The Showroom Mural Commission — Simnikiwe Buhlungu: Notes to Self (Intimate 1)

The Showroom Mural Commission is a unique project for artists to activate the building’s emblematic facade. For this second intervention, artist Simnikiwe Buhlungu references strolling as a form of knowledge production and uses text, textile and interactive sound installations to communicate ideas of gathering through a call and response with local communities.

Departing from an intimate methodology of walking, for Notes To Self (Intimate 1) Buhlungu questions: how do we create structural spaces and communicate ideas of gathering within architectural, urban and public restrictions? How can one make visible personal reflections and poetics in the context of enduring collective ownership? Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the Mural Commission posed these questions through a site-specific installation where passers-by could record their own notes to self that would be listened to, manifested, and archived as a living ecosystem of local responses.

The Showroom Mural Commission, extended due to ongoing unprecedented circumstances, has maintained a physical presence in our community throughout the times in which we’ve been temporarily closed. It has exceeded the possibility of being a time-based personal reflection; serving, rather, as a fluctuating surface for self-expression to resonate outwards - an opportunity to pause, and a way to adapt.

Before our doors temporarily closed in March 2020 in accordance with government guidelines and in support of our team, neighbours, and greater community, we gathered the public messages recorded up until that date to make Mixtape 1. This six-minute track serves as an archive collaging the recorded and existing ‘notes to self’ of passers-by in a similar gesture as Buhlungu’s ongoing Mixtapenyana series. We invite you to explore our online Library to listen to some of these archival recordings.

Simnikiwe Buhlungu’s mural extends from an ongoing mixtape project, Notes To Self: A Mixtapenyana, whereby she explores the idea of self, s(p)lace and strolling as a form of knowledge production. Initially developed during her participation in a residency hosted by Future Assembly between Wysing Arts Centre in Cambridge and London in May 2019, the project follows recollections interrogating the idea of selfhood in relation to a constellation of encounters with distinct environments, people, narratives, happenings, and ecologies. These earlier and new site-specific mixtapes are structured around a thematic tracklisting of ‘self-historicising, self-determination, self-referencing and self-actualisation’. The Showroom Mural Commission is not only be a time-based personal reflection, but also a fluctuating surface for self-expression to radiate and resonate outwards.

The original intention of the Notes to Self (Intimate 1) Mural Commission was to replace one banner with new messages from these publicly recorded notes, transcribed into textile, activating an engaged response to the immediate environment and neighbourhood. Mixtape 1 was a limited yet poignant pool from which we pulled.

Following The Showroom’s June 2021 reopening, we installed a new banner on our façade in place of Sinikiwe Buhlungu’s initial message: TO GATHER TO–GETHER. Selected from 46 seconds into Mixtape 1, amidst the existing audio recorded by people walking past The Showroom from October 2019 – March 2020, WHAT’S ACTUALLY IN MY MIND? (00:46) then greeted our community. The timestamp contextualised it as a reference and past reflection, whilst the familiar aesthetic and unique punctuation framed it as an invitation: a question. Its relatively short duration echoed that of a WhatsApp voice note, yet also indicated a short message that infinitely loops, just like the thinking of this question within one’s own – and communal – mind.

With thanks to Hansi Momodu-Gordon, Michaela Yearwood Dan, Future Assembly, Wysing Arts Centre, Elvira Dyangani Ose, Katherine Finerty, Lily Hall, Elliot Anderson, Decorwise, 3-Sixty, Adam Shield and Lucy Woodhouse.

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