CF: Similarly, you’ve been exhibiting your work – much of which is concerned with materiality, form, and texture – through online platforms this year. Do you find that anything is shifted, lost, or gained when engaging with your work, digitally?
MN: I would love to respond to this with an endearing optimism, but it would be disingenuous of me. I am actually saddened that my work has had to be virtually experienced. I didn’t create the work with the intention of a virtual engagement, but a physical one so I find that something is lost in its digital experience.
Texture, the experience of it, is an important aspect of the work. It is not a consequence of engaging with materials, but a departure point for my work.Motlhoki Nono
I am interested in how the matrix, like paper, is able to pick up and expose certain fragile textures in a material, which one might not pay attention to in the object itself. Translating these textures is another lens of looking at an object, of privileging these delicate lines, bold shapes and abstractions of various materials. The relationship between tactile and simulated texture is key in my work and it is important for this to be contemplated live. Similar to the Mma Pelo O Jele Serati series. This is meant to be a series of video installations, but because of the restriction of presentation which the lockdown presents, I’ve been showing them as videos and this has been slightly dissapointing to me because it’s missing a critical element of engagement.
I enjoy this question because I have been thinking a lot during lockdown about whether or not a tree falling in the forest actually makes a sound when there is no one to hear it. About whether or not things, particularly art (mine), has as much of an impact without the element of physical engagement. As a result, my entire honours research paper is an investigation of this, of the essence of objects and the relationship between their practicality and human intervention. I think there is something slightly false in claiming that I don’t completely create work for an audience, but solely or myself. I very much enjoy it when people near the work to see how it’s actually made, when I see them move around space in a particular manner that is dictated by the installation. Not experiencing this has been a little unsatisfying.