Cia Kanthi is a Malmö-based artist and the 2020 awardee of the Sven and Ellida Hjort Exhibition Grant, entailing an upcoming solo exhibition due at Skånes konstförening in February, curated by Tawanda Appiah. "Cia Kanthi's works are rhythmic and meditative explorations of what is concealed in society: the invisible but also the intentionally hidden and abandoned", wrote the jury in its motivation. Recently Cia's work was also seen in Stockholm in "Analogue Funny Weather", the inaugural exhibition at Eldhunden, the new satellite venue of SKF/Konstnärshuset. "My artistic practice is like a sanctuary and I’m also interested in other sanctuaries in society", she says in our interview.
Cia Kanthi, The Fall, To Become Material (2018)
C-P: You just exhibited in Stockholm this fall at Eldhunden and were saying about your work
Untitled (Photograph By My 4 year-Old Son Algot, Developed By Me) from 2018 that it was one that came about during a time when you felt trapped to a mould of expectations about your art practice, while at Malmö Art Academy. However, looking at your body of work today you are by all means a most interdisciplinary artist. Has the notion of defining yourself and attributing labels to it, supposedly been something you’ve had to wrestle with?
C.K: The freedom to move between artistic spectrums is one of the primary reasons I’m an artist. During the time when the work was conceived with my son Algot, I was in the process of scrutinizing my practice as we were then having a class at school called “Practice Practise”. I was feeling that my artistic practice was at risk of hovering too close to become a commodity. My prior fascination for the inner state of things no longer felt as burning. The class was very open and allowed you to think broadly and freely. Moreover, I was at the time doing my first of two last years at the art academy and had previously been very interested in ontology and philosophy but had begun to long for a sense of reality and longed to practice outside of the realm of the academy. On a personal note I also wanted to depart away from the confining walls of my own home, as I was going through a separation, heading out.
Cia Kanthi, Untitled (Photograph By My 4 year-Old Son Algot, Developed By Me) , 2018
C-P: A work that comes to mind in this context is your video The Fall, To Become Material (2018) which feels like an allegory in terms of a return to nature. I think of the expression; “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return". The narrative sees a a woman; you, walking across a field of tall grass outside Malmö Konstmuseum until you get immersed into the grass and totally disappear. The freedom to act, appear and disappear at the heart’s own desire, in a society which constantly impose demands and expectations on the individual is something that comes to mind as a thought.
C.K: The Fall, To Become Material (2018) is a work which allowed me to study this particular museum which I’ve often been fascinated by and have return to in my art. Perhaps that is because the museum is so closely tied with memory and history. My view of the museum is that of building which holds inside fractions of the human hand and where the only object not on display is the living human. I’ve given the notion of museums a lot of thought and more than seeing the museum as a tomb I tend to think of it as a living spirit which permeates memories through repetition, and as such has a lot of power over our memories; what history is worth remembering and so on. The Fall, To Become Material is yet another personal work since it marks the moment I also became a object/memory for my now ex-partner, as he is the one pressing the button of the drone as I fall into the grass.
Cia Kanthi, Blind Spot, I didn’t Know Their Stories But We Had the Same Eyes (2019)
C-P: Blind Spot, I didn’t Know Their Stories But We Had the Same Eyes, is a series of work where apparent strangers have been photographed around urban sites, often by harbors, while fishing. The photographs appear like freeze-frames of suspending a fleeting moment in time. I imagine there is something of symbolic significance to the act of fishing, in terms of destiny and the pursuit of happiness. The title itself clearly alludes to identity and being able to relate to these strangers and ”The other” in white Western society. What can be said about the underlying ideas in this work?
C.K: My artistic practice is like a “sanctuary” and I’m also interested in other sanctuaries in society. This project with fishermen was one I started already while in my first year at Malmö Art Academy but neve got around to finish. However after an analogue class with Maria Hedlund and Johan Österholm I eventually got there. I used my new experience with the view camera; the first machine I ever fell in love with. However, I was struck by new queries when beginning the project, since I had prior to this worked with sculpture, as I was meeting “The other”. Many of the fisherman like myself were ethnically of foreign descent. And while we were both persons of colour and I always asked for permission to shoot, I was confronted in my role as a photographer with a feeling of colonialism. Because while standing on the same side as the subjects, I clearly was out of view while “The other” channeled their visual narratives. I searched for enlightenment in Edward Said’s book “Orientalism” after which point the work Anti Image was added to the project. It was in the darkroom that I began appreciating darkness. As Nina Simone once said; “Black is beautiful”.
Cia Kanthi, Flying Birds from Dark Light (2020-) *Photo with Hisham and Mahmoud
C-P: You’ve obviously had to come to terms with the privileges bestowed on you as an artist and as the author of a documentary-angled image, also in relation to the subjects. A just and nuanced image sometimes balances on a very fine thin line.
C.K: It’s hard since an image never really only is an image and nothing else. An image is like fantasy and electricity; half-way alive and half-way dead, as it moves back and forth between various realms. If you are forthcoming about the complexity of an image, at least you are truthful as a photographer. And loyalty is something that is important in my close circles. I like people and meet a lot of them in my work as a nurse. The work I already mentioned Anti Image consists of the voices of fisherman who did not want to be photographed with a camera but who were fine having their voices recorded.
Cia Kanthi, The Book Keeper from Dark Light (2020-)
C-P: You've currently been working on a new series, Dark Light. How does it relate to your past works and what can be said about this new series?
C.K: Yes, Dark Light is a project I’m right in the middle of as we speak which makes it harder to pinpoint exactly what I’m doing. Dark Light is nevertheless a project in 15 chapters which derive from my curiosity around memory gaps, in stories but also the photograph itself as a medium. Both history and photography stem from a physical place. They mirror each also in so far framing something. In a story just as in an photograph there parts that are not being told. This framing fascinates me but also has a daunting effect on me.
Many of the works in Dark Light relate to analogue moving imagery and still photography but I’ve also returned to sculpture. In this project, memory gaps are not seen as a dead-end but instead darkness, the silent and the unkown are something living, awaiting the voice of a narration. In the chapter Flying birds the car is a key component; that too a sanctuary of sorts which like a story moves differently, depending on where you are going. If you live in Malmö, it is by dusk that a part of the city comes to life with people from all around the word moving around in their own micro-cosmos within the historical city. In their own pace and to the strings of their own music.