Navigating the maze is an art installation by Kirsten Wechslberger. It consists of participatory artwork, installation, performance and video art. It was held at the Franco Namibian Cultural Center (FNCC), one of Windhoek’s local commercial galleries and opened on the 9th of March 15, 2015. The exhibition was well attended by artists and art lovers from Windhoek, some of whom helped with the preparations.
Kirsten Wechslberger is a German* artist who lives and works in Namibia. She has proved that she is not just an artist but also a teacher, a mentor and life observer as well. Kirsten has exhibited in Namibia and abroad. As an artist Kirsten conveys ideas and communicates through her artwork. She deals with different themes such as emotions, connectedness, pain, spirituality, introspection and consciousness. She thinks artistically and her physical appearance reveals that she is an artistic person too – with the colorful hair and heavy backpack that she always has with her.
The centre of attraction of Navigating the Maze was the tunnel installation piece. This installation was constructed out of boxes and old house doors. The tunnel attracted and scared many viewers; two women came out crying after they went through it. This tunnel, which was dark and full of scary sounds, was not just a tunnel – it represented the long journey of every day human life, as we strive towards success. Just imagine you are all by yourself and there is no one to help you and all you see is darkness. Strong unbearable odors spread all around you and sticky things keep holding you back every time you try to take a step towards success. Just like how we usually end up wanting to give up when the pressure becomes too much, when I was inside I couldn’t take the distractions any more, I just wanted to go back to the entrance. But like many life situations I couldn’t give up. I had to endure it all and push through until I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. This art piece deals with life challenges and teaches people how to solve their problems as individuals. I liked the fact that you go into the tunnel alone without shoes, because when you face your problems you face them alone and you have to deal with them alone. You might not have materials to solve those problems, but you just have to find a way to solve them.
Apart from the tunnel, Kirsten did a performance on the day of the opening. This piece shocked everyone because of their lack of understanding of the concept of art. She shocked everyone with art taboos, juju and so many things in Windhoek – She revealed what people fear the most. Who thought she could be so creative in such a manner? No one expected any of the things she showcased that evening. Many of us were left speechless and filled with amusement. Kirsten naked and in a coffin was not the only shocking thing; she also talked about her personal life, combining personal details about herself along with her the date of birth, identity number, bank account number, social security number and sexual orientation. I believe this art piece was very well executed, because everyone wanted to view the different elements of it. Yes, she laid naked in a coffin and she talked about her life but that was not the whole point. There was more to it than what the eye could comprehend and that is why it is called art. With art you have to be able to think big and know how to read between the lines. We all know that a corpse in a coffin does not speak or lie there naked. This is an unreal piece of art which is where the catch lies. I think this is the main point that Kirsten was portraying; in art nothing is what it seems to be. The questions to ask are why was she talking about her life while she lay naked in a coffin? Only she knows the real story behind this art piece and the rest of us are to stay speechless and amused.
Another work titled “hope”, was made out of wood with a number of holes drilled into it. Observers were asked to place pieces of paper into these holes with messages of hope written on them. This piece was only completed with the help of the viewer. From the beginning it was just plane wood with holes but later it develop into an interesting art piece. I look at this piece and get hope in my life again, I think about life without any challenges. When you are a kid and when you are growing up you start to pick up those challenges which will only stop once you lay in your place of eternal rest. I believe that this piece is going to lose all of those papers with those beautiful messages on it one day and it will go back to square one. There is an oshiwambo phrase that says ”omuntu ohavalwa kenasha etasi kenasha” meaning a person was born with nothing and he or she will die with nothing. Navigating The Maze talked about life, the life we are living today, tomorrow and next year. I believe that everyone learned something from this exhibition and that it opened up people’s minds and taught people how to deal with their personal problems.
*Editor’s Clarification: Kirsten Wechslberger is Namibian by birth