Interview: Grace Ndiritu

The Brief


Grace Ndiritu is an international visual artist who, in 2014, was named one of the ten most important artists under 40 by Apollo Magazine. She was taught by Turner Prize-winning artist and acclaimed film director Steve McQueen. In 2009, her art was entered into the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection in New York, and gained a place in Phaidon’s The 21st Century Art Book (2014). Ndiritu spends time in the city only when necessary, otherwise living in rural, alternative, and often spiritual communities, while expanding her research into nomadic lifestyles and training in esoteric studies, such as shamanism. This research resulted in the creation of a live art project, The Ark: Center For Interdisciplinary Experimentation.

Which portrait by a female artist would you recommend?
I recently saw Portrait of Jason, a film by Shirley Clarke, for the first time at WIELS in Brussels. It is an epic portrait of a gay, black man navigating the class issues of sixties New York, from rent boy to theatre darling to high-class companion. You will never forget this movie once you have seen it. And it is so relevant to now.

Which film about a myth or legend would you recommend?
I love the classic Japanese film Red Beard, directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring actor Toshiro Mifune. He is a legendary actor and in Red Beard you can see all his talents shine.

Which book about travelling would you recommend?
I love Chris Kraus’s book Video Green, about video art in Los Angeles in the nineties. It’s the perfect way to get to know the city.

Which generation-crossing works of literature would you recommend?
I would recommend the Ripley series by Patricia Highsmith. It starts in fifties New York, travels to beautiful Italy, traverses Berlin and Hamburg in the eighties before the wall fell, and ends in the chic countryside of France. Her novels capture the spirit of the times, while keeping you hooked by Tom Ripley's criminal and sexual shenanigans.

Which political album, composition or song would you recommend?
I am a big fan of Adam Bainbridge aka Kindness. He always manages to add some relevant political edge to his beats.

Which choreographical work would you recommend?
I just saw Transcultural Protocol, a new dance work by Rachel Monosov, at ThalieLab in Brussels, where I am currently doing an artist’s residency. All the dancers were incredible, especially Issac Owens, whose body moved fluidly in one single motion. Absolutely mesmerising!

Which television series would you recommend?
I am currently loving the surreal comedy detective series Swedish Dicks, created by actor Peter Stormare. The writing is hilarious and the characters intriguing.


The following questions relate to our Perspectives column, in which two writers respond to an artwork that they are experiencing for the first time.

Do film adaptations of books or video games devalue the original?
Not if the adaptation is better or sufficiently different to warrant its existence.

Should art invite its audience to rebel against conventions?
Art is a vehicle to make us think differently. Whether that evolves into being a rebellious act is a different matter. The most powerful art can be the most subtle and silent.

When we perform in character, do we lose our own voice?
It depends on how you to do this. I use shamanic trance to perform, so in a sense I become more of my ‘Self’ as I tap into the collective unconscious to do so.

Rule of Three

The following questions relate to our Rule of Three column, for which each article includes a trio of artworks that share an association with a single word.

Which artwork associated with the word ‘Narcissism’ would you recommend?
Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis. What a brave and surreal book, tackling global terrorism and consumerism through the lens of the fashion world and the superficiality of contemporary life. I am lucky enough to have a signed copy.

States of the Arts

The following questions relate to our States of the Arts column, for which each article includes four artworks that share an association with a single nation or territory.

Which Mexican artwork would you recommend?
One of the greatest things I have ever seen was the ancient Mesoamerican temple structure of Teotihuacan. Mind-blowing accuracy! It has influenced many things, but especially the architectural layout of the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico (designed by Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, Jorge Campuzano, and Rafael Mijares Alcérreca), which was built in 1964.

The art of discovery

The following questions relate to Silent Frame’s aim to celebrate the art of discovery.

For you, is artistic discovery a private or shared experience?
It can be both. I believe in the subliminal power of art to ‘enlighten’ audiences. In my collective shamanic performances, I use the same power that the mass media and advertising use to create a culture of fear, but this time in a positive way to empower people so that they realise that can find new ways of seeing that cannot be co-opted by capitalism.

What question would you like to ask other Silent Frame interviewees?
Why do young people give their power and creativity away so easy to corporations like YouTube and Instagram?

(I have been pondering this question since 2013, when I started writing Dissent Without Modification, a post-hippie, skate, surf, street, neo-tribal fashion book on youth culture. It is also the conceptual foundation for a new fashion label I am launching in 2018 called Coverslut.)

More to discover

Grace Ndiritu: Visit the artist’s website here, find out more about The Ark project here, and read her critical text writings here. Her Twitter handle is @NDIRITUGRACE.

Today’s recommendations: Portrait of Jason (information), Red Beard (trailer), Video Green (excerpt), The Talented Mr Ripley (excerpt), Kindness (full KEXP performance), Transcultural Protocal (information), Swedish Dicks (trailer), Glamorama (excerpt), National Museum of Anthropology (website).

Also on Silent Frame