorb new experiences. Your impact on the world will then become relevant.
history hangs thin yet is most often presented as if it were opaque like the mists that rise each morning from the sintra mountains in the distance history should appropriately be transparent but for so long historys presumed opacity has been aggravated by distance and the insistence on exclusion despite all the contemporary claims to globalization and free movement yet distance is also now nearer not because of the generalization known as globalization but by the fortunate reawakening that history no longer has one central writer it never really did historys making entails much much more than only writing oration performance and just simply being have long been neglected by those who see history only as a feat in scripture for those who for so long had propagated and thence perpetuated a monolithic narrative as the solely authentic and canonical life must really have been such a sorry deception yet sometimes quite unfortunately this deception continues to be lived in several aspects of human endeavour we still hear for instance mythical tales of the discovery of new worlds when already people were living in the discovered lands before they were as it were discovered and we still hear stories of conquest when in reality conquest exists only as compromise whilst the myths are left to opacify and gain canonisation amnesia slowly creeps in and the contexts in which these discoveries or conquests were made are usually left to the whims of transparency so that after some time and distance we succumb to oblivion it needs no rehashing that history is a result of collective and participatory fabrication all participants share their personal stories dreams nostalgias fears scepticisms and even cynicisms as relate to the concepts of home & abroad i only become like the literal netting a mediator not sole author and together we weave a living oration and it unfolds in cyclic motion never in linear progression valleys rise and mountains plateau and soon become plains that are suddenly depressions sinking further into valleys springing streams that grow into rivers damming into lakes and eventually flowing off into great oceans only to rise again as mist into clouds that fall in torrents back to earth it is endless it is ceaseless history never began and never ended it only is should we in the hope to rewrite or indeed revisit history begin to question this projected opacity and select rather to listen to the myriad muted nuances that hitherto occupied the periphery we will better begin to appreciate this transparency that i refer to for transparency does not imply nonexistence but the sublime it is the stuff of which ephemera is fabricated ephemera is not embodied absence but emspirited presence now the new discovery is that universalist term globalization but before all this there was ubuntu and the coolness of the ears but none of the discoverers of novelties would refer to these concepts because the stem is not in their centre yet let us just let all be and we’ll all realize that certain concepts are truly more humane than others whereas globalization makes claims to equality only if you can lose your selfhood into the other via linear democracy and market capitalism ubuntu on the other hand celebrates participation community and humanity in that the self is not lost in the other nor vice versa in this sense movement is made more flux more fluid if we look through the transparency there would not be the necessity of authorization or barcode validation to pass thorough ports and there would be no need for the building of fortresses and gated communities but until all this becomes a reality not in the utopian sense of course we will all still be living in a situation of globalies
Brief bio: Bernard Akoi-Jackson is an artist from Ghana. In 2012 he participated in a group show in the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam (SMBA): ‘Time, Trade, travel’. He teaches at Tema International School in Accra.