Nsubuga, Solomon Eria
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This practice-based research project aimed to explore borders for my art production from a Ugandan perspective. To help me explore borders, a project was embarked upon reinventing Uganda Airlines as a fictional conceptual frame. I regard myself as a border artist, operating from Uganda, itself an invented conceptual space /country in Africa. Uganda Airlines’ practices operate on artistic and formal borders deliberately highlighting the exclusion of Uganda in Western art. The objective of the project was to create a conceptual framework and space in which I can operate as a border artist and in this way contribute to the current understanding of art on the margins of contemporary art, operating within and against colonial legacies. Responding to the central question of whether the invisible country of Uganda can be made visible through its art, the project used the idea of a national airline because of its role in the creation and promotion of trans-nationality and its relationship to borders. Uganda Airlines is based on Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities (2006) primarily because Anderson regards the nation as an imagined artefact and offers a conceptual frame that can interpret nationhood in artistic practice. In effect I am regarding the airline as an imagined community that exists ‘in the air’ operating entirely within an imagined space on the border. My position within this is that of an artist working ‘in the air’ or on the border. My artistic and theoretical position is also that of a trickster based on Lewis Hyde’s ideas of the trickster character in relation to porosity and articulation. As a ‘border-crossing’, ‘trickster’ artist my practice uses contingent operation in ‘pores’ and ‘joints’ (Hyde 2017: 252-280) as tactics. Political satire particularly in relation to the actual Uganda Airlines (a historically collapsed or presently fledgling national project) is widely used as a tactic. Contingency is integral to my approach to the practice, which extensively uses cheap materials such as recycled newspapers, cardboard and packing tape. The Practice is presented in three parts: Passengers, Fragments and False Flags. In Passengers, collage and methods based on tearing and layering were used. Paintings and drawings were also incorporated within the collage installations. In ‘Fragments’, the approach used in the video work parodies various forms of the media some of which were shot in ruined aircraft in Entebbe, Uganda. In False Flags printed imagery on cloth satirised nationalism and flags through images of aircraft parts used to generate digital ruins using photogrammetry. The practice as a whole can be characterised as a multi-media three- dimensional collage installation. The written thesis also uses Uganda Airlines as its conceptual frame and its structure is based on the ideas of the imagined spaces explored in the. For example, it begins with The Terminal of an undisclosed airport as its introduction wherein its various ‘destinations’ are presented. The literature review is presented as a passengers list reflecting my approach incorporating writers and artists into the conceptual frame of my project. I regard the written thesis partly as an extension of my creative practice while at the same time it functions as the written theoretical component of the PhD submission.