Réclusion is a monumental maze-like assembly of beer crates with a video work. It could evoke the confinement of society’s prisons where we find ourselves due to our own will or forces greater than us.
Justine Gaga’s labyrinth is a monstrous machine whose understanding seems accessible but whose destruction seems impossible. The work speaks of capitalist schemes inflicted by a small majority on a large population: a political, economic and social system that deprives us of our freedom by controlling our choices. The monster constantly builds and deconstructs itself but is not possible to understand as it is controlled less by a common plan than selfish accumulation-based ideas. Yet while nobody controls it, much of the population suffers from it. Capitalism’s philosophy of production and consumption – be it in its former way of working or through its current use of information technology between speculation and digitisation – captures our individual ways of being. It makes us want things we do not need, refines our desire without consent, suggests what we must have for future well-being, forces work, money, sport, sugar, technological gadgets, alcohol and drugs on us at the expense of addiction and its effects on each other and society.
It is something to think about now when the planet from which we have only extracted without giving back is disappearing. How can we make up for the losses and get out of this whirlwind that seems to have no exit? How can we find the emergency door when we feel like we’ve hit a wall? Which is the way out and how can we detect it?
When production can take place in abundance, demand is no longer a barrier. Cameroonian rapper Maahlox Le Vibeur describes it well in his song ‘Prends seulement ta part’ (2019) in which he ironically recounts how an educated youth is dying without employment or a real political leader and forced to surrender to the daily habit of alternative hobbies offered by the market.
Gaga’s labyrinth is a painful wander in that pain, a quest to find oneself.
Justine Gaga (1974, Douala) lives and works in Douala. Her artistic practice moves between painting, sculpture, installation, video and photography investigating societal structures, economy and health. She is interested in the quest for identity, the movements and actions that drive the individual into a whirlwind of a world inside which they eventually become a stranger. The plinth of the artist’s practice is loneliness in connection to exile, isolation, immigration, psychological fences and the question of borders. Her work is haunted by the shape of an enigmatic individual, sometimes dark and sometimes transparent, present in the most improbable backgrounds. Gaga has participated in many exhibitions and events in Cameroon, Togo, Mali, Botswana, South Africa, Colombia, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Her work has appeared at SUD2017 (Salon Urbain de Douala) and the 2014 Dakar Biennale, and her 2006 project Exit Tour consists of a road trip of creation and exchange through several West African countries from Douala towards Dakar.