Mari-Louise du Plessis (1986- ), also known as Mira, from the Greek ‘shines like no other’, is a South African born artist-musician. Besides the obvious correspondence to her given name, Mira also alludes to the red giant star (also known as Omicron Ceti), some 400 light years from Earth. Mira, an exploding sun and dying star gives us a view into the creation of solar systems. Like her namesake, creation, specifically artistic and experimental creation, is found at the heart of this singularly gifted artist-musician.

Du Plessis demonstrated an early affinity for music – she started to play the piano as a primary school pupil. She received classical music training between the ages of 9-17 years, completing UNISA Grade 7. However, dissatisfied with the pressures and pretentious self importance within the domain of classical music, Du Plessis renounced music,even selling her piano. In what can only be described as a moment of pure serendipity, Du Plessis simultaneously discovered the visual arts. She decided to rather pursue a degree in Fine Arts, obtaining her Bachelor’s degree from the University of the Free State, in 2008. Unable to completely abandon music, she nevertheless also enrolled in a jazz piano course, which gradually reignited her interest in music. Working towards her Master’s degree in Fine Arts, which she obtained in 2013, Du Plessis resolved to push boundaries, to energise and invigorate her artistic practice, once again turning to music. As part of her Master’s research, which focused on the problematic nature of trauma recollection in correlation with multimedia practices, she conceived of real-time interactive audio-visual performances – crossing the limits and boundaries of traditional artistic media and practice.

Du Plessis integrates and fuses music performance and visual arts by experimenting with visual artistic-musical compositions, also allowing for interactive audience participation in the creation of her work. The reference material she sources from photographs are cautiously collected and intertwined with soundscapes. In the combination of these images and sounds, Du Plessis strategically ‘displaces’ both, in order to create uncanny and ambiguous connotations. Her core intention is to provide an immersive space, open to exploration, and a deepening into the unknown depths of consciousness. “This involves a journey astray into the obscure depths of our self, and a search in the widest possible circle away from our self.”

In 2012, Du Plessis gave her first solo performance as Mira, at the Vulture Club in Bloemfontein – venue which allows for artistic diversity and experimentation. Mira’s art comprises original piano compositions as well as interactive audio-visual performances. Since Mira’s debut, she has participated in numerous group exhibitions, including Minor Matters (2010), Fine Arts and Affiliated Artists (2011), as well as taking part in the SASOL New Signatures Competition where she introduced The Reconciled Project (2013- ). This ongoing project was also showcased at the third international and multi-disciplinary conference Engaging the Other: Breaking inter-generational cycles of repetition held at the University of the Free State.

Inquisitive, experimental, heuristic, evolving and growing. These terms are activated by Mira’s oeuvre. Her work continues to develop, crossing ever more boundaries. As a committed artist-musician, Mira has performed at Fringe at the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown since 2013; she has also presented her first solo exhibition, (Dis)place (2014), which showcased a combination of visual and sound art.

A notion that Mira now aims to introduce and expand upon is that of collaboration – multidisciplinary and theatrically-centred in particular. A recent collaboration between Mira and Bloemfontein-based artist, Kezia Gerber, involved a musical and painterly improvisation created without any prior arrangement or formulation, based purely on an emotional connection between the artists, given at the opening for Gerber’s exhibition Explorations of Change (Moerby Gallery, 2015). In the near future, Mira also intends to record her debut album.

Written: Corneli van der Berg

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