Bogosi Sekhukhuni is an artist whose previous work has explored the creeping dominance of the virtual over daily life. Projects such as Consciousness engine 2: absentblackfatherbot, a simulation of a conversation between a father and son, echo classic science fiction themes of artificial intelligence and post-humanism. He is actively conversant with these genre tropes- “I approach science fiction as a narrative style. And as a way of developing hypotheses, imagined environments or simulations of circumstances that speak to various conditions of human nature, usually specifically within the lens of a black body in a pre singularity world”. But, he is equally aware of these tropes limitations , saying “ I’m really not interested in the future in the sci fi sense; science fiction or discussions on technological progress tend to be projected through a western capitalist linear vision that anticipates and packages novelty. I’m more drawn to Bantu philosophical interpretations of space time that acknowledge a cyclical nature of time and in turn, the history of human progress. Our present popular understanding of technological progress is supported by the notion that our time represents an unprecedented height of human intelligence, which is easily refuted by the immense archeological record left all over the world, especially in southern Africa”.
His current solo exhibition Simunye Summit 2010, reverses engineers the past, with a “ a sci fi dystopian reading of Apartheid history and society”. The show presents “ the brand of Simunye Systems; a fictional biotech and genetics research company who offer insurance plans that include treatments that focus on genetic markers responsible for various human ailments. I’ve modelled the nature of Simunye Systems on front biochem companies formed by apartheid military intelligence that were developing experimental chemical warfare directed at the Black population in the 80’s. Its a fascinating part of our history that needs more light shed on it”.
The visual components of the exhibition come with a written backstory, which imagines an alternate reality South Africa, complete with cosmic messages and transformative genetic technology.
The real life history inspiring the show is wild in its own right. Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s the Apartheid government embarked on various deranged weapons programs, from attempts to weaponize MDMA to a secret nuclear bomb test in the Atlantic Ocean, referred to by historians as the Vela Incident. Although much of this history has been forgotten, it has had a strange half life in science fiction film. The 1987 classic Robocop begins with a news story about a South African made neutron bomb. The Vela Incident is alluded to in the ultra- tacky Alien Vs. Predator (2004). While these are just stray references, Sekhukhuni is confronting the nightmares of the past head on, generating visual fictions for our disturbed present.