Since We Last Met
Joël Mpah Dooh
Johannesburg I 13 Oct to 28 Nov 2017
Edgar Allan Poe in his short story The Man of the Crowd writes: “At first my observations took an abstract and generalising turn. I looked at the passengers in masses and thought of them in their aggregate relations. Soon, however, I descended to details, and regarded with minute interest the innumerable varieties of figure, dress, air, gait, visage, and expression of countenance”.
For his show at Gallery MOMO Johannesburg, Joël Mpah Dooh has taken on this flaneuric view of Johannesburg, extending on his previous show at MOMO titled ‘Let’s take a walk’ (2012) to his new show ‘Since We Last Met’. Mpah Dooh questions our identity and the fragility of how we recognise ourselves within a cosmopolitan environment. He draws from his experience of being stranded at an airport and in that moment not being able to identify either as an individual of the country he is travelling out of nor feeling like a Cameroonian in the space he finds himself.
Mpah Dooh posits: after we walked together and now meet again what has happened to both you and I? Do you notice any changes?
Although Mpah Dooh is the flaneur who observes the worldly behaviour of the people of Johannesburg; he also invites the viewer to flaneur with him in the gallery space.
Walter Benjamin (1983:37) in Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism explains that “It is in this world that the flaneur is at home, he provides the favourite sojourn of the strollers and the smokers, the stamping ground of all sorts of little métiers [specialities], with its chronicler and its philosopher”.
Mpah Dooh manages to interpret the streets of a cosmopolitan city into his own flaneuric interior. Here the viewer is in the dream-like world of Mpah Dooh, the flaneur, the observer, the symbolic maestro. The world that questions and yet provides the answers, however difficult they may be to answer. The walls of the gallery “are the desk against which he presses his notebooks […] that life in all its variety and inexhaustible wealth of variations can thrive” (Benjamin, 1983:37).
Benjamin, W. 1983. Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism. Thetford Press Limited: London.
Poe, E.A. 2014. The Man of the Crowd and other stories. Comma Press: London.