The exhibition is articulated through three central themes: Freedom, Compression and Exhaustion. Each artist seems to have developed their own strategy to defy this imposed frame. Sandra Mujinga’s ghostly, haunting figures in Spectral Keepers are made of fabric and bathed in alien-like green light. Their names correspond to various numbers in Lingala and challenge the hedonistic escapism of a commodified techno culture. On whose labor has this “freedom” been built, she seems to ask – and who is excluded from it?
Emeka Ogboh’s beautiful album Beyond the Yellow Haze interweaves electronic sound with the pulsing sounds from the streets of Lagos. Presenting his sound installation in the Exhaustion category seems misleading. Why and by whom is the sonic landscape of Lagos perceived as exhausting? Sound becomes tangible as a technology that is related to the experience of space and memory. In a similar vein, Berlin- and London-based musician Nkisi links ancestrality and descendants through rhythms and vibrations in her audiovisual sound installation Ninga Na (sounds of connexion).
As a white person who cares about art by African, Afrodiasporic, and African-American artists and the discourse around it, I think it is crucial to step back and line up behind voices that have been purposefully misheard, so that different subject positions, perspectives, and narratives can be reclaimed – ultimately leading the art discourse to higher levels for everyone. Instead of inviting DeForrest Brown, Jr. for a podcast interview once the exhibition was already set up, it would have been more valuable to ask him to curate TECHNO himself, or at least ask him to join the curatorial team early on to allow a critical engagement with questions regarding techno’s ownership and belonging.
The exhibition would have gained by pushing – in the spirit of techno – against the limitations of the (institutional) machine.
TECHNO at Museion, Bolzano in Italy runs through 16 Mar 2022.
Jamila Moroder is an art historian and painter. She graduated from the Freie Universität Berlin in 2020 with a MA Degree in Art History in a Global Context. Her research focuses on the interconnectedness between art, fashion and politics in films by Sembène Ousmane.