Roland Gunst, a.k.a. John K Cobra, (* 1977) is a self-taught conceptual artist, filmmaker, and musician of Belgian-Congolese (D.R.C.) descent, living and working between Belgium and South Africa.
His work emerges from an autobiographical perspective, being raised in a bicultural family in Congo and migrating to Belgium around the age of 12.
Through performances, film, and visual art, he reflects on Afro-European strategies and narratives of liberation to counter strategies of oppression on (body) identity and trauma instilled by brute capitalism and its artificial fragmentation and immobilisation of life.
Gunst’s strategies are developed around what Prof. Cecil Fromont called "spaces of correlation": spaces of similarity between European and African cultural traditions developed separately but using similar concepts of liberation and pratiques of critique.
Gunst uses the human body and architecture to come to a new type of fluid or trans architecture that functions as a moving site of memory. By creating disruptive hybrid concepts and mediums he defies the boundaries that define identity, culture, human condition and history.
He is inspired by African and European art history, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, and mythology.
He works with symbolic materials that are "spaces of correlation" between Europe and Africa: human hair, copper, rubber and wood. All are symbols of power, used in strategies of colonial rule as well as in anti-colonial and anti-capitalist cultural resistance.
KWANGA or "life" in Kikongo (a Congolese language) is the name he gave to the Afro-European rubber that he uses in his work as a medium to materialize this vision of transcultural, gender, and national fluidity where he believes sites of negotiation and liberation resides.
Gunst is an artist and researcher involved in the Critical Network BEyond PARTicipation, a four-year European research project of 9 performance art festivals aimed at developing a better understanding of the interrelationship between power, politics, place, and audience in art practice.
Gunst's research is a collaboration with Esther Severi (*1983), a Belgian dramaturge from Brussels.