Massa Lemu





In A Bouquet of Sublimated Desires (2019), kerosene lamps, antique sewing machines, rubber straps, and asphalt are nostalgic objects and materials for reflecting upon issues of biography, history, and home. Growing up in Malawi where power outages are regular, the kerosene lamp was one of the key alternatives to electricity lighting in the home. As a child I used to tinker with this fascinating, household item particularly marveling at its humanlike shape and also at how the different parts are held together. Now I return to the lamp to disarticulate and rearticulate its articulated parts in order to emphasize the anthropomorphic qualities in a process I call articulage. The term articulage, which I coined, combines the traditional art term assemblage i.e. to assemble, and the term articulate, particularly as used by Stuart Hall i.e. how relatively autonomous structures, such as the economic base and the superstructure, are linked together and shape each other in a social formation. Articulage is mostly about artistic strategies and processes, but it is also a way of thinking about how practice is articulated with, to, and by theory in my work. Commercial tailors working with antique sewing machines on storefronts are a feature in Malawian cities and townships. As a child, these machines patched and mended my clothes. Today, their sculptural presence, sounds, and smells are evocative of a bygone childhood era. However, in this work I return to them to plumb the depths of my psyche as a migrant, postcolonial subject. Rubber straps recycled from old tires, and asphalt turn the machines into surreal objects for thinking about mobility, home, and the absurd realities of postcolonial societies being tremendously transformed in the neoliberal moment.