Sama Guent Guii leaves us safer in abstraction
with Mame-Diarra Niang
Working in photography and immersive installation, Mame-Diarra Niang’s practice interrogates the value we place in visual perceptions. For her latest show at Stevenson, featured in this week’s Re:View, she furthers her investigation by employing non-portraiture.
Literally blurring the shallow space between reality and imagination, Mame-Diarra Niang created a third realm where metaphor reigns over the sense of sight. Taken from the Wolof phrase Same Guent Guii, the show’s title translates to ‘this dream that I had’.
Described by Georges Didi-Huberman as the power of dissemblance over resemblance, in blurring, Niang disrupts the traditional relationship we have with representation.
Informed by her personal experience, Niang says, “This series feels like the abstract idea I have of myself, the acceptance that forgetting is also a starting point and a fleeting necessary memory. Sama Guent Guii, in which my memory is a dream.” Misty, the observed figures almost instruct the viewer to focus without the reward of increased clarity. No matter how hard we look, the gender, class, race, place and mood of the sitters remains unknown.
Dissolving the identities and descriptors we cling to, she challenges the connection between perception and knowledge. Leaving the viewer here, without a resolve, clarity ceases to be the expected outcome of interactions, memories and dreams. In spite of it being the primary point of reference, perhaps the presence of a body is not an invitation to perceive.
Then, working together with disinviting perception, in presenting the viewer with obscurity, Niang also offers her subjects anonymity, invisibility — a safety blanket of some sorts. Cultivating the audacity to be a searching, sometimes confused, incomplete, ever-changing, work in progress.
Overwhelming without being burdensome. As comforting as it is terrifying, Sama Guent Guii Niang generously leads its audience into a seeing that goes beyond the visible. Defiant, reticent and yet to be fully realised, the figures in Sama Guent Guii (in their obscurity, magnitude and distinct placements) gently make not knowing okay.