California Building artist Eyenga Bokamba collaborated with musicians Saturday, Feb. 25 at MacPhail Center for Music for the “Spotlight Series – Translucent Beauty.” Under the artistic direction of Mischa Santora, this ongoing premier series brings to life collaborations of some of the Twin Cities’ finest artists. Bokamba was honored when Santora first approached her and was inspired by the thought of inviting people into the paintings via the music. Bokamba has since had the chance to immerse herself into the musical works the MacPhail faculty are producing, a new world for her. “The faculty at MacPhail are incredibly gifted, brilliant, dedicated musicians. I am honored I get to share the stage with them,” she said.
Musicians included Rebecca Merblum, cello, Mike Alexander, horn, Miryana Moteva, piano and Michael Cain, electronic soundscapes/keyboard improv.
Bokamba, on stage with the musicians, maneuvered twelve silk sculptures she created for this show in response to the music they were playing. Cain’s soundscapes were written specifically for the silk sculptures, so his music spoke to the very idea of the show, collaboration. While MacPhail’s Spotlight Series has been around for a while, this type of performance has never been done before. Bokamba was excited to push the boundaries in the one hour improvisational artistic conversation with these brilliant musicians.
One body of work on the sculptures is called “Adjacent to Happiness.” The idea — to “create a space for everyone to be able to breathe around all the things that we are all trying to deal with.” Living four blocks from where George Floyd was murdered, living through the pandemic, and taking in all the tragic events of the world such as the war in Ukraine, Eyenga asked how can one truly be happy in times such as these? The artist’s thoughts: “the concept of adjacency is quite helpful in these times.”
The Spotlight series is just the start. One of the performers, Rebecca Merblum, has been working with 150 cello students from Kenya and Mozambique for years and will soon be taking Eyenga’s silk sculptures to five different cities in Kenya for the Kenyan International Cello Festival March 19-23. Her work will be on stage in Nairobi, Thika, Nyeri, and Nanyuki as a part of the festival.
The idea that these silk sculptures will travel the world is a great honor. “As artists we all strive to be able to use our art to illuminate the things we care about,” Bokamba said. “I’m very much looking forward to hearing how the young kids in Kenya react to the work. I’m in a state of deep inspiration around this whole project,” and excited by the potential new doors that will open because of these unique opportunities.
The first time Eyenga created work like this was in 2019 in Venice at the Biennale show Personal Structures, an international juried group show at the European Cultural Center, which uses art to inspire dialogue and respect across international boundaries. The show also featured the work of Yoko Ono. Titled, “Moments of Beauty Reframed Create a Blueprint for Thriving If We Just Learn To Pivot,” Bokamba’s piece featured silk cubes with fifteen years’ worth of paintings in conversation with each other suspended from the ceiling in a palace.
Read more at www.northeastminneapolisartsdistrict.org .
Eyenga Bokamba on stage with Mike Alexander and Miryana Moteva at MacPhail Center for Music. (Photo by Lisa Roy)