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From dust till dawn

An Exploration of Experiential Creativity at AfrikaBurn 2024

Participation in AfrikaBurn 2024 signified a departure from conventional artistic paradigms, as Framed embarked on an innovative exploration of experiential creativity within the desert landscape. The venture was underpinned by the guiding principles of AfrikaBurn, which propelled Framed towards embracing the ethos of radical self-expression and communal engagement.

Our project received an artistic grant from the Afrika Burn organization to present the outcomes of the VLIR-SI project, "Drawing Resilient Futures," a collaboration between the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South-Afrika and Royal Academy Antwerp in Belgium. This presentation aimed to showcase the culmination of two years of collaborative efforts, emphasizing in-situ and spontaneous collaborations. These approaches were necessitated by the social and economic constraints prevailing in South Africa, where engaging with the public on the streets posed safety concerns. Thus, AfrikaBurn provided a conducive environment for the unveiling of our project's outcomes, enabling us to share our findings and insights in a unique setting conducive to open discourse and interaction.

Setting the Stage

Entering Tankwa Town, a temporary autonomous zone, is akin to stepping into a temporary society, a microcosm of likeminded individuals united by a shared ethos of radical creativity and communal living. Here, the conventional trappings of modern society dissolve, replaced by a vibrant tapestry of shared experiences and collaborative endeavors.

In this desert oasis, there is no currency, no commerce, and nothing for sale. Instead, the ethos of gifting permeates every interaction, with participants freely sharing resources, skills, and creativity. It's a world where the value of a gift is measured not in monetary terms but in the spirit of generosity and reciprocity. 

The atmosphere mirrors the otherworldly landscapes of Star Wars' Tatooine or the harsh deserts of Dune, with a touch of Mad Max anarchy adding to the allure. Amidst the sprawling expanse of the desert, participants carve out their own spaces, creating art installations, theme camps, and immersive experiences that defy convention and challenge perception.

Equipped with essential tools and facing the challenges of unpredictable weather and desert wildlife, among them fat tail scorpions, Framed prepared to transform the barren landscape into a canvas of creativity. We partnered with the South African Chillaz group for space, shelter, kitchen, and water. They provide the Chillaz Stage, a performance space, with a network of performers and entertainers.

As the sun sets over the dusty horizon, the desert comes alive with a cacophony of sound and color. Music fills the air, drawing revelers to impromptu dance parties and spontaneous performances. The night sky, unobstructed by the glare of city lights, becomes a canvas for celestial wonders, inviting contemplation and connection.

In this temporary society, boundaries blur, and identities merge as participants embrace the freedom to express themselves authentically. It's a place where strangers become friends, and creativity knows no bounds. Here, amidst the dust, magic happens, and the ordinary becomes extraordinary. An oasis of creativity and freedom, the lines between fantasy and reality become blurred, and the only limits are those of the imagination. It's a place where the ultimate virtual reality is not found in pixels and screens but in the shared experiences and collective creativity of those who dare to dream.

Creating an Immersive Experience

Initiating our project, we crafted a sizable television screen—an uncommon sight amidst the barren expanse of the desert, where conventional amenities were notably absent. Situated away from any semblance of WiFi connectivity or external communication channels, our installation occupied the corner of "7ish" and "Bigbang," the designated street names within the ephemeral tent village.

Framed erected a purpose-built structure to house our projection screen and drawing setup, facilitating an immersive artistic experience that blurred the conventional boundaries between artist and audience. Participants were encouraged by playful drawing instructions and live vocals intertwining with the uplifting dj set to actively engage with the project, thereby fostering a collective sense of ownership over the evolving artwork. 

The screen served as a colourful canvas for live visual performances orchestrated by artists and dancers to produce a captivating play of shaped shadows. This dynamic spectacle unfolded in real-time, fostering an impromptu playground of creativity, responding to participant engagement and interaction. In a delightful inversion of childhood imagination, where one might envision tiny inhabitants dwelling within the television screen, our installation brought this fantasy to life—viewers could witness the vibrant, participatory nature of the visuals, inviting collaboration and engagement.

On the third day of our endeavor, we forged a collaboration with a group of South African architects and graphic designers. Utilizing their mutant vehicle as a mobile platform, we integrated our projection setup and sound installation onto “Pricilla” the driving castle, enabling us to traverse the playa while projecting a truly interactive dynamic dance floor. This innovative partnership extended an invitation to participants to immerse themselves fully in our project, as the vehicle roamed the desert landscape, further blurring the lines between creator and spectator and enriching the communal experience of our artistic endeavor.

To the Essence

At its core, Framed epitomized collective creation, embracing spontaneity and active participation. Through live visuals, music, spoken word, dance, and interactive elements, Framed crafted an ephemeral artwork that thrived on communal engagement, transcending traditional notions of artistry and spectatorship.

Framed aligned with the principles of AfrikaBurn, embodying values such as radical inclusion, gifting, and communal effort. By upholding these principles, Framed created an environment where creativity flourished, and participants felt empowered to express themselves authentically.

  1. Radical Inclusion: Framed welcomed all, fostering an environment where everyone could participate on their own terms.

  2. Gifting: Our project served as a gift to the community, offering a collaborative and immersive experience without expectation of return.

  3. Decommodification: We upheld the spirit of gifting by eschewing commercial influences, prioritizing authentic interaction over consumerism.

  4. Radical Self-Reliance: Beyond our artistic endeavor, we embraced self-reliance in every aspect of our AfrikaBurn experience.

  5. Radical Self-Expression: Framed encouraged individual expression within a collaborative framework, celebrating the diverse contributions of participants.

  6. Communal Effort: Our project epitomized the spirit of creative cooperation, relying on collective effort to manifest our vision.

  7. Civic Responsibility: We upheld civic responsibilities, respecting local laws and prioritizing public welfare throughout our participation.

  8. Leaving No Trace: While our presence left an emotional impact, we remained committed to leaving the physical environment unaltered.

  9. Participation: Framed exemplified the ethos of participation, inviting attendees to engage actively in the creation process, blurring the lines between artist and audience.

  10. Immediacy: Our project prioritized immediate experience, fostering connections between individuals, nature, and inner selves.

  11. Each One Teach One: Through workshops and individual interactions, Framed contributed to the dissemination of knowledge, empowering others to embrace creative expression.

Team Dynamics and Collaboration

At the heart of the Framed project lay the cohesive synergy exhibited by its team—a diverse group of individuals, each bringing their unique strengths and talents to the table. From technical expertise to creative vision, every member played an indispensable role in bringing the project to life amidst the challenging backdrop of AfrikaBurn.

In the unforgiving environment of AfrikaBurn, effective teamwork was not merely advantageous but imperative for success. Despite the difficult conditions, our team thrived on collaboration and camaraderie. Trust and open communication were foundational principles, allowing us to navigate obstacles with resilience and determination.

The Framed project stands as a testament to the transformative power of collaboration and collective effort. It was a project born from the combined talents and passions of a dedicated team—a team that proved the adage that unity is strength. Through our shared creativity, resolve, and shared vision, we demonstrated that even amidst the most unlikely settings, remarkable achievements are possible.

Less is more

The Framed project exemplified "less is more" by embracing simplicity. We streamlined our approach to focus on our core vision and collective goal, fostering a culture of openness and inclusivity within our team. This minimalist philosophy empowered every member to contribute their ideas and perspectives freely.

By stripping away superfluous elements, we distilled our vision to its essence, which was central to our success. Drawing inspiration from formal project structures, we adopted a minimalist approach that prioritized simplicity and efficiency over elaborate setups, intricate designs and unnecessary complexity. This allowed us to create a framework that was accessible to all, regardless of skill level or experience, and ensured maximum flexibility and creative freedom. 

Our focus on fundamental elements and unified aim provided clarity and allowed us to adapt in real-time to the changing desert environment. Ultimately, the Framed project demonstrated that less truly is more. By focusing on what mattered and eliminating excess, we created an extraordinary framework that inspired creativity and collaboration.

Team Drawing Resilient futures: Janna Beck, Wouter Steel, Annelise Cerchedean, Gina Poortman, Tom Dietvorst, Bhavna Pather, Lelo Buthlezi, Philip Meersman, Isis Eckardt, Steven Steel and Tobias De Keyser.

Preparation support from Michele Stewart and Kris Meeusen.


*This text was written by artists using a Large Language Model, a shared online text editor, spell check, and various other technologies.


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