Whether we are talking about music, White Label, Anatomy, or data mining in Africa, Mikhail Jordaan, or as most know him, Miki, is the epitome of a Postmodern South African creative. Instead of trying to make his local and international mark as an island, his personal brand thrives because of his incessant need to disrupt and collaborate. Miki isn’t a person who can be defined in a tweet, or if he could, we would have to be tweeting multiple times a day – he’s a creator who continually sheds one creative skin for another.
There is a single-serve intimacy that comes with interviewing someone about themselves. For that moment, there is nothing else (besides the occasional smoke) as you attempt to break down preexisting walls to get to some version of their truth. The best way to do this? Allow yourself into a mindset where it’s not asking questions but rather a collaboration of ideas that lead to answers, and something special comes to the forefront.
This is the version of Miki that After Dark met on a Saturday afternoon in the comfort of his apartment surrounded by a rolling landscape of mountains formed by jackets and shoe boxes.
After Dark: You take a practical approach to collaboration and the extension of collaboration in your creative process. I think it (collaboration) epitomizes you, not only as an artist but as a creative holistically.
Miki: Why would you say that? What gives you that impression?
After Dark: I see you more as a bridge than the destination.
Miki: It’s a conduit, and as I said, that was my start in music, and that’s how I like to work creatively, that is to facilitate the creation and to add in what I can. Especially in my professional work, the kind of stuff I choose to work on is very much first of it’s kind or really high-pressure versions of things or particular versions of things, because replicating work to me is very boring. What is the point of being creative if you’re just creating the same thing over and over again?
After Dark: Some creatives are going be upset by this interview (laughs). You were born in PE. How did you find yourself here [in Johannesburg]?
Miki: It all started there for me, it was my testing ground, it was my lab and through my own ill behaviours, my time ran it’s course there. I needed to find a way to reinvent myself, and so I found Jozi as a place I could do that quietly. (laughs)
After Dark: Quietly is not the word I would use to describe you.
Miki: (laughs) Well look it’s backfired, so not everything goes according to plan, but here we are.
After Dark: Do you think that you have reached the peak of your creativity?
Miki: Absolutely not.
After Dark: What would be the peak for you?
Miki: I think the peak is ever-shifting. I think there are moments where you can create something that is the pinnacle version of whatever that thing is, with whatever criteria you choose to give that thing. So, there is always technical excellence which is an objective thing and there is how you interpret what makes something successful – if it was to create a particular feeling in the audience or to portray a particular message, to encapsulate something for yourself in whatever you are creating. Then you set the criteria for those things and so the pinnacle is whatever that thing is. If you reach that…
After Dark: But if you had to look back as an old man, what would be the success you look back to?
Miki: All the things they said we couldn’t do that we did. Look, it’s going to seem almost the completely wrong way to look at this but – the things that I make solve problems in various contexts and if everything that I can create and everything that I make over my lifetime can solve a problem in whatever way – that’s success to me.
After Dark: There seems to be a multitude of versions of you? Describe the different creative versions of you?
Miki: Jeepers. All of those things are very distinct. (laughs)
After Dark: That’s why we are trying to write a cohesive piece on you.
Miki: So musically: it’s a free-form experimentation – I guide the people I work with with a very loose view of what we are trying to achieve – its often an emotive feeling that I am describing so there are no technical limitations on how we achieve the emotion musically, as long as we are translating that. In a broader creative sense, if I am creating something, it’s often more meticulous, in terms of an analytic approach to how can we combine creativity, efficiency and a uniqueness in it.
When it comes from a directorial or a curative or an overarching creative direction – its even more complex, the layers then become – how are we integrating social dynamics in our decision making, how are we shaping new ways of doing things and undoing sort of damaging practices in what has been established, how are we creating unique opportunities in what we are creating so it’s not a replicant environment where we are then subject to whatever sort of restrictions that exist.
After Dark: Which of these versions is more true to the real version of yourself, the real Mikhail Jordaan?
Miki: All, simultaneously. I have had to distil systematically how I interact with the world, because of that, I have had to have these offshoots of this bubbling thing that is inside of me: Have one that is a free form creative space, one that is technical space, one that is a highly intellectual space. All of the things overlapping simultaneously, in the regular experience is a bit much (laughs).
After Dark: To end off, extend on your idea of the “willingness to collaborate”? How has that defined your work up to this point?
Miki: The willingness to collaborate is critically about the willingness to be humble. If you are a person that has 10 skills, and this is your primary skill, but you want to work with someone and that’s not the skill they need. Sometimes you need to just got to take a backseat, take a less prestigious approach to the collaboration, where you dont have to be the front-runner in what you doing is servicing the work.
That is my experience is everything from carrying the boxes, to unpicking the stickers, to screen-printing the t-shirts. The willingness to collaborate is not just the willingness to do the work together, it’s the willingness to compromise, it’s the willingness to experience another person’s creative process in an open an honest way to create something new.
After Dark Afterthought:
A few weeks after Miki sent this me this:
We’re trying new ideas without the fear of not being perfect… It’s just a gut feeling sometimes… just making stuff with your friends…
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) June 11, 2018
Is Ye taking lessons from a South African creative, probably not, but then again, why not, as we find ourselves in a time where the world is looking to us for creative innovation.
S/O to dat_guy_tee for the shoot and Testament bar for the location.