Dreams as R-evolution installation… ‘greening the gallery’ at IZIKO National Gallery  

Dreams as R-evolution is a site specific, multi-media installation that encompasses sculptural forms, drawings, paintings, photographs and costume. Engaging with the ideas of conditioning, evolution, and revolution, the artist, Coral Bijoux, invites us to participate in a conversation about our ability to transform ourselves and our environments (knowing from what we must transform), and daring us to reimagine ideas of self, space, authority/power and innocence: the four core narrative elements of the installation. Is there any other way for us to be human, she asks?  

Plastic collected from industrial and household bins and dumpsites is the predominant material here: single-use, builders’ and packaging materials, and discarded plastic-based objects. The installation, however, is not about recycling or the idea that we can reverse human impact by recycling our behaviours. Plastic, as a metaphor, is used to reflect on humanity: our practices, habits and values. Plant life engages the relationship between organic and inorganic materials, and is a critical knowledge system that speaks of place and acts on space, as much as it is acted on by the context. The ‘self’ is central too: it is the protagonist who attempts to r-evolutionise the self, in particular space. All these elements merge in the installation to signal transformative potential. 
The installation, then, is offered as a provocation, a space for imagining the world differently and is an act of self-actualization.  

The Dreams as R-evolution installation was conceived in 2018 and developed over a nine-month period (2019-2020) in a neglected plant nursery at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (UKZN) Westville campus, bordering the Palmiet Reserve. This was after many doors were closed to Bijoux as she sought out the appropriate place for this work to evolve. The nursery space teemed with life: insects, birds, snakes, lizards, meerkat, monkeys, plants, sky, wind, sun, rain and people on the university campus. In this ‘unnatural’-natural open-air space, the artist had to observe, listen and create, even if thwarted by the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions.

Over the months, the disused nursery evolved into a dreamscape where the artist mused about the  dreams that were “klapped out of her” from an early age. Lionel Davis, artist and struggle veteran, commented about the installation at the nursery: “…this journey of joyous fantasy that you have created…you transformed this neglected wilderness strewn with rubbish into a playground for young and old. We are all victims of conformity, shackled for too long to what others have decided we should be.
The Dreams as R-evolution installation has found ‘a new environment’ at the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town.

Of this space, Bijoux says, “I am conscious of the effects of  the Dreams as R-evolution within this formal structure – in one of South Africa’s older colonial buildings (about 150 years) – the land on which the Gallery sits belongs to us all and as such, we will engage this space as ours, offering new meanings to it. In ’greening the gallery’, I engage the historical countenance by muralling the walls, inserting icons, symbols and words that evoke the past in the present.” 

Dreams as R-evolution installation at IZIKO National Gallery: From left to right Ingrid Masondo, curator, Sabata Mageza, technician and Coral Bijoux, installation artist.

Drawing attention to conversations (and boundaries) about art and environment, between ‘indoors’ and ‘outdoors’, the installation explores contemporary art-making practices and ways of exhibition making. It is a prompt to ask pertinent questions about place and land; about valued knowledge systems; about behaviour and practices; about the place of the human. See the original installation in a plant nursery here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exs9i9J0Boc

For more information on the installation at iSANG or to book group dream workshops, contact Ingrid Masondo, Iziko Curator of Photography and New Media on +27 21 481 3956 or at imasondo@iziko.org.za

The drawing Bilirubin with two details below
Prof Baijnath explains bilirubin
Embedded yet Unbound, an audio poem by Malika Ndlovu with sound by Garth Erasmus – written and recorded for Dreams as R-evolution
Poem for Dreams As R-evolution by Diana Ferus