Titus Matiyane, Transnational Flâneur and Cartographer
By crossing the borders of the self and the local in his depiction of cities and their surrounding areas in many different continents, Titus Matiyane challenges purist notions of identity.
Conceptually the artist claims familiarity with and ownership of these spaces, although his source material is not derived from photographs of actual visits to the various locations, but from commercial maps as sole reference. He has also not been in possession of a computer with internet facilities until November 2008. In essence, therefore, the artist is a cartographer of imagined spaces and a virtual flâneur of cities.
Although Matiyane is concerned with the depiction of place, he does not engage on any moral or socio-political level with his chosen subjects and remains aloof and nothing more than an observing spectator. The artist maintains a position of dissociation by ignoring the dire social realities in post-apartheid South Africa and sets up meaningful engagement with the virtual through restricting his formal and conceptual focus to surface structure and the picturesque. It remains a form of utopian gazing during which every Other city and place is perceived in revered manner.
Through the act of being empowered to depict any place in the world, the artist constructs his identity in the domain of the global self that utopianistically interacts with perceived spectacular environments. Matiyane’s transnational Othering consequently can be interpreted as ideological and utopian in nature and as becoming a form of romantic simulacrum and transcendence. I argue that, being immersed in the reproduction of imaginative reals, Matiyane becomes removed from his everyday existence and is flung into a transnational, global but artificial orbit of identity that flirts with borderlessness.
Keywords: Titus Matiyane, South African Art, Transnationalism, Identity, Flâneur, Imagined Space, Romantic Simulacrum
Prof. Elfriede Dreyer
Senior Lecturer, Department of Visual Arts, University of Pretoria