until 19.08. | #3949ARTatBerlin | Galerie EIGEN + ART Berlin shows from 08. June 2023 the exhibition “Maze” of the artist Natalie Paneng.
About Natalie Paneng
The practice of multidisciplinary artist and world builder Natalie Paneng is to reinvent herself in digital worlds. In these worlds, the artist’s body is released from its constraints and driven to ecstasy; for her, play is an ever-present friend, the internet her limitless playground.
I enjoy a kind of boundlessness that the internet as a platform makes possible.
The internet is a place where I don’t have to follow the same rules and codes as in real life. It gives me the opportunity to be completely free in my explorations and contributions. I can take up more space in this place and choose how I want to be present.
Natalie Paneng has taught herself photography and the technique of videography, focusing mainly on self-portraits. Self-portraits that she is constantly developing, portraying herself as different personalities and characters.
He[She] has released her/his body from these constraints. He[She] plays with time and space. [Her] body is a needle. Now he[she] mixes history with her body and makes it a game that [her] body likes.
(Binyavanga Wainaina, 2011)
Play is political because it is a rejection of rules and a form of exploration. I create new territories for myself…It is important for me to normalise who I am so that I can move authentically in the world, but I also want others to feel this freedom. I hope this then becomes a cycle, the more we feel seen, the more we make others feel seen.
Written by Lindiwe Mngxitma for We Are Culture (2022).
What follows is an exhibition text in the form of a short story that sums up the ideas and provocations of Natalie Paneng in her solo exhibition MAZE, on view at Galerie EIGEN + ART from 8 June 2023.
A song of stubbornness and de(making)
Samā1 did not quite know how the story began. She only knew what she was told – by the authority, the professors and the politicians. These told stories about how it had come about. They told stories about the tributaries, the ebbing and flowing currents at the moment of Samā’s birth. But Samā also knew full well, couldn’t ignore it, that something felt wrong about these stories everyone was telling, not just about who she was, but who she could be. She knew that deep inside the stories something was missing, she felt an unshakeable presence of absence in these stories.
She had always felt infinite and vast. Samā felt that she had more similarities with the cosmos and the ocean than with other people. She was – ebbing, slowly trickling, flowing, traversing time and space, uniting matter with meaning. Samā felt like she had a destiny, that destiny was born the moment her mother gave her that name – “Samā”. An ancient name with many meanings and origins. Samā awoke and stretched towards the sunlight that warmed her face and lifted herself out of bed. She gathered herself and released herself from the field of her dreams – yawning and stretching, and Wanda herself out of the entanglement of her sheets. As she greeted her shadow, she hummed the melody of the first song she had ever heard, the song that kissed her once tiny ears and introduced her to the world and her to the world. Her mother had sung it as she cradled the tiny, cooing Samā in her tired hands after a long night of work.
It was a song Samā had known since she was born, a song that often visited Samā in her dreams. The song followed Samā wherever she moved, calling her name and asking her questions in the form of melody and music. It asked Samā questions about skin and body, and abundance and lack, about being and abstraction, about what it is like to be a glitching body, as well as about death and resurrection. It never came alone, this song and music of un(making). Instead, it always brought with it three figures – Moipone, Lefifi and Bobedi. Samā saw these figures as embodied extensions of the maze of existence and contradictions that also lay dormant within herself.
Moipone’s journey was to pave the way. To light the way through gentle, friendly signals using rhythm and sound, while Lefifi played and lived in the space of emptiness, searching for messages and signs in the shadows. Between Moipone’s light and Lefifi’s shadow was Bobedi’s home. The place where she surrendered to her duality and bounced, pranced and glistened in the vastness of yes-but. Bobedi reminded Samā of the last thing her mother had said to her: that she was a part of everything. That all the atoms that were her were also part of the air, and the wind, and the trees, and the earth. That she also lived in the birds and flowers, and the dragonflies and the pine trees, and the clouds and the little specks of light that you can see in rays of sunlight.
Samā finally sang the last words to the melody of her song, the song of stubbornness and un(making), invoking through her own breath, the breath of her mother. Stubbornness as a practice of possibilities as much as stubbornness as an unrepentant, ongoing symphony of improvisation and exploration of what could be. She anoints her skin with a mixture of shea butter and nourishing oils, she follows the boundaries of the carnal nerve endings of her being and a smile spreads across her face. A smile formed from this morning’s interrogation, snippets of thoughts and memories of a dream she had last night. In this dream she is in a maze looking for Moipone, Lefifi and Bobedi. “Perhaps there is more to a maze than meets the eye?” she thought to herself. “Can a person also be a maze…. and if so, what would that mean?” she continued.
Samā thought, about the authority, the professors and the politicians, about what they had told her, who she was and who she could be, and why it was never in tune with the song – the song that haunted her every step.
The authority, the professors and the politicians had tried to turn her into a binary body, when in fact she was a body like a maze; a body in a glitching (r)evolution.
With each new skin she grew, she broke through time and the suffocating logic of either/or.
*The texts written in italics quote works by other authors.
Natalie Paneng (born 1996 in Johannesburg) studied Theatre and Performance at the University of Witwatersrand Johannesburg from 2015, majoring in Stage and Costume Design. She received her BA Honours in Dramatic Arts in 2018 and was awarded the Humanities Leon Gluckman Prize for best creative work.
Paneng uses both her self-taught digital skills and theatre background to create multi-disciplinary digital art/new media.
Residencies / Fellowships :
2018. bubblegumclub Future 76 Residency.
2019. floating riviere, Johannesburg, Gauteng. Digital Art Residency Programme.
2019. fak’ugesi digital art residency, Johannesburg
2020. ICT Scholarship, University of Cape Town
2022. LIA – Leipzig International Art Programme
Hartman, S.: Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women and Queer Radicals, W. W. Norton & Company, 2019. Neimanis, A.: Hydrofeminism: Or, On Becoming a Body of Water. In Undutiful Daughters, New Directions in Feminist Thought and Practice, Ed. Gunkel, H. Nigianni, C & Söderbäck, F. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
Russel, L.: Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto, Verso, 2020.
Opening: Thursday, 8. June 2023, 5pm – 9 pm
Exhibition dates: Thursday, 8. June until Saturday, 19. August 2023To the Gallery
Image title: Natalie Paneng, Einladung Maze / invitation Maze, courtesy the artist and Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin
Exhibition Natalie Paneng – Galerie EIGEN + ART | Zeitgenössische Kunst in Berlin | Contemporary Art | Ausstellungen Berlin Galerien | ART at Berlin