5 Questions for Ingid LaFleur

Ingid LaFleur
Ingid LaFleur | © photo supplied by Ingrid LaFleur

Ingrid LaFleur, curator of the upcoming exhibition Where Paradise Grows, opening on 10 July 2014 at GoetheonMain, talked to us about similarities between her hometown Detroit and Johannesburg, about non-indigenous plants and more.

Ingrid LaFleur, welcome to Joburg. You are from Detroit and have been researching there for your upcoming exhibit “Where Paradise Grows”, opening at GoetheonMain on 10 July 2014. What do Detroit and Johannesburg have in common?

Both cities are majority black and experiencing rapid urban renewal. Detroit and Johannesburg have transformed because of racial tensions and as a result have witnessed businesses and investors abandon the city center for “safer” areas. Finally, both cities thoroughly enjoy House Music.
What can visitors expect to see and experience in “Where Paradise Grows”?

Where Paradise Grows is a multi-media exhibition that outlines the influences and ideas behind the Detroit-based artist collective Complex Movements’ ongoing project and science fiction parable of their creation, Beware of the Dandelions. They use the parable to investigate the relationship between complex science and social justice movements. Prints will show exactly what examples in science they are looking at as well as social justice leaders they have modeled characters after in their parable. They usually perform for audiences, but unfortunately they were unable to come to Johannesburg, so instead we will play music (of the hip-hop/J Dilla tradition) that they have produced. Also, there is a video installation that illustrates the world they are building for their parable. Complex Movements has been researching new theories for making change in the world. They are inviting audience members to share what innovative practices of change-making have been instituted within their own communities. The responses will later be incorporated into their work.
Contemporary colonization, gentrification, non-indigenous plants – how do they come together in your exhibition?

In Detroit the privatization of public spaces has become an unfortunate trend. When we speak of this type of aggressive shift we are referencing contemporary colonization. Contemporary colonization is when there is a blatant disrespect and disregard for the inhabitants of that area because they are seen as undesirable and therefore offer no value – economically, socially or culturally. Those inhabitants are then forced to leave their homes to make space for new development that will then be occupied by people that are seen as valuable, meaning their income and often times their aesthetic is deemed appropriate for that area.

I named the exhibit Where Paradise Grows to reference the non-indigenous plant the Asian Paradise tree which is an invasive and dominant flora of Detroit. The Paradise tree then serves as a symbol for the contemporary colonization that has become quite prevalent in Detroit. I’m also playing with the idea that a city that is seen as a dystopia could give birth to “paradise.” Here lies the complex contradiction that Detroit fully embodies.
Complex Movements chose a post-apocalyptic setting to explore new theories for social change. Do you think the real world has no room for experimentation?

First I must ask, what is the “real world?” Reality is constructed by one’s own perception, therefore, your world is unique and based on your particular experiences. According to my experience, I’m already living in a post-apocalyptic setting within this “real world” you speak of. Experimentation happens on a daily basis, even beyond the creative sector. It’s necessary for survival within urban environments like Johannesburg and Detroit.
You have written about Afrofuturism. How would you describe Afrofuturism to somebody who is unfamiliar with this arts movement?

Afrofuturism is an international multi-disciplinary cultural aesthetic that discusses the Black experience, identity, and history using speculative modalities such as magical realism, fantasy, horror, science fiction and surrealism. Afrofuturists incorporate ancient history, African mythology, technology, biology, genetics, African cosmologies, and other themes within their work.

Ingrid LaFleur is a Detroit-based curator and founder of Maison LaFleur.

Where Paradise Grows
10.07. – 03.08.2014, GoetheonMain