Paying homage to home
with Joël Andrianomearisoa
Embedded in desire, fantasy and the seduction of understanding without fully knowing, Joël Andrianomearisoa’s solo exhibition My Heart Belongs to The Other at CHURCH intimately investigates the intricacies of distance, ownership, belonging and longing. Airing out its layers, this week’s Re:View considers the ambiguous, euphemistic and subtle folds governing his poetics.
An inquiry into the materiality of the sentimental Joël Andrianomearisoa’s practice straddles the poetic and the political. In his own words, Andrianomearisoa says “mine is to materialise emotions”. Multidisciplinary, in a way that mirrors the expansive nature of emotions, Andrianomearisoa’s approach encompasses varying mediums and materials. Existing as sculpture, sound, light, textile and text the immersions give architecture and aesthetic to the intangible.
On who the Other could be, Andrianomearisoa says,“Everything belongs to Madagascar.” A statement made in reference to what sits at the centre of Andrianomearisoa’s private personhood and public practice, the assertion recently resulted in the exhibition My Heart Belongs to The Other. A presentation peppered in resonance, the presentation uses desire to talk through the artist’s relationship with his homeland. Often unwanted, the other represents difference, the marginalised and the excluded. “I’m not insisting that we focus on the minority. There is always a kind of tension with the other. I’m playing at the edge of the tension without affirming it.” An island just off the southeast coast of Africa, Madagascar is a country rich in external encounters and cultural influences. Before being invaded by France, Banjar people from Borneo settled in Madagascar. Then during and after World War II, the country came into contact with Germany, Morocco, Syria and Britain. Wounded, theirs is often a shunned and neglected heritage.
Considering clothes in their capacity as performative second skins, Andrianomearisoa’s decision to display garments off bodies brings about thoughts of a radical shedding. Perhaps shedding conformity, as suggested by the wardrobe being monochrome, the decision to choose the other is cemented as soon as audiences walk through the door. However, from the artist’s point of view, the clothes have another charge.
Over 50 pieces, the costumes are reproductions of traditional and everyday garments like an abaya, a djellaba, a skirt, a few shirts, and an evening gown. “To define Madagascar without words, I decided to mix everything. It’s the idea of a mix because I don’t have a specific imagery to represent Madagascar. I don’t have a specific form. There is no one specific item,” explains Andrianomearisoa. Fabricated from the same material he uses for his canvas, the sartorial installation is the artist’s attempt to perceive his home with a refreshed, but nuanced, hope.
Flirting with duality through a palette that embraces black as much as it does white, darkness as much as it does light, My Heart Belongs to The Other is not naive patriotism or a blind allegiance to home. Ending with a blinding light installation at the end of a dark room, the show’s end almost reads like a portal of hope. From all the decay, disconnection and decomposition of heritage, perhaps new life can come.