From mid-September to mid-October 2018, the Goethe-Institut Kigali, together with the Rwanda Arts Initiative, invited for the first time to the artist residency "Digital Arts and Public Space".
The Berlin-based sound artist Abel Korinsky was able to persuade a local, interdisciplinary jury of experts with his installations, in which he deals primarily with the relationship of sound and space.
The residency, which aims at accessing the public space through artistic means, took place in Kigali for the first time in 2018.
At the end of his stay in Kigali, Abel Korinsky exhibited the sond installation "Never Stop" at the New School of Architecture.
Abel, you have traveled many countries. Tell us, what is your impression about Rwanda? And how did you experience Kigali?
During my time in Rwanda, I only had the chance to see a few parts of the country, but my impression is so far, that Rwanda is a very appealing country with an incredibly beautiful countryside.
I noticed that security is a very important matter here. It was very pleasant for me to move around in and outside of Kigali; also in the evening or at night it was not problem to explore Kigali by foot. That’s something I particularly like: in this way, I can get a better orientation for the city as it also gives me the feeling that I really get to know a place. I guess among other things, this kind of freedom states Rwanda as an extraordinary country in the African context.
In Kigali, I experienced that – in contrast to other countries I’ve visited – I had no problems in finding the equipment I needed. I have the feeling that you can get everything you need here. That’s not something I take for granted.
Away on other travels, for example, some of my technical equipment was broken-down and I couldn’t get a replacement. I had to find an alternative instead. This is certainly some kind of a challenge with which a media artist sometimes has to struggle such as technical devices might be damaged during the journey and you have to deal with it.
However, I have to say that I’ve been supported by the Goethe-Institut Kigali and the Rwanda Arts Initiative and that it probably helped bypassing common pitfalls in the first place.
Did you have an exceptionally formative experience or a moment which will definitely stay in your mind?
What definitely will stay in my mind is that I sensed Kigali as a city worth living without any big excitement. Also my trips to the countryside and outside of Kigali were a special highlight. It was an amazing experience to see wild animals in their natural habitat where they belong to and not in zoos, where they are held in Europe.
Formative experiences have been conversations which I had with different Rwandans. I learned a lot about interpersonal relationships and various environments here in Rwanda.
A difficult topic, the genocide against Tutsi in 1994, was also often part of my conversations. I really appreciate the openness of my conversational partners and would like to thank them for that. These are life stories and reports which I will think about for a long time and change my view of the world.
How was your exchange with Rwandan artists?
It was very good. I had a lot of great and very intensive talks about artistic approaches, questions of failure, how we work and more. That is absolutely nothing that differentiates people here in Rwanda from myself or other artists from Europe. In the end, we are all linked through our commitment to the world through art. That arises a feeling and a common level, where you can communicate and establish friendships.
Of course, there are differences especially regarding the external circumstances. This refers in particularly to facilitations, acceptance of contemporary art in the wider society as well as possibilities regarding the exhibitions or journeys.
In Europe, we are privileged concerning these criteria. But in the end, it is the artistic idea that matters and I am very impressed how diverse and innovative the Rwandan art scene presents itself.
I really have to say that those four weeks in Rwanda have been a very special experience for me.
How was the artistic work for you in Rwanda?
My artistic work in Rwanda was very pleasant. I did not expect that there are so many possibilities for artistic approaches. I had almost unlimited possibilities regarding the technical aspects. Everything is available and I was able to develop my artistic work without any limitations. The organizational factor plays an important role regarding my work as well as cooperating with people. Both worked out without any problems.
Your Installation took place in the new architectural campus of the University of Kigali. Why did you choose that location?
I chose that location because the campus depicts an extraordinary building here in Kigali. I have already been there on my first day in Kigali and immediately had the feeling that this venue could fit very well for my emerging work. The very strong reverb of the building offers exciting work conditions for me as a sound artist. These characteristics, which are difficult to use in other contexts, are ideal for my work.
The title of your sound installation is “Never Stop”. Can you amplify your installation for us?
The installation is about the loss of “idleness”. We always have to be engaged in something – even if we tend to relax, then it’s often a well-organized spa visit – which has nothing to do with the traditional idea of “idleness”. We’re constantly driven, and “idleness” is not playing any role in our society anymore. The acceptance for it is very low and it is often put on the same level with laziness. But especially this kind of “idleness”, which also has a long history, has quite often been responsible for the onset of many good and creative ideas (clearly observable in the fields of art and philosophy).
In my opinion, this mindset appears very dominant and clear here in Kigali’s public spaces. There are almost no benches or parks where you could rest and relax. Kigali is not offering a public space for “idleness” and relaxation, except for cafés and restaurants.
I have the feeling that Rwandan society is busy with trying to be always one step ahead and keeping up with societal progress. It seems that they use more their own home for relaxation and rest.
I created this installation in order to reflect the value of “idleness” and its absence in public spaces as I experienced them here in Rwanda.
The space I chose for my installation in the New School of Architecture at the University of Rwanda is representing this matter quite perfect.
The space consists of many small paths and plateaus and is constructed in a way that you don’t want to stand still. In my eyes, this construction is pretty representative for Kigali or today’s societal idea of progress in general.
The name of the sound installation “Never Stop” is therefore inspired by the space, where it takes place and the experiences I made in Kigali.
What will be your next project?
After Rwanda, I will head to Tel Aviv for an installation at a festival. That will be it for this year. The time span between December and mid-February is always a pretty calm period in the German art scene. That is the time when I focus on new ideas with both of my brothers in our studio. During the rest of the year, there is rarely time left for trying out new things and ideas.
But there will be updates on following projects in January 2019!
Thank you very much for the interview and we wish you a safe trip back to Berlin. We are already looking forward to more upcoming projects from you!
Well, I would like to thank you and the Rwanda Arts Initiative very much for your hospitality and the great support during my stay in Kigali! Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to explore Kigali within the framework of the artist residency “Digital Arts and Public Spaces” and develop an artistic work in Kigali.
It was a fantastic experience!