Yonamine creates ruins

What is there to be loved, if not ruins?
Jacques Derrida

Yonamine creates ruins.
His practice, in its continuous destruction of what existed before the action, embodies the paradox of an art that is simultaneously iconoclast and self-destructive.

Yonamine uses brands to cancel brands, images to cancel images. Voluntary or not, each gesture is destructive in its nature and simultaneously cancels what existed prior to the action. With this series of self-destructive actions, the artist creates a palimpsest that makes his work a continuous ruin.

There is also the fragmented memory, history reconstructed as an accumulation of debris. Memory as the accumulation of ruins is negated in various scales: the individual memory is presented as a scar or as a tattoo, the canvas is the palimpsest of superimposed traces and erasures, the installations the result of graffiti and direct actions, of the accumulation of objects.

The canvas is never a tabula rasa, a white surface waiting to be inscribed, but newspaper pages indicating elements of reality. Reality is approached as an accumulation of vestiges and signals where words and images lose their diversity and become equivalent symbols—a zero-level semantic condition.

Entering his recent installation at Elinga, already a kind of ruin in Luanda’s city center, where archive images pertaining to the history of this country are deconstructed and mixed with other icons, I wonder: Is Yonamine’s poetics limited to an individual aesthetic or is there a political dimension in this kind of expression? If history (canvas) is an accumulation of ruins, what is the role of the citizen (artist)?

Ruins are what remain, but, at the same time, they offer the possibility of novelty and surprise. The accidental or intentional superimposition of vestiges triggers new possibilities and the collision between images and symbols produces new meanings and associations, as when “Louis Vuitton” is transformed into “Luz Veio” (Ligth Came), acquiring a social dimension and redeeming our collective memory.

Adding to his knack for composition, what here stands out is the artist as a collector of fragments. Yonamine develops an archeology of the present that is not limited to document the vestiges of the past, but creatively reconfigures relations between the symbols and their meanings, an accumulation that produces new aesthetic choices and new maps of perception.

As Gustav Metzger once said, destroy a canvas and you create shapes.

Published at the artist’s book Doku, Yonamine, 2014.

A longer version of the essay is published in Atlantica: Contemporary Art from Angola and its Diaspora, published by Hangar Books, 2019.