Houghton Kinsman in conversation with Nkule Mabaso, Nadja Daehnke and Josephine Higgins via Facebook chat, on the process of travel, perception and transition, within the context of personal experience as curators for the Michaelis gallery.
This conversation is the third installment of our Conversation Series, and the first of a sub-series titled Arranged Encounters, mediated by Houghton Kinsman.
Hi all, welcome back. Thanks for rescheduling!
Nadja Daehnke, 2:54pm
Nkule Mabaso 2:54pm
Good afternoon to all
Josephine Higgins 2:55pm
Nkule Mabaso 2:55pm
This is very chatroom like
Houghton Kinsman 2:55pm
Perhaps we should start here with how you all know each other? If you do?
Somehow I feel I am the outsider here!
It’s like MixIT!
Nkule Mabaso 2:56pm
We are connected as Jo pointed out before by our relationship to the gallery
Nadja Daehnke 2:58pm
Its strange how connected I feel to Jo and Nkule – it is the gallery, but its such a special place that they feel almost like friends… cousins?
Houghton Kinsman 2:58pm
What makes it special Nadja?
Josephine Higgins 2:59pm
It is a strange relationship. I think because Michaelis Galleries feels like quite a unique beast, that there is some sort of link in just knowing that that person knows exactly what it’s like
Nadja Daehnke 2:59pm
The interaction with so many different ‘audiences’, the special vibe a university space has (the sense of learning, and the students, esp the students), and that it is one of very, very few experimental spaces
Nkule Mabaso 2:59pm
Yes the space is our special connecting thread, and dealing with the space gives some insight in the other persons in how they approached its curation,
Houghton Kinsman 3:00pm
So could we say the space has in a way been a catalyst for your connections?
Also, have you collaborated on any projects with each other?
Josephine Higgins 3:01pm
Yes, through multiple emails I think. On the one hand we know what it is like, but on the other, we’ve each had very different experiences
Nkule Mabaso 3:01pm
No collaborations as yet,
Nadja Daehnke 3:02pm
No, it is not so much that we share a curatorial vision or interact, but more that we have had the privilege of working in the same unique situation and space
Josephine Higgins 3:02pm
I think we all have quite different approaches and interests – so a collaboration would be interesting
Nadja Daehnke 3:03pm
Haha, terrible is always the most interesting…
Houghton Kinsman 3:05pm
Yesterday we were chatting about a living, or active archive and in a way your relationships speak to the idea of the living archive, being that there is past, present and future all bound up here
Josephine Higgins 3:06pm
Yes, even if just the various named folders on the desktop
Houghton Kinsman 3:06pm
So in a way there is almost an unconscious collaboration?
Nadja Daehnke 3:07pm
I guess, but I also love how many projects become archives or contribute archival materials for artists at the genesis of their careers
I remember an image of a Dumas work from when she was a student in a student exhibit at Michaelis – quite powerful. And any of those folders might contain such
Josephine Higgins 3:08pm
Or exhibitions which might have an influence on students’ approaches
Nkule Mabaso 3:09pm
On the subject of archives, nothing seems to keep me connected to my predecessors as much as the storeroom
Nadja Daehnke 3:09pm
Ah, the storeroom! is it still in Commerce?
Houghton Kinsman 3:09pm
The storeroom sounds intriguing
Josephine Higgins 3:09pm
Nkule Mabaso 3:10pm
Since the beginning of the year I have been tackling it section by section when I have time and well this Monday came across Nadja’s carefully labelled and indexed brown envelopes
Houghton Kinsman 3:11pm
Sounds like Harald Szeeman’s archive in Maggia
Nadja Daehnke 3:11pm
It was the place where one felt in control and where one could put all things to right. Or not, if there was a hectic installation during which things ran late…
Labels on envelopes – sigh.
This is probably the only time in my life anything I did will be compared to Szeeman…
Nkule Mabaso 3:12pm
And well to see the order and the care of this archive of past exhibitions materials was a very different (tactile) experience as opposed to seeing them simply here and there on my computer on files I never have the possibility to go through.
Houghton Kinsman 3:12pm
That sounds like a revelatory experience Nkule.
Nadja Daehnke 3:13pm
It is also great to sit in London and see invitations for new exhibitions in the gallery roll in on my email
Houghton Kinsman 3:14pm
There is something about the materiality of things that never gets old I feel
Nkule Mabaso 3:14pm
So anyway, Nadja’s solution to archiving the projects solved my dilemma in how I should archive the physical remnants of the gallery exhibitions and so on and so forth and get the appropriate shelving
but to get back to the conversation
Nadja Daehnke 3:15pm
I remember the time I ordered shelving only to discover it was too big to get through the door…. yes, back to conversation..
Josephine Higgins 3:16pm
That sounds like the storeroom I know Nadja.
Nadja Daehnke 3:16pm
Josephine Higgins 3:16pm
My views were much more pessimistic of the storeroom than both of yours.
Houghton Kinsman 3:16pm
Haha perhaps in speaking about the storeroom we can talk about location and specifically where you all come from and what brought you here initially
to Cape Town and Michaelis that is
Nkule Mabaso 3:17pm
Josephine Higgins 3:17pm
Houghton Kinsman 3:18pm
Nadja Daehnke 3:18pm
I was curator at another gallery, but when the job at Michaelis came up I loved the possibility it represented – possibility of working with academics, with students and also the possibility of building the gallery. It was a mess when I came there first.
Josephine Higgins 3:19pm
The first, switching from Rhodes to UCT to study when my Rhodes supervisor resigned (and I realised I could work with Colin). And then, a short-term offer from Stephen when I really didn’t know what I wanted to do next (whether to stay or go)
Nkule Mabaso 3:19pm
Nadja you were the first “official” curator of the gallery really
and before you it had only been marginally “managed” by postgraduate students and used and booked for staff and student projects and not really any public facing programming
Nadja Daehnke 3:20pm
I guess in some ways. The main bottom space was ad hoc used, and the top space was meant to be used but did not even have lighting. So I got the thing rolling.
Josephine Higgins 3:21pm
There was the video programming before, wasn’t there?
That always seemed like a rumour though, with that ‘temporary’ wall that just never left
Nadja Daehnke 3:22pm
Yes, I think that was put in place by Malcolm Payne??? But it was not a regular or was not really on anymore when I came – not sure which of the two.
Josephine Higgins 3:23pm
And Nkule, you’re the only one to have come through as an undergrad at Michaelis? – to have experienced the gallery as a student?
Nadja Daehnke 3:23pm
And the massive monster of a projector in the ceiling – is it still there?
Nkule Mabaso 3:23pm
and I am struggling to get it down, but working on it, I will throw a party when it’s down
All will be invited
Josephine Higgins 3:24pm
For the do it exhibition, there was a project where you had to list all of the things that you are not meant to look at in the gallery
Nadja Daehnke 3:24pm
I always found the weighting between student projects, lecturers’ projects and outside exhibitions very difficult. – and I am coming to the party for sure!
Nkule Mabaso 3:24pm
The question tends to become, take it down yes, but where will it go,
Josephine Higgins 3:24pm
Like plug points or light switches/aircons etc – that projector was on ours!
Houghton Kinsman 3:24pm
Hahaha is it a film projector?
Nkule Mabaso 3:25pm
Yes Houghton it is, massive ancient thing,
Josephine Higgins 3:25pm
Yes, but no longer functioning I think?
Nadja Daehnke 3:25pm
The Ginsberg brothers would give their souls for it….
Josephine Higgins 3:25pm
Yes Nadja – I found that balance difficult too. And everyone has a different opinion on it.
Houghton Kinsman 3:26pm
The idea of soul feels apt for the gallery space after hearing this conversation
Josephine Higgins 3:26pm
(the gallery is not only the curators, but also a board of elected staff members who meet occasionally)
Nadja Daehnke 3:26pm
For me one main point was that there was (at that stage) no other truly experimental, risk-taking space in CT. So I really hoped for an approach that also did allow for this.
Josephine Higgins 3:27pm
Yes, and I think, in our own very different ways, that has carried through to today?
Nadja Daehnke 3:28pm
Yes, Jo, the board of course helps shape direction and I found them hugely important as a sounding-board… and agreed re experimental continuing.
Houghton Kinsman 3:28pm
Nkule have you felt the same, I’m thinking in reference to Earthbound
Nkule Mabaso 3:29pm
The space perhaps due to its size and other contrasts does demand to be challenged,
Josephine Higgins 3:29pm
I was thinking of Earthbound as a good example
Houghton Kinsman 3:30pm
Yes and I want to add a link here to some of the Michaelis shows but how do I find these??
Nkule Mabaso 3:30pm
otherwise one does not have enough room to be conventional and ‘traditional’
Houghton Kinsman 3:31pm
Great thats awesome!
Josephine Higgins 3:33pm
This has been really interesting actually – next time you’re in Cape Town Nadja, we should all meet together and have a look at the different exhibitions/approaches etc
Nadja Daehnke 3:33pm
Yes, and collaborations??
Nkule Mabaso 3:34pm
I’d proposed to do a publication that tracks the last 5 years of the gallery
or at least as far back as possible in a linear fashion
Josephine Higgins 3:34pm
That would be great!
Nadja Daehnke 3:35pm
Great Nkule. Not sure if you still do a yearly brochure, but something more substantial would be awesome.
Nkule Mabaso 3:35pm
and that would go some way in definitely seeing the evolution and perhaps spell out the future possibilities
Nadja Daehnke 3:35pm
Nice one, Nkule
Josephine Higgins 3:35pm
I’ve often thought about the links between the projects that needed discussion, but there just wasn’t a forum. A book would be great.
Thanks again everyone – and Houghton for arranging!
Nkule Mabaso 3:36pm
I will be in touch about it again, Nadja were you ever able to locate that hard drive
with the project back ups ?
Nadja Daehnke 3:37pm
Yes, thanks and looking forward to future chats and that projector-party
Houghton Kinsman 3:37pm
Yes, I appreciate the turnout and an interesting conversation! Thanks for making the time and the future of collaboration, discussion, research and publication is exciting! Have a great weekend all!
Nadja Daehnke 3:38pm
I will have to look – I have all my docs backed up, but not sure whether that hardrive is with me in London or in storage in CT. Will check.
Keep well, and Nkule I will mail you re back up.
Nkule Mabaso 3:39pm
Thank you so much, it’s been great chatting, we will stay in touch indeed