For the past three years I have continuously taken an Instagram of the sunrise as seen from my studio in Cape Town. Having worked with the language of social media for some time now, I have yet to include this specific platform or what happens on my profile on it. I was invited by the gallery to present a solo and it gives me the perfect opportunity to explore my most frequently used Instagram account luan_nel and specifically looking at the sunrises, which also happens to be the bulk of activity on this account. It can be read as a form of diary, also a kind of seasonal calender. The time of day is very specific, sunrise. To me it is a time I always find myself in a quiet space in my head. Many people meditate at this time, or pray. It is perhaps because as a moment in time it holds all the promise, and also holds all the hope for the following 24 hours. I spend this time looking at that which is in front of me. The landscape. It might be called #luansview, but my intention is not to impose ownership on what lies in front of my eyes, not in the sense of land ownership. I try to explore my experience of that moment, in that space, looking in a specific direction. I attempt to own that fragment of existence. It is fleeting. I quietly manipulate my lense, with what tools I have in the studio at the time, and tools within the application. This is rarely very neat or organised. It is methodical only in the sense that I do this daily. But there it ends. Each day the sun rises differently. each moment is unique, and beautiful, full of hope and filled with promise. My psychological state of mind, my emotions and my attitude will hopefully be ‘reflected’ in this capture.
I have also received a very welcome response from one of my Instagram followers. I include this here. It is so unusual to receive such a thorough response, unsolicited and from somebody I have never met in person, only through social media have we conversed. It ties in with the exploration of these new platforms that I have been engaged in _______________
The digital exotism of posting sunrise pictures of Cape Town
by Federico Monaco
His terrace becomes a stage,
and from our homes all over the world
we watch Luan taking pictures of dawns.
Do the use of a social network site can become a artistic performance? Is there a artsy way to behave online? Do we live in a age where people share glimpses of their lives to online friends and deliver it to the public then, as a collection of visual arts?
The answer for Luan Nel, a artist beknown for its attention to the details in representing life as lived moments, of course is yes.
Facebook and, more generally, all social network sites are about stories. Some are stories of people, but some are also stories of places. Places can be discovered, visited, but have been also shared by tales, maps, illustrations as well. One of the other ways to witness and widespread how these other places looked like was by bringing something out of those places (rocks, plants, fruits, artifacts, animals and also people …mostly slaves). Gifts from exotic and faraway places became soon a tradition, but what is of interest here is the unique use of visual representations as souvenir from exotic places. Bringing home pictures as gifts or as souvenirs turned soon to what became the post cards tradition, which is still lasting today. Wherever you go you can buy postcards to send it home. Why do we send postcards? As usual to tell people we have been in that place. That has to do mostly with physical spatiality, while the way we share things on the web has to do more with time and however in a new way: instantaneity.
Jan van Riebeeck’s depiction of impressions of a early morning from one of the four bastions of the Fort de Goede Hoop would have taken weeks to reach the four corners of the world.
Everyday Luan posts his instant morning impressions from Cape Town.
Everyday, everyday and everyday.
That’s all about. And it’s not a webcam, a forecasting web service, or someone shooting documentaries. It’s a man with his heart. It’s a man in love with this city. It’s a man creating landscapes that last one day from dawn to dusk, creating expectations for the next morning and for the next picture.
In the past months, Luan has been taking pictures depicting the beginning of every day from his home and posting those on facebook. Pictures of sun and fog, pictures of winter and summer, pictures of the behaviour of the neighborhood and the changes in the city life of Cape Town. Of course it might be replicated in different ways by different means. What stays unique is anyway
the way sunrises with its cold, soft and bright colours from Luan’s view are the expressions of emotions and the faith in sharing emotions with people so faraway.
Luan expresses feelings not just by taking pictures of the sun rising in Cape Town, but making a performance out of it: his terrace becomes a stage, and from our homes all over the world we watch Luan taking pictures of dawns. He is an actor that tells us stories about depicting emotions by digital means and moreover, he teaches us about using social network sites as blank canvas in a open air museum where people connected by circuits and hardware pass, watch and go, come back, watch and go. A new way to connect nature and people watching a picture a day, waiting for the next one. We live the instantaneity of Cape Town’s sun rise every single morning as if we all lived there watching Luan’s acting. Carpe Diem – Totus mundus agit histrionem.