Cuss Group was founded in 2011 by Ravi Govender, Jamal Nxedlana and Zamani Xolo. Standing out as one of the first South African arts collective focussing on digital technologies, they don’t need much of an introduction. Since their formation they have gone viral and infiltrated a variety of spaces such as Internet cafes and hair salons in South Africa, car booths in Zimbabwe, MoMa in Poland and gallery and project spaces in Switzerland, Australia and London. Over time the collective has expanded to include Lex Trickett and Christopher McMichael. Their most recent project, ‘Fully Automated Luxury Influencer’ is an immersive film experience and will be showcased as a part of Season 2 by the Centre of the Less Good Idea, co-curated by our co-founder Jamal Nxedlana. “Fully Automated Luxury Influencer uses the genre tropes of science fiction and horror to map the surreal and baroque dimensions of influence”.
“Our conceptual focus is on the rise of ‘influencer culture’, a contemporary corporate strategy in which a brand symbiotically attaches itself to an existent consumer group. Marketing discourse presents this as a mutually beneficial relationship but we can’t help but see the darker, and parasitic ramifications of such attachment.” Cuss Group explains further that influencer culture materializes from fast paced media evolution, technology and commodity.
“Politically, individual influencers and small groups can increasingly mobilize extremist sentiments to leverage themselves into power, as more saliently evidenced in the rise of Donald Trump.” They continue to say that this influence is mediated across esoteric assemblies of secret algorithms, corporate lobbying, government psychological operations, and emotional engineering. Cuss Group expresses that the concept of the influencer is vague and functionally endless. They state that the influencer seems to be a strategy of power that is flawlessly aligned for the era of augmented reality which is mediated through social media experiences as well as the Internet.
Their aim however is not to create a literal, sociological treatise but to examine the various facets found in contemporary influence through the use of an extended metaphor. “We want to use the genre tropes of science fiction and horror to map the surreal and baroque dimensions of influence.” ‘Fully Automated Luxury Influencer’ focuses on the parasitic aspects of influencer culture, of a cognitive virus infestation, that distorts and re-creates a new reality in perverse ways. Their approach to this project was influenced by the tradition of pulp films with a political narrative. Specifically they list ‘They Live to Get Out’ a film depicting monstrosity that functions as grotesque commentary on a twisted reality as inspiration.
‘Fully Automated Luxury Influencer’ is set in a postcolonial Johannesburg metropolis, embodying the extremes of late capitalism. Decaying slums are towered over with menace by shiny corporate headquarters, threatening over the site like large unwelcome spaceships. Toxic mine dumps frame paranoid suburbs and the noiseless streets are fortified by military grade technology. The film shows however, that the city is also a cultural hub and the home of the latest mutations in style and sound. “With the help of the production network we already have in the city, we will tap into this aesthetic to produce a story of influence running amok.” It is a natural step for Cuss Group to move into influencer culture as their practice has always been deeply rooted in Internet culture and digital technology.
Made up of three chapters, the film will be presented as a multiple screen installation from the 11th to the 14th October 2017 at The Centre for the Less Good Idea in Maboneng. The Cuss film experience will consist of live music, performances and DJ sets transporting sonic and visual narrative into real life. After each screening there will be an after party with musicians who formed a part of the film such as Zamani Xolo and Desire Marea from FAKA.
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Christopher McMichael – screenwriter
Ravi Govender – Director/editor
Jamal Nxedlana– art direction/director
Lex Trickett – DIT/visual effects
Zamani Xolo – sound design
Allison Swank – Producer
Mandisi Msingaphantsi – art direction
Kutlwano Makgalemele– cinematographer
Liezl Durand – sound
Orli Meiri – make up
Marchay Linderoth – hair
Mimi Duma – hair
Ndivhuwo Mokono – gaffer
Nomxolisi Masango – camera assistant
Sibusiso Mazibuko (CamChild) – camera assistant
Ronewa Nekhambele – spark
Vusani Mphepo – spark
Wandisile (Wander) Boo – Production assistant
Bobby Kamnga – Production Assitant
Marcia Elizabeth – Art Asst./wardrobe
Lebo Ramfate – art asst.
Alex Higgins – drone operator
Amanda – Lisle Collins
Oliver – Zenzelisphesihle “Sparky” Xulu
Stakka – Langa Mavuso
Felix – Jordan Major
Security Official – Gerard Bester
Security Official – Patricia Boyer
Scientist – Haleigh Evans
Syringe Scientist – Ayanda Nhlapo
Nguni Security Guard (driver) – Nhlanhla
Nguni Guard 2 – Cornwell Zulu
Nguni Gaurd 3 – Thulani Zwane
Robber – Desire Marea
Street Vendor – Sparks