Stretching the Notion of Painting

Mukenge/Schellhammer explore how geography and infrastructures influence formats of production as well as longevity and conservation of art. Their projects combine these contrasting approaches to challenge universalisms about formats of production of painting.

Christ Mukenge and Lydia Schellhammer — Nov 30, 2022

Akademie Schloss Solitude - Stretching the Notion of Painting

Mukenge/Schellhammer, installation view of Mbok'elengi, Yango Biennale, Kinshasa, 2022. Courtesy of the artists.

In Kinshasa, we experience painting as a temporary medium.
Materials such as fabric and paint decay after a short time due to the tropical climate and there are not many museums, workshops, or cultural centers that can store artworks. The practice of preservation in and through art corresponds to a more performative and situational approach to the material; the dominant media logic of recording and storage is opposed by a logic of the ephemeral and variable. In our project Stretching the Notion of Painting, we combine these contrasting approaches to challenge the Western idea of painting. That is why we have started a series of works that questions painting as a sustainable, static medium and instead understand paintings as a dynamic, temporary medium.

Mbok’elengi *
Presented within the framework of the Yango Biennale in Kinshasa. Mukenge/Schellhammer featuring the performers Pigeon de la Terre and Beauté Sauvage, Kinshasa, 2022.

Mobile Photo Studio Mbok’elengi is an interactive installation composed of paintings and accessories. As a temporary urban intervention, it invites visitors to interact with the paintings. Those viewers wishing to do so can pose in front of the paintings and have their pictures taken. The result is a direct dialogue between the painting and the public. The performers, Pigeon de la Terre and Beauté Sauvage, were invited to use two paintings as accessories. The studio installation consists of wooden panels painted with acrylic paints, spray paints, and oil pastels. The structure is inspired by historical photo studios in Kinshasa from the sixties and seventies. As a backdrop for portraits, painted backgrounds become frames for the photographed subjects. Two painted fabrics in the format 100 × 200 cm are movable parts of the installation as unframed paintings. In the case of this interactive installation, painting is also used as a background and accessory for the interaction of not only performers, but also the public. The meaning of the artworks unfolds only in interaction with people; it doesn’t stand for itself. This approach responds to Kinshasa’s urban reality. A city with very few exhibition spaces and museums makes artistic intervention in urban space a necessity as an accessible form of artistic expression. * Place

Pool Malebo
Experimental performance produced in the framework of the multimedia show Pool Malebo at ifa Galerie Stuttgart. Mukenge/Schellhammer feat. Yara Richter and Kai Krämer, Stuttgart, 2022

Pool Malebo is a well-known place in Kinshasa, a tropical river landscape that has been both a real trade center and a site for the projection of European fantasies from colonial times to this day. Drawing from this hub for the transshipment of goods and images, the artists explore the fictional potential of contemporary depictions of otherness. They invited students from discoteca flaming stars‘ (Wolfang Mayer and Cristina Gómez Barrio) »Body, Theory and the Poetics of the Performative« class at ABK Stuttgart to interact with stretchable and non-stretchable paintings and to transform the images during the interaction with their bodies.

The students were invited to interact with two paintings. One is an unframed acrylic painting on canvas in the format 150 × 240 cm. The other is a mixture of acrylic painting and marker pen drawing on stretch fabric in the format 100 × 130 cm (unstretched). The visual goal of this experimental collaboration was to change the motifs depicted in the paintings through (body) movement. The interaction between body and material has changed the static motifs of the drawings and paintings into dynamic, dialogical elements. The approach of moving images that shift and deform through external influence is also a visualization of the distortions of identities through representation as alterity and the alien gaze.

Mukenge/Schellhammer is Christ Mukenge (b. 1988, Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Lydia Schellhammer (b. 1992, Germany). The artists expose themselves to transcontinental conflict situations within rapidly changing social systems between Europe and the Democratic Republic of Congo and respond to their experiences and investigations in an ongoing artistic process that includes analogue and digital paintings and drawings, experimental videos, urban interventions, and performances.