The Pineapple Videos (2016)
In July 2016, Zina curated The Pineapple Show, a Boys’ Quarters exhibition produced by and presented at Tiwani Contemporary in London. For The Pineapple Show Zina brought together artists from the US, the Caribbean, Nigeria, Kenya and the UK to explore the semiotics of this iconic fruit. Each work was a brand new commission by Zina for The Pineapple Show. To read more about the show visit www.zinasarowiwa.com/curatorial-projects/the-pineapple-show/
As well as curating the show and comissioning works, Zina made four works for the show including three videos. Parasol in partnership with performance artist Ayana Evans, Pineapple Suicide and Pineaple Pendulum.
In “Pineapple Pendulum” (2016) Saro-Wiwa asks us to consider the power of the displaced pineapple. In the video the pineapple is suspended by a chain in a confined, industrial space. The pineapple appears, swinging, performing for the camera, then it periodically disappears leaving the industrial space seemingly empty. We are invited to admire its incredible form but also consider its potential for cosmic transformation. Though it is suspended in an industrial environment in which it is seemingly at odds, we are asked to consider the power of the pineapple as a visual object and its ability to transport the viewer. Some have seen death and imprisonment in this work. Saro-Wiwa sees escape. Ultimately the pendulum will take you wherever it is you personally need to go at the moment you view and relinquish yourself to its hypnotic action.
“Parasol” (above) made in collaboration with New York-based performance artist Ayana Evans speaks to the fetishization and anthropomorphization of the pineapple. Two very common responses to this fruit. In “Parasol”, the fruit’s celebrated form is connected with the fetishizing of a certain type of black female body. The psychological pain produced from this gaze is the engine of the work. Parasol features the gloved hand of a black woman exploring and harming itself on a pineapple crown on the outer channels. Meanwhile, the middle channel features Evans dressed in a provocative skin-tight tiger-print catsuit – a costume she uses for her own public performance pieces – standing on a crochet pineapple doily, performing sexy poses awkwardly for the camera and being – for all intents and purposes – the embodiment of the pineapple as Exotic Other. The work is a commentary on black women’s bodies as bodies for multiple kinds of labour: physical labour as well as the labour of performing as fetishized outsider bodies. The counter current of gentility, propriety and obedience is also expressed through the gloved hand. White gloves on a black body has loaded symbolism in the African American context. It symbolizes servitude and gentility. A required deracination. The fact that the gloves are lace heightens the sense of vulnerability to the spikes and is a sarcastic nod to sartorial notions of femininity and elegance. The masochistic self-harming aspect of the performance speaks of the pain involved in farming the fruit and the emotional tensions involved in being a fetishized object that is gazed upon yet simultaneously rejected. Parasol embodies and performs the tense relationship between tropical and Western sensibilities and the inherent narrative contradictions embodied in the body and mythos of the pineapple: the flamboyance of the fruit invites both veneration and ridicule; the luxury associated with the fruit is undercut by the very painful labour endured to farm it; it has a sweetness that co-exists with a corrosive acidity and physical spikiness; and it is a resplendent beauty representing happiness that is pregnant with melancholy.
In “Pineapple Suicide” (2016) we find a video that charges any space it occupies. Simple and direct, the pineapple is obliterated by a machete. You never see the arm of the perpetrator rather the focus is the pineapple’s disintegrating form and the concrete beneath it. Saro-Wiwa insists that it is not about destruction but something ultimately far more generous and generative. “I am not sure where this piece came from” she states, “but after I had made the film and performed this action, the pineapple occupied a more prominent place in my mind and psyche. This is about life after death.”