CUSS Group at the Berlin Biennale; the glitchy underbelly to your interactive parameters

CUSS Group, formed in 2011 by Ravi Govender, Jamal Nxedlana and Zamani Xolo, have been tsatsatsa since the get-go and need little introduction; they were South Africa’s first arts collective to focus on digital technologies and have, since then, gone viral, infiltrating a diversity of spaces; from car boots in Zimbabwe to MoMA in Poland, from internet cafes and hair salons in SA, to gallery and project spaces in Australia, Switzerland and London. They’ve morphed over time to include Lex Trickett and Christopher McMichael and are currently showing at the Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art where they brought Philip Pilekjær on board as an extra bansela for the production of their installation titled Triomf Factory Shop.

You check those lexicons? CUSS Group are informal architecture and transgressive neo-archive, constantly subverting the sexy terminology lubed-up by exclusive art institutions. They were ‘post-internet’, ‘super-hybridity’ before white-cubes latched that language… but that savvy can hijack what it wants coz CUSS Group made the gogqa*. Their mass aesthetic has never pandered to the violent atmospheres of those exclusionary spaces. Instead, they throw up rude questions in scandals of contact**; pixelating paranoid, annihilative renderings and frustrating the visions of regulative power. CG are an illicit economy with many usernames; they’re the glitchy underbelly to your interactive parameters, the errant bluescreen to your reductive protocols of modulation… and they’re bringing the noise in Berlin.

Nguni Arts International, 2016. CUSS Group. Berlin Biennale installtion view 5

Nguni Arts International, 2016. CUSS Group. Berlin Biennale installtion view 6

Nguni Arts International, 2016. CUSS Group. Berlin Biennale installtion view 7

Triomf Factory Shop is simulacra in iridescent disk-spin; it’s a swarm of diffused meaning, a passage of intensities and forces, turning the thing in on itself, manipulating the implications of the platform by hiding things in plain-sight. LCD insubordination and the semi-sleazy. Counter-culture’s too limited: it’s an exploit***. But you’ll probably be in-and-out in three seconds, waving your terms. At biennales, people stand in front of things just to say that they did. Cash ‘n carry, but can you smell the contraband? The seedy section and the illicit underhand. What you fronting for? You wanna put that on lay-bye? There could be sliding-doors but that would be too easy-access. You’ll probably take the cabinet for closed, miss the catalogue and the infinity curve, the repurposing of what remains after the bulldozers came and left. There’s history in the artifice and implications in that name; who’s triomf? Do some digging. Who gets to produce and export the images? This is surreptitious transfer; re-appropriated appropriation, co-option in a bad paint job and the resurrection of dead content. The TV’s running clandestine overproduction in a façade of daily routine. Excess in the understocked and the flickering light of uneven acknowledgements. Your ‘modernisms’ were misplaced at the start. Necromedia, narcomedia, publicity, packaging… are you live Tweeting?

Angel Ho Red Devil courtesy Nguni Arts International

We live in liquid evil times; there’s always a conversation behind closed doors, surveillance and (in)security.  Can CG talk-back through the insurgent entity of Nguni Arts International? Can borders be disassembled through the cultural institution’s smugglings of works by ANGEL-HO, FAKA, Megan Mace, and NTU? They’ll be projected from the back room beyond the counter of official presentation. Networks and interests- are they superficial? You think CG don’t know the complexities of representation and articulation? Laanie, they’re from SA, so you can keep your flat landscapes and definitions of ‘African contemporary’. You can have a piece… (you got a piece?)… but not of them. You think you can wear this is similar ways? It’s up for sale, so you can try. You got the scent and the seed and the beer and the swag? The economies of veering directions and of having to give up the answers. The traces of long discussions in price allocations and the interfaces between you. The intersection of algorithms. Torn-boxes toppling the finished product. Feedback from multiple micronarratives. You wanna instrumentalise this when you don’t speak the language? CG and the NAI are whistling codes above your warm beds.

Don’t accept it’s unavailable, refresh a thousand times. It gets a bit fuzzy when the URL becomes IRL afterlife, when the young know the wool in advance. What did you expect? This is haptic device and here comes the jingle… you can take it away. Take the aesthetic to town. In-flight entertainment…  Did you lose your train of thought? Good, then you’re in. Shesha…


* A ghost key used by car thieves to open and start a car

** Fanon made the observation in ‘A Dying Colonialism’, that once the colonial subjects’ vital capacities are co-opted by that system; “From this point on, the real values of the occupied quickly tend to acquire a clandestine form of existence. In the presence of the occupier, the occupied learns to dissemble, to resort to trickery. To the scandal of military occupation, he opposes a scandal of contact. Every contact between the occupied and the occupier is a falsehood” (1965: 65). This article suggests that something similar could be said for the work of CUSS Group in relation to neo-colonialisms. (Fanon, F. 1965, A Dying Colonialism. New York: Grove Press)

*** Computer viruses “exploit the normal functioning of their host systems to produce more copies of themselves” (Galloway and Thacker 2007: 83). In other words, computer viruses thrive in monopolistic environments because they “take advantage of… standardisation and homogeneity to propagate through the network” (Galloway and Thacker 2007: 84). (Galloway, A. R, and Thacker, E. 2007, ‘The Exploit; A Theory of Networks’, Electronic Mediations, Vol. 21, Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press)

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