Kai Lossgott solo exhibition | hunter-gatherer
21 May – 15 June 2017
at the Absa Gallery, Absa Towers North, 161 Main Road, Johannesburg
Artist’s Walkabout: 26 May; 2 & 9 June 2017 (13:00-15:00).
Redefining the human experience in the time of the Anthropocene
Absa Gallery hosts riveting new solo exhibition from L’Atelier winner Kai Lossgott
What is a ‘thing’? What is a ‘human’? For years, 2015 L’Atelier winner Kai Lossgott has been driven with increasing urgency to pursue these questions as they pertain to our human relationship with the world in which we live. Ultimately, these queries meet in the question, ‘What is waste?’, which interrogates the idea of how people and things end up being considered useless. This critical thinking underscores Lossgott’s hunter-gatherer solo exhibition, which takes place at the Absa Gallery from 21 May 2017 to 15 June 2017.
Lossgott’s work is known for investigating questions of personal and environmental health to speak about human agency within the socio-ecological crisis. He takes this idea a step further in hunter-gatherer as he explores how to live beyond the neuroses and obsessions of mass extraction, consumption and discarding to experience life on its own terms. In the current age of the Earth, which some geologists have called the Anthropocene, human activity is the dominant influence on climate and the environment. This is the consequence of the industrial activities surrounding the production of our discarded objects; waste that apparently no longer has a use.
“My current work centres around questions of value, and the notion of intrinsic worth; the appreciation or conservation of things or matters for their own sake rather than for human gain. Seeking to destabilise my human position through the tool of scale, I explore the symbolic mapping of borders and territory, and what may lie within or outside the borders of the valuable or meaningful. I physically relocate objects found on dumps or in the street, from a past life on a supermarket shelf, to a new context in museums and galleries ,” Lossgott explains.
One of the human-driven manifestations of the Anthropocene is climate change and the sixth mass extinction of species. As a consumer and creator concerned with ethics, Lossgott is preoccupied with the human-centred (anthropocentric) world-view and utilitarianism, in which all things are co-opted to become tools for human desires and ambitions. In seeking to deepen his understanding of what it could mean for each of us to be human at this point in history, Lossgott has looked for answers in the places that seem to be the most overlooked due to their familiarity – the ecology of the city, and the household objects that we have designed and launched into the world through our aspirations.
“As an artist, interrogating the ‘human’ in the ‘world’ has meant that my tools have been aesthetic, or perceptive. I have enquired into forms and compositions, how the dump is made up and arranged in comparison to the supermarket or the anthropological museum. In these places, time, labour and money were spent on goods laboriously extracted, manufactured and displayed, in order to be quickly consumed, discarded and forgotten by consumers like me. In hunter-gatherer, the minute, jumbled and discarded fragments of urban life suddenly attract attention through slow and careful re-arrangement.
“Experimenting with mimicking these disciplinary modes of perception andpresentation on the street as the ‘hunter-gatherer’, I draw attention to the abandoned value, material and symbolic, of former industrial ‘resources’. The objects remain. I enter public space to make visible the remnants of our collective mass co-habitation, but I do not recycle or clean up. I make visible my sustained attention and choices, as well as the right and the desire to spend my own time, money and labour caring for what is considered useless,” Lossgott says.
In order to practice what he preaches, Lossgott aims to have a fully sustainable art practice, and has personally pursued the use of repurposed, non-toxic materials and practices with a low carbon footprint wherever possible.
“The alignment with environmental ethics is also an economic imperative. The city and its dumps, beginning with my dustpan or kitchen bin, abound with materials whose potential remains sadly underexplored. Working with found objects, and understanding their material history; their past life and destiny; and how they came into my hands through the imagination of previous design and manufacture, is an act of learning and listening. I could impose my will on them and pursue a transformation, a migration of form akin to mimesis and illusion, but making pictures is not primarily being in touch with reality. I have to give reality and the object the time to be observed on its own terms. However, truly attempting to understand the function of these objects and letting them influence my actions becomes impossible when caught in a rush. This time has been given to me because I have given my time, and my gratitude extends to those who have supported it,” Lossgott notes.
In this body of work, he is ultimately concerned with knowledge itself in the Anthropocene, and how our world-view may be reconstructed beyond the limits of human perception or aesthetics. To this end hunter-gatherer is concerned with looking, thinking and doing, and the definition of being human in an age in which what we call ‘the environment’ is urban for the majority of people on the planet.
Lossgott was the overall winner in the prestigious L’Atelier art competition in 2015, and was awarded a six-month art residency at the Cité internationale des Arts in Paris. This is his first solo exhibition since his return from France. hunter-gatherer is hosted by the Absa Gallery, and runs from 21 May 2017 to 15 June 2017. The artist will do a walk-about in the gallery on Friday 26 May, and Friday 2 and 9 June 2017 between 13:00 and 15:00.
Image: Kai Lossgott. 2017. Production still from multiple channel video installation with found objects. Dimensions variable. Image courtesy of the artist.