Interests and approach
Intentions, Concepts, Approaches: an interview by Sam
Hopkins, artist and curator, Nairobi, Kenya
Sam: How does a thought become a
James: A concept needs to be
broken down into more tangible elements. For example, when you talk
about perception as a concept - what is a perception? It’s
something that people imagine, believe or think. The first thing we
needed to do was to interview people and know what they think about
Miriam: The interviews
were very useful. Due to the design of our education system, it
doesn't connect well to the way people live. A good example that we
were given during an interview was of a girl learning how to wash
socks in school. For the exam she knows exactly how to answer
correctly, but at home when she's asked to wash socks, she'll just
put them in water and hang them up. She won't follow the same
instructions. The person we were interviewing asked 'Why is
there this disconnect?' She associated that disconnect with how
people think about science and research, health and the
environment. So what we did first was highlight the areas from
the interviews that were of key interest or were mentioned several
times. From that list we derived five different areas, education
being one of them.
James: Also belief and trust,
context, money and power, and explorations/experimentation. But one
thing the scientists said was that science cannot give absolute
answers. We've been tinkering with the idea of what is absolute. We
feel that these five areas are within the absolute.
Sam: Do you work with spontaneous
ideas or do you plan a course of action?
Miriam: Both. A good example
is the glove sketch series. We were thinking: 'What does a glove
mean?' and 'How does it relate to issues, such as the relationship
between community and science research?' But throwing it in
the air was very spontaneous. We intended to photograph them on the
ground or hanging from trees, to create a random constellation.
Throwing them and seeing how they land on the floor and then
photographing them there. And as I flippantly threw them...
James: … they looked
brilliant in the air, so we thought, how about photographing them
in the air?
Miriam: It was a very
spontaneous action within this planned scenario. One thing I've
learned in the past and I'm learning even more now is that you've
got to have fun. When you have fun and when you play is when some
of that really interesting stuff comes out. Often we don't play
enough, we plan far too much, and it becomes quite static.
Sam: Some of the images you have been
producing do not seem to have an immediately obvious connection to
James: I don't know if the
images necessarily have to be directly linked to Kilifi. We're
still exploring. The images from when we started out are very much
KEMRI Kilifi, but there is also outside the space, the town, a few
of the villages, the paths, and other elements. I think very few
things could be specific to anything. Yet it's possible for them
actually to be special because of our experience there. So they
don't have to be visually representative; it's that the thought was
fed by Kilifi.
Miriam: Because we are
investigating interconnections and perceptions of, and between, the
community and science and health research, I thought it was
very important to record what the community and environment looks
like. It was an important starting point to look at that
environment to be able to investigate it, research it and create
visuals of it.
Sam: What are the specific references
to your intentions within the residency and the path you expect to
follow towards outcomes?
James: We are breaking down
perception into five paths: education, belief or trust,
contexts, money and power (power is not necessarily money;
sometimes, power is your creed, or what you want to push forward),
and exploration. We want to create elements that reference these
paths. This was very much fed by the idea that people in the
community are wondering how much exploration could be done in
traditional knowledge systems of health. And within all these,
there is the fact that science cannot be an absolute answer.
Miriam: What is also
interesting for me within this journey is that it is never enough:
there is always going to be space to gain more knowledge. Whether
to alleviate, or to make immortal, that drive can never be fully
fulfilled. The job of the researcher is never-ending. It is
infinite, and I find that bit of infinity really interesting.
Untitled: Glove Series
Untitled: Glove Series x 2
Patients’ laundry drying at the Kilifi
A homestead for one of Kemri’s Community
Shops in Kilifi town along the road that leads
to the Kilifi District Hospital
A woman walking past an abandoned building in