The cinemas documented by Cheikh Ndiaye are specular devices – this architecture is both a projection of African modernity and its mirror. The buildings, often influenced by the International Style, radically diverge from the colonial style; they embody a tabula rasa, a departure towards the future. Although their current state of decay may evoke a feeling of disillusionment, Cheikh Ndiaye presents them as habitus. He thus paints small workshops that can be seen along the roads, structures grafted onto the buildings (i.e. Mechanical Garage), and architectural outgrowths adjoining other constructions. In these spaces between interior and exterior reemerges the life of used objects.
The work of Ndiaye rehabilitates not only architectural interstices, but also those between the materiality of paintwork and concept, between image and installation, between anthropology and art. His paintings can be seen as strange containers that keep the spectator in uncertainty despite their apparent realism; it seems as if their pictorial quality only refers to something that is not immediately visible.
Thus, the installation Red Refresh oscillates between the two-dimensionality of the image (the spectator can read the newspapers on the windshield without being able to look inside of the car) and the voluminous presence of the object. The artist adopts the attitude of the do-it-yourself enthusiasts who can be found in his paintings. The reconstruction of objects related to an informal economy appears in Ndiaye’s works as a positive practice, a reparation of society. While cars can be destroyed in order to manifest dissatisfaction, Ndiaye fixes them and adorns them with newspapers, whose titles refer to social, economic, and political problems. He seizes a practice of patching up crumpled metal sheets related to the informal and accomplishes a (re)conciliation ritual between damage and repairs, between wound and dressing, between manifestation and assumption.
Ndiaye observes the informal in a unique manner. According to him, this area is not a mere socio-economic survival practice, but the basis of all artistic work – it is an everyday Duchampian defamiliarization, a space where art is sutured to life. This activity is related to the peculiar survival of obsolete objects (cars, motors), which are literally brought back to life and recovered from a lethal area. The objects return to their material plenitude and project themselves into the future.
Cheikh Ndiaye has a cinematic perception of things. He uses the techniques of focus and zoom (as in the painting The Cinema Aboussouan and its Detail), or framing that makes us aware of off-screen space in the paintings Penc Mi Dakar or Royal Abidjan Aboussouan. Some of his paintings can be considered as long takes, where more scenes are accumulated. The devices surrounding his characters remind of screens that present ordinary work instead of a film. Life does not happen in the enclosed spaces of the cinema, but around it. The projection is therefore not supposed to produce illusion; rather, it reveals something too real. It is a systematic construction of the gaze. This perception goes beyond the smooth surface of the image to encompass its tactile and material dimension, observing the gestures of laboring hands.
The cinema of the everyday and the do-it-yourself enthusiasts who repair objects and rehabilitate dilapidated architectural interstices, are sketching a new paradigm that is crucial for the future of Africa and the world: an (i)n(f)ormal visitation. This paradigm is based on the respect for matter and the liberation of creative energies and can be found in all of us.