Posts Tagged ‘South Africa

16
Dec
15

Exhibition: ‘The Aftermath of Conflict: Jo Ractliffe’s Photographs of Angola and South Africa’ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 24th August 2015 – 3rd January 2016

 

 

The photograph as unoccupied land

To be frank, I am not enamoured of these photographs. They seem to be conceptual ideas masquerading as documentary photographs that evidence a lazy way of seeing the world, one in which the untold narrative has become an empty spectacle. The story, such as it is, is only narrativised by the accompanying text. If an image cannot stand on its own two feet in and of itself without lines of text to support its supposition, then it is not doing its job properly.

The framing is sloppy and the focus of the images is poor. For example, the focus of Template for digging graves, Pomfret is the shadow at the front of the photograph, where the real focus should have been the template and the graves beyond with their horizontals and verticals. This would have made for a much stronger photograph because the foreground and the background are extraneous to the image.

Ractliffe really needs to look at the documentary photographers of the 19th century to see how it is done. The aftermath of conflict photographs of the American Civil War by photographers such as Matthew Brady, Alexander Gardner and Timothy O’Sullivan (and here I am not talking about the battlefield photographs) have a robust narrative quality that this artist could only ever hope to achieve. Their photographs possess a clear and consistent vision, a deep aesthetic that is emergent, based on transparence, a ruddy darkness and textural ambience – rather than an aesthetic that is superficially descriptive of surfaces.

This lack of understanding of the depth of contested place/disputed histories can be no better illustrated than in the diptych The battlefield at Cuito Cuanavale (2009, below) whose photographs really say nothing about what went on here. The photographs are prescriptive (relating to the imposition or enforcement of a rule or method) statements constructed by the artist, with no emotion and little ambience or feeling for subject matter. They are not even very good descriptive photographs of the landscape. Photographs such as Mural depicting Fidel Castro, Agostinho Neto and Leonid Brezhnev, circa 1975, Viriambundo (2009, below) and Details of tiled murals at the Fortaleza De São Miguel, depicting Portuguese explorations in Africa (2007, below) are worse, recording inarticulate artefacts at a level best reserved for student work.

By far the most interesting and powerful photograph is Roadside stall on the way to Viana (2007, below). This photograph is memorable as so many of the other are not, because it possesses a sense of disposition, of alienation, ambience and the weight of history all bound up in those hanging bodies.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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Many thankx to The Metropolitan Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) 'Vacant plot near Atlantico Sul' 2007

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961)
Vacant plot near Atlantico Sul
2007
From the series Terreno Ocupado
Inkjet print, 2015
On loan from the artist, courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

 

 

This coarse, grassy landscape appears at first glance to be empty, yet the billboard declaring “Terreno Ocupado” – Portuguese for “occupied land” – reveals this site in Luanda as both active and politically charged. It points to Angola’s long history of occupation and territorial turmoil, from the arrival of Portuguese explorers in 1483 through to the tangled twentieth-century conflicts that spilled over into neighboring countries. It also points to the contested terrain that is today’s Luanda. With this image, the opening photograph of the first series, Ractliffe sets the scene for her exploration of land, borders, and displacement, themes which thread through all the works featured here.

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) 'Woman and her baby, Roque Santeiro market' 2007

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961)
Woman and her baby, Roque Santeiro market
2007
From the series Terreno Ocupado
Inkjet print, 2015
On loan from the artist, courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

 

 

Conflict between Luanda’s population and its governing elites forms an undercurrent to this photograph of a young woman carrying a baby across litter-strewn ground, observed by a man wearing a military beret. In September 2010, three years after Ractliffe took these photographs and following a protracted dispute between the government and the local community, the Luandan authorities closed down Roque Santeiro and relocated it to a new Chinese-built facility at Panguila, some twelve miles to the north. Although the government cited concerns over insanitary conditions and organized crime, critics argued that the relocation had more to do with repossessing prime real estate for new luxury apartments.

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) 'Woman on the footpath from Boa Vista to Roque Santeiro market' 2007

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961)
Woman on the footpath from Boa Vista to Roque Santeiro market
2007
From the series Terreno Ocupado
Inkjet print, 2015
On loan from the artist, courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

 

 

Apparently out of breath and clutching a plastic bag, the woman in the foreground of this photograph is making her way up a faintly visible footpath and out of Ractliffe’s field of vision. A digger perches on the cliff top above her, and in the middle distance, a cluster of dwellings clings precariously to the litter-strewn side of the ravine. Boa Vista – “good view” – is one of Luanda’s largest shanty towns, and at the time of this photograph was home to over 50,000 people. Following landslides in 2001 which killed several residents, parts of the neighborhood were bulldozed and over 4,000 families were evicted from their homes and relocated to tents in other parts of the city while awaiting the construction of their new accommodation.

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) 'Video club, Roque Santeiro market' 2007

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961)
Video club, Roque Santeiro market
2007
Inkjet print, 2015
Height: 14 3/16 in. (36 cm) Width: 17 11/16 in. (45 cm)
On loan from the artist, courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

 

 

Before its closure in 2010, Roque Santeiro was renowned as the biggest open-air market in sub-Saharan Africa, and the center of Angola’s informal economy. Established in the 1980s and named after a popular Brazilian soap opera, it flourished during the Angolan Civil War as streams of refugees fled the countryside and came to Luanda, searching for new livelihoods. Everything was for sale in its makeshift stalls, from household items, food, and clothes, to contraband alcohol, cars, and livestock. In this photograph Ractliffe focuses on one of the market’s many video clubs, which were housed in military-style tents and screened action movies on televisions powered by generators.

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) ''God with us', Pomfret' 2011

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961)
‘God with us’, Pomfret
2011
Inkjet print, 2015
Height: 17 11/16 in. (45 cm) Width: 22 1/16 in. (56 cm)
On loan from the artist, courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

 

 

The abandoned mining town of Pomfret is located in the far north of South Africa, near the border with Botswana. After the closure of its asbestos mine, the town was converted into a military base and used to accommodate 32 Battalion, an elite Special Forces unit made up of Angolan soldiers. When the unit was disbanded in 1993, most of the veterans and their families stayed in Pomfret, living in abject conditions without basic services and under constant threat of eviction. Ractliffe has spoken of finding graves there marked only with “Born Angola”; for the veterans whose paths ended here, death in Pomfret was “the final displacement”.

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) 'Unidentified memorial in the desert, south of Namibe I' 2009

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961)
Unidentified memorial in the desert, south of Namibe I
2009
From the series As Terras do Fim do Mundo
Inkjet print, 2015
On loan from the artist, courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

 

 

In this photograph, an assemblage of objects perches on a stony outcrop, surrounded by a barren expanse of desert. The long pole protruding from the pile is topped with a ragged banner, announcing the presence of this unusual memorial, but giving little away about its exact significance. Ractliffe took this photograph close to the Cuban base at Namibe on Angola’s southwestern coast, where an extensive network of trenches, bunkers, and anti-aircraft defenses is located. As Ractliffe has remarked: “there are some very poignant things in the landscape, like these markers, that seem to say ‘I have been here, people have been here.'”

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) 'The battlefield at Cuito Cuanavale' (diptych left) 2009

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) 'The battlefield at Cuito Cuanavale' (diptych right) 2009

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961)
The battlefield at Cuito Cuanavale (diptych left and right)
2009
From the series As Terras do Fim do Mundo
Inkjet prints, 2015
On loan from the artist, courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

 

 

Reflecting on this diptych, Ractliffe has observed that “Quite often, sites of significance don’t evidence their historical weight.” It is true that the calm landscape – muddy riverbanks weaving through a marsh – together with the small size of these prints belies the huge historical importance of their subject. In 1987-88, during the Angolan Civil War, Cuito Cuanavale was the site of the biggest battle in Africa since World War II. On one side was the armed wing of Agostinho Neto’s government, supported by their Cuban allies; on the other side was the rebel group UNITA, supported by the South African Defence Force. The outcome of the battle is still widely disputed, with both sides claiming victory.

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) 'Thorn tree, Platfontein' 2012

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961)
Thorn tree, Platfontein
2012
Inkjet print, 2015
Height: 14 3/16 in. (36 cm) Width: 17 11/16 in. (45 cm)
On loan from the artist, courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

 

 

In this photograph and the next one, “Playing soccer with marbles, Platfontein”, the placement of personal objects in a seemingly unforgiving setting hints at the tension between resilience and vulnerability negotiated by the resident community. The settlement of Platfontein is now home to veterans of 31/201 Battalion, a South African Special Forces unit made up of Angolan and Namibian San trackers who became tied up in the independence conflicts in Angola and Namibia. After the conflicts ended, many of the San veterans were relocated to Schmidtsdrift, but had to live in tents for 14 years because of a competing claim on the land from local communities. The veterans ultimately accepted financial compensation, which enabled them to buy land at Platfontein, pictured here.

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) 'Playing soccer with marbles, Platfontein' 2012

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961)
Playing soccer with marbles, Platfontein
2012
Inkjet print, 2015
Height: 10 1/4 in. (26 cm) Width: 12 13/16 in. (32.5 cm)
On loan from the artist, courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

 

 

In this photograph and the previous one, “Thorn tree, Platfontein”, the placement of personal objects in a seemingly unforgiving setting hints at the tension between resilience and vulnerability negotiated by the resident community. The settlement of Platfontein is now home to veterans of 31/201 Battalion, a South African Special Forces unit made up of Angolan and Namibian San trackers who became tied up in the independence conflicts in Angola and Namibia. After the conflicts ended, many of the San veterans were relocated to Schmidtsdrift, but had to live in tents for 14 years because of a competing claim on the land from local communities. The veterans ultimately accepted financial compensation, which enabled them to buy land at Platfontein, pictured here.

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) 'Template for digging graves, Pomfret' 2013

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961)
Template for digging graves, Pomfret
2013
Inkjet print, 2015
Height: 14 3/16 in. (36 cm) Width: 17 11/16 in. (45 cm)
On loan from the artist, courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) 'Veteran soldiers of 'Omega' 31/201 Battalion, Paulo Cassanga and Automover Kakenge, Schmidtsdrift (portrait under instruction)' 2012

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961)
Veteran soldiers of ‘Omega’ 31/201 Battalion, Paulo Cassanga and Automover Kakenge, Schmidtsdrift (portrait under instruction)
2012
Inkjet print, 2015
Height: 14 3/16 in. (36 cm) Width: 17 11/16 in. (45 cm)
On loan from the artist, courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

 

 

The veterans’ experiences are given added poignancy in this portrait, in which they stand in front of a tarpaulin hanging untidily from a derelict building. Automover Kakenge, standing on the right, is the leader of a group of San veterans who refused to move to Platfontein after their land claim at Schmidtsdrift was unsuccessful. Kakenge has stated that “Schmidtsdrift was the ending for us […]. When we were relocated from Namibia, we had to swear, “South Africa is our land, and our house is here in Schmidtsdrift.” This attachment to the land and buildings at Schmidtsdrift is the endpoint of what Ractliffe refers to as an “epic narrative of displacement”.

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) 'On the Road to Cuito Cuanavale I' 2009

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961)
On the Road to Cuito Cuanavale I
2009
On loan from the artist, courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) 'Donkey, Pomfret Asbestos Mine' 2011

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961)
Donkey, Pomfret Asbestos Mine
2011
From the series The Borderlands
Inkjet print, 2015
On loan from the artist, courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

 

 

The Aftermath of Conflict: Jo Ractliffe’s Photographs of Angola and South Africa at The Metropolitan Museum of Art beginning August 24 features 23 works produced over the past 10 years by South African artist Jo Ractliffe (born 1961). The photographs examine the landscapes of Angola and South Africa as sites of conflict and contention. Focusing on the aftermath of the Angolan Civil War and the intertwined conflict known in South Africa as the “Border War,” her photographs address themes of dispossession, history, memory, and erasure. The exhibition highlights Ractliffe’s engagement with the land and structures of Angola’s capital, Luanda, as well as with places in the Angolan and South African countryside where unmarked mass graves, minefields, and former military testing sites reveal the complex traces of the past in the present.

The 23 works on loan from the artist include single images, diptychs, and triptychs selected from three photographic series: Terreno Ocupado (2007), As Terras do Fim do Mundo (2010), and The Borderlands (2013). In Terreno Ocupado, Ractliffe establishes the city of Luanda as a multilayered place of both historical dispute and present-day struggle. Photographs highlighting the Portuguese colonial occupation of Angola and its imprint on the built environment appear alongside works depicting the often harsh economic conditions of Luanda today. By focusing on the structural instability of the city’s shanty towns, as well as the longer history of political instability threading through their foundations, these photographs question what it means for land to be occupied, abandoned, and struggled over.

The works selected from 2010’s As Terras do Fim do Mundo highlight traces of the Border War, a conflict fought in rural Angola and present-day Namibia between South Africa and its allies on one side and, on the other, the exiled Namibian liberation movement, the Angolan government, and their allies. For this series, Ractliffe traveled alongside ex-soldiers returning to the desolate places where they had fought. The images produced on these trips include photographs of unmarked mass graves, minefields, and other often-inconspicuous signs of past conflict, showing how landscape can function as a repository of histories and memories and yet not be apparent at first glance. Most of the photographs in this series appear devoid of human presence, but in a triptych featuring mural representations of the conflict’s three key political leaders – Fidel Castro, Agostinho Neto, and Leonid Brezhnev – Ractliffe points more directly to notions of individual agency, culpability, and experience.

For her most recent series, The Borderlands, Ractliffe sought out sites in South Africa that were intricately connected to the history of the Border War and photographed their inhabitants amid their surroundings. The people she photographed, often the subjects of forced relocation and living in precarious conditions, exist at the intersection of the region’s troubled history and challenging present. Works from this series show how histories of violence and dispossession under apartheid intersect with these militarized landscapes.

The Aftermath of Conflict has been organized to coincide with the special exhibition Kongo: Power and Majesty, which focuses on works created by artists in present-day Angola between the 16th and 19th centuries (on view at the Metropolitan Museum September 17, 2015 – January 3, 2016). The landscapes captured by Ractliffe consider a more recent chapter of Angola’s history. The Aftermath of Conflict: Jo Ractliffe’s Photographs of Angola and South Africa is curated by Yaëlle Biro, Associate Curator in the Department of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at the Metropolitan Museum, together with Dr Evelyn Owen, the 2013-2015 Mellon Curatorial Fellow at The Africa Center, New York, in collaboration with the Museum’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art and Department of Photographs.”

Text from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) 'Man maintaining the lawn of the Monumento de Agostinho Neto' 2007

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961)
Man maintaining the lawn of the Monumento de Agostinho Neto
2007
Inkjet print, 2015
Height: 13 3/4 in. (35 cm) Width: 13 3/4 in. (35 cm)
On loan from the artist, courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

 

 

This monument to Angola’s first president Agostinho Neto (1922-79) was erected in 2001-2 as a gift from North Korea. Neto, a doctor and poet, was a founder of the MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) and led the party during Angola’s struggle for independence from Portugal. When the Portuguese withdrew from Angola on November 11, 1975, with help from Cuba and in the face of competing anti-colonial factions, the MPLA seized control of Luanda and Neto became president. He went on to cultivate closer ties with the Soviet Union and other communist states. In this photograph, Ractliffe contrasts the heroic figure symbolizing freedom from colonialism shown on the monument’s pedestal with the everyday heroism of a man pushing a heavy lawnmower.

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) Banco Nacional de Angola (diptych left) 2007

Ractliffe-banco-nacional-RIGHT-WEB

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961)
Banco Nacional de Angola (diptych left and right)
2007
Inkjet prints, 2015
Height: 17 11/16 in. (45 cm) Width: 17 11/16 in. (45 cm)
On loan from the artist, courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

 

 

The National Bank of Angola building was designed by Portuguese architect Vasco Regaleira and inaugurated in 1956 by Portuguese president Francisco Lopes. The building’s pink exterior, with its imposing dome and colonnade, was intended to fit in with other colonial-style buildings in Luanda. The bank’s lavish décor provides a dramatic contrast to many of Ractliffe’s other photographs of the city, especially the marble atrium, which features tiled murals portraying the arrival of the Portuguese in Angola. In the image to the right (bottom above), Portuguese explorers are depicted disembarking from their ship and erecting a padrão; these large limestone markers were inscribed with the Portuguese coat of arms and positioned at key locations along the coast by Portuguese navigator Diogo Cão in 1483. An original padrão is currently on view in the exhibition Kongo: Power and Majesty.

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) 'Roadside stall on the way to Viana' 2007

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961)
Roadside stall on the way to Viana
2007
From the series Terreno Ocupado
Inkjet print, 2015
On loan from the artist, courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

 

 

In this photograph and the next one, “Wreck of a Chinese ship at Ilha”, stretches of bare ground in and around Luanda form the backdrop to ghostly signs of economic activity. Workmen’s overalls dangle from a tree at a roadside stall next to a taxi rank, and a grounded ship basks on a deserted beach while other vessels float offshore. Before it capsized in the mid-2000s, this ship transported and housed Chinese workers drawn to Angola by the many Chinese-run infrastructure projects in the country. These images reflect Angola’s diverse economy where a globalized workforce and the informal sector both play important roles, yet the absence of the workers themselves is striking.

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) 'Details of tiled murals at the Fortaleza De São Miguel, depicting Portuguese explorations in Africa 2' 2007

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961)
Details of tiled murals at the Fortaleza De São Miguel, depicting Portuguese explorations in Africa 2
2007
Inkjet print, 2015
Height: 13 3/4 in. (35 cm) Width: 13 3/4 in. (35 cm)
On loan from the artist, courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) 'Details of tiled murals at the Fortaleza De São Miguel, depicting Portuguese explorations in Africa 4' 2007

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961)
Details of tiled murals at the Fortaleza De São Miguel, depicting Portuguese explorations in Africa 4
2007
Inkjet print, 2015
Height: 13 3/4 in. (35 cm) Width: 13 3/4 in. (35 cm)
On loan from the artist, courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

 

 

This photograph and the previous one were taken inside the Fortaleza de São Miguel, a fort originally built in 1576 by Paulo Dias de Novais, the explorer who “founded” Luanda. It later became the administrative heart of the Portuguese colony of Angola in its important role as a trading center and slaving hub. In 1938 the fort was transformed into the home of the Museum of Angola, and the tiled murals shown here were commissioned at this time. Depicting the flora, fauna and history of Angola, these cobalt-blue 18th-century style tiles were inspired by early modern European prints depicting the Kongo and Angola kingdoms, and represented an attempt to legitimize the ongoing Portuguese presence in the country. Sources included Olfert Dapper’s 1668 “Description of Africa” from which the map fragment shown here is drawn.

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) Decommissioned military outpost, Schmidtsdrift (triptych left) 2012

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) Decommissioned military outpost, Schmidtsdrift (triptych middle) 2012

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) Decommissioned military outpost, Schmidtsdrift (triptych right) 2012

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961)
Decommissioned military outpost, Schmidtsdrift (triptych left, middle and right)
2012
From the series The Borderlands
Inkjet prints, 2015
On loan from the artist, courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

 

 

In this triptych, Ractliffe’s focal point is a ghostly ensemble of deserted military buildings. Schmidtsdrift’s original inhabitants were forcibly relocated in the 1950s-70s under the apartheid regime’s policy of racial segregation. From 1974 the emptied settlement was used as a military training base by the South African Defence Force, which was fighting against the exiled Namibian liberation movement and the Angolan army in a conflict later referred to in South Africa as the “Border War”. Now that the war is over, the decommissioned buildings remain, testifying to the region’s past conflicts and histories of forced relocation.

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) Mural depicting Fidel Castro, Agostinho Neto and Leonid Brezhnev, circa 1975, Viriambundo (detail) 2009

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) Mural depicting Fidel Castro, Agostinho Neto and Leonid Brezhnev, circa 1975, Viriambundo (detail) 2009

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) Mural depicting Fidel Castro, Agostinho Neto and Leonid Brezhnev, circa 1975, Viriambundo (detail) 2009

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961) 'Mural depicting Fidel Castro, Agostinho Neto and Leonid Brezhnev, circa 1975, Viriambundo' 2009

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, born 1961)
Mural depicting Fidel Castro, Agostinho Neto and Leonid Brezhnev, circa 1975, Viriambundo (details)
2009
Inkjet prints, 2015
Height: 15 3/4 in. (40 cm) Width: 19 11/16 in. (50 cm)
On loan from the artist, courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg

 

 

The central figure of Agostinho Neto, Angola’s anti-colonial leader and president from 1975-79, is flanked by Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro on the left, and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev on the right. This mural personifies the threats of African Nationalism and Communism that propelled South Africa to become involved in the Border War. It highlights the fact that the Angolan Civil War was also a Cold War battleground, with Cuba and the Soviet Union on the side of Neto’s party, the MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola), and South Africa and the United States supporting UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola). Here, all three men still command a presence despite their faded, cartoon-like rendering.

 

 

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24
Jun
14

Exhibition: ‘Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa’ at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

Exhibition dates: 21st February – 29th June 2014

Exhibition artists

Public Intimacy presents

  • Photography by Ian Berry, Ernest Cole, David Goldblatt, Terry Kurgan, Sabelo Mlangeni, Santu Mofokeng, Billy Monk, Zanele Muholi, Lindeka Qampi, Jo Ractliffe, and Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse
  • Video works by William Kentridge, Donna Kukama, Anthea Moys, and Berni Searle
  • Painting and sculpture by Nicholas Hlobo and Penny Siopis
  • Puppetry by Handspring Puppet Company
  • Publications, prints, graphic works, and public interventions by Chimurenga, ijusi (Garth Walker), Anton Kannemeyer, and Cameron Platter
  • Performances by Athi-Patra Ruga, Kemang Wa Lehulere, and Sello Pesa and Vaughn Sadie with Ntsoana Contemporary Dance Theatre

 

Continuing my fascination with South African art and photography, here is another exhilarating collection of work from an exhibition jointly arranged between SFMOMA and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco. This art has so much joy, life, movement and “colour”. I particularly like The Future White Women of Azania series by Athi-Patra Ruga, who presented his work at the 55th Venice Biennale in the African pavilion. Images of his incredible tapestries can be found on the Whatiftheworld website, and photographs of his installation at the WhatIfTheWorld Gallery can be found on the Empty Kingdom website. Thank god not another rehashed colonial image, even though he is working with the tropes of myth and the history of Africa as a contemporary response to the post-apartheid era.

Marcus

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Many thankx to SFMOMA and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts for allowing me to publish the installation photographs in the posting. Most of the other photographs were gathered from the internet. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

“Disrupting expected images of South Africa, the 25 contemporary artists and collectives featured in Public Intimacy eloquently explore the poetics and politics of the everyday. This collaboration with Yerba Buena Center for the Arts presents pictures from SFMOMA’s collection of South African photography alongside works in a broad range of media, including video, painting, sculpture, performance, and publications – most made in the last five years, and many on view for the first time on the West Coast. Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of democracy in South Africa, Public Intimacy reveals the nuances of human interaction in a country still undergoing significant change, vividly showing public life there in a more complex light.”

Text from the SFMOMA website

 

 

Santu Mofokeng. 'Opening Song, Hand Clapping and Bells' 1986

 

Santu Mofokeng
Opening Song, Hand Clapping and Bells
1986
From the series Train Church
Pigment print
9 13/16 x 13 3/4 in. (25 x 35 cm)
© Santu Mofokeng

 

Santu Mofokeng. 'Leading in Song, Johannesburg - Soweto Line' 1986

 

Santu Mofokeng
Leading in Song, Johannesburg – Soweto Line
1986
From the series Train Church
Pigment print
9 13/16 x 13 3/4 in. (25 x 35 cm)
© Santu Mofokeng

 

Santu Mofokeng. 'Hands in Worship, Johannesburg - Soweto Line' 1986

 

Santu Mofokeng
Hands in Worship, Johannesburg – Soweto Line
1986
From the series Train Church
Pigment print
9 13/16 x 13 3/4 in. (25 x 35 cm)
© Santu Mofokeng

 

Santu Mofokeng. 'Supplication, Johannesburg - Soweto Line' 1986

 

Santu Mofokeng
Supplication, Johannesburg – Soweto Line
1986
From the series Train Church
Pigment print
9 13/16 x 13 3/4 in. (25 x 35 cm)
© Santu Mofokeng

 

Ian Berry. 'Guests at a 'moffie'drag party' Cape Town, South Africa, 1960

 

Ian Berry
Guests at a ‘moffie’drag party
Cape Town, South Africa, 1960
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Billy Monk. 'The Catacombs, 30 September 1967' 1967, printed 2011

 

Billy Monk
The Catacombs, 30 September 1967
1967, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print
10 1/16 x 14 15/16 in. (25.56 x 37.94 cm)
Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

Billy Monk. 'The Catacombs, 5 February 1968' 1968, printed 2011

 

Billy Monk
The Catacombs, 5 February 1968
1968, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print
11 x 16 in. (27.94 x 40.64 cm)
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Nomonde Mbusi, Berea, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi
Nomonde Mbusi, Berea, Johannesburg
2007
From the Faces and Phases series
Gelatin silver print
23 13/16 in. x 34 1/16 in. (60.5 cm x 86.5 cm)
Courtesy of the artist and Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi, born 1972

Muholi’s work addresses the reality of what it is to be LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) in South Africa. She identifies herself as a visual activist, dealing with issues of violation, violence and prejudice that she and her community face, despite South Africa’s progressive constitution.

In Faces and Phases, she sets out to give visibility to black lesbians and to celebrate the distinctiveness of individuals through the traditional genre of portraiture. The portraits are taken outdoors with a hand-held camera to retain spontaneity and often shown in a grid to highlight difference and diversity. In the series Beulahs, she shows young gay men, wearing Zulu beads and other accessories usually worn by women, who invert normative gender codes in both costume and pose. At the same time her photographs evoke tourist postcards and recycled stereotypes of Africans and recall traditional anthropological and ethnographic iconography.

Faces and Phases, is a group of black and white portraits that I have been working on from 2006 until now – it has become a lifetime project. The project is about me, the community that I’m part of. I was born in the township: I grew up in that space. Most of us grew up in a household where heterosexuality was the norm. When you grow up, you think that the only thing that you have to become as a maturing girl or woman is to be with a man; you have to have children, and also you need to have lobola or “bride price” paid for you. For young men, the expectation for them is to be with women and have wives and procreate: that’s the kind of space which most of us come from. We are seen as something else by society – we are seen as deviants. We’re not going to be here forever, and I wanted to make sure that we leave a history that is tangible to people who come after us.’

Zanele Muholi, interviewed by Tamar Garb, South Africa, 2010.
Text from the V & A website

 

David Goldblatt. 'Woman smoking, Fordsburg, Johannesburg' 1975

 

David Goldblatt
Woman smoking, Fordsburg, Johannesburg
1975
Pigment inkjet print
23 5/8 in. x 29 1/2 in. (60 cm x 75 cm)
Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase
© David Goldblatt.

 

 

Jointly organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA), Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa brings together 25 artists and collectives who disrupt expected images of a country known through its apartheid history. The exhibition features an arc of artists who look to the intimate encounters of daily life to express the poetics and politics of the “ordinary act,” with work primarily from the last five years as well as photographic works that figure as historical precedents. On view at YBCA February 21 through June 29, 2014, Public Intimacy presents more than 200 works in a wide range of mediums, many of them making U.S. or West Coast debuts.

The exhibition joins SFMOMA’s important and growing collection of South African photography with YBCA’s multidisciplinary purview and continued exploration of the Global South. Significant documentary photography is paired with new photographs and work in other mediums, including video, painting, sculpture, performance, and publications, to reveal the multifaceted nuances of everyday life in a country still undergoing significant change. Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of democracy in South Africa, Public Intimacy looks at the way artists imagine present and future possibilities in South Africa. A new orientation emerges through close-up views of street interactions, portraiture, fashion and costume, unfamiliar public actions, and human imprints on the landscape.

The exhibition’s three curators – Betti-Sue Hertz, director of visual arts at YBCA; Frank Smigiel, associate curator of public programs at SFMOMA; and Dominic Willsdon, Leanne and George Roberts Curator of Education and Public Programs at SFMOMA – developed the show after visits to South Africa, where they met with artists, curators, and critics. The exhibition – and a companion publication to be published in fall 2014 – grew out of this research.

“Although South Africa’s political history remains vital to these artists and is important for understanding their work, Public Intimacy offers a more subtle view of the country through personal moments,” said Hertz. “It goes against expectations in order to reveal the smaller gestures and illuminate how social context has affected artists and how they work.”

“The familiar image of contemporary South Africa as a place of turmoil is, of course, not the whole story,” added Willsdon. “The art in this exhibition restages how those violent incidents fit in the broader realm of human interactions – a way of showing public life there in a more complex light.”

“Another central aspect of the exhibition is live performance,” said Smigiel. “Three major live works will unfold both in and outside the gallery context, offering a way to situate and reframe San Francisco through the lens of what artists are producing in South Africa.”

Public Intimacy is part of SFMOMA’s collaborative museum exhibitions and extensive off-site programming taking place while its building is temporarily closed for expansion construction through early 2016. As neighbors across Third Street in San Francisco, YBCA and SFMOMA have partnered in the past on various performance and exhibition projects, but Public Intimacy represents the deepest collaboration of shared interests to date between the two institutions. It also brings together SFMOMA’s approach to curating live art and YBCA’s multidisciplinary interest in exhibitions, social practice, and performances.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa' at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

Installation view of the exhibition 'Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa' at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

Installation view of the exhibition 'Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa' at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

Installation view of the exhibition 'Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa' at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

Installation view of the exhibition 'Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa' at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

Installation view of the exhibition 'Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa' at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

 

Installation views of the exhibition Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco with, in the last photo, Nicholas Hlobo, Umphanda ongazaliyo (installation view), 2008; rubber, ribbon, zips, steel, wood, plaster; ICA Boston; © Nicholas Hlobo; photo: John Kennar.

 

 

Exhibition highlights

While the exhibition explores new approaches to daily life in post-apartheid South Africa, it also makes visible the continued commitment of artists to activism and contemporary politics. Beginning with photographs from the late 1950s and after, the exhibition includes vital moments in the country’s documentary photography – from Ian Berry’s inside look at an underground drag ball to Billy Monk’s raucous nightclub photos – each capturing a moment of celebration within different social strata of South African society. Ernest Cole’s photographs of miners’ hostels and bars and Santu Mofokeng’s stirring photographs of mobile churches on commuter trains reveal everyday moments both tender and harsh.

David Goldblatt’s photographs depict the human landscape in apartheid and after, providing the genesis of the idea of “public intimacy.” Over decades of photographs in urban, suburban, and rural locations, Goldblatt has chronicled the changing nature of interpersonal engagement in South Africa. At the same time, they provide a historical backdrop and visual precedent for other artists in the exhibition, including Zanele Muholi and Sabelo Mlangeni.

Muholi has won several awards for her powerful photographic portraits as well as her activism on behalf of black lesbians in South Africa. Although best known for her photographs – in particular her Faces and Phases series – Muholi continuously experiments with an expanded practice including documentary film, beadwork, text, and her social-action organization Inkanyiso, which gives visibility to conditions facing lesbians of color in her country. “Sexual politics has been looked at less than racial politics in South Africa, but in many ways, the two have always been intertwined,” said Willsdon.

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse bring another perspective to the upheavals of life in the city of Johannesburg with works from their Ponte City (2008-10) series, comprised of photographs, video, and a publication offering various views of this centrally located and iconic 54-story building. The works illustrate the struggles facing many native and immigrant South Africans in the years following the dissolution of apartheid, including stalled economic growth and social opportunities.

In contrast to the daily realities pictured in photographic works in the exhibition, Athi-Patra Ruga’s ongoing performance series The Future White Women of Azania (2010-present) features fantastical characters – usually played by the artist – whose upper bodies sprout colorful balloons while their lower bodies pose or process in stockings and high heels. Ruga’s Azania is a changing utopia, and Smigiel notes the shift: “The balloons are filled with liquid, and as the figure moves through the streets, they start popping, so the character dissolves and reveals a performer, and the liquid spills out and into a rather sloppy line drawing.” A new iteration of the series, The Elder of Azania, will premiere in the YBCA Forum during the exhibition’s opening weekend.

Chimurenga, an editorial collective working at the intersection of pan-African culture, art, and politics produces publications, events, and installations. Founded in 2002 by Ntone Edjabe, the collective has created the Chimurenga Library, an online archiving project that profiles independent pan-African paper periodicals from around the world. Expanding upon this concept, their presence in Public Intimacy will have two elements: a text and media resource space in YBCA’s galleries and an intervention at the San Francisco Public Library main branch that will explore the history of pan-African culture in the Bay Area, scheduled to open in late May.

Providing one of the most personally vulnerable moments in the exhibition, Penny Siopis’s series of 90 small paintings on enamel, Shame (2002), provokes a visceral reaction. With red paint reminiscent of blood and bruises, Siopis mixes color and text in an attempt to convey emotion rather than narrative. While she is interested in the guilt and embarrassment most frequently associated with shame, she also looks at the possibility for empathy that emerges from traumatic experiences.

In all of these works, explains Hertz, “We are looking at how art and activism align, but we’re also interested in how politics is embedded in less obviously political practices, such as Sabelo Mlangeni’s photographs of mining workers’ hostels, Penny Siopis’s powerful painting series about human vulnerability, or Nicholas Hlobo’s large-scale, organically shaped sculptures made primarily of rubber.”

Text from the SFMOMA website

 

Sabelo Mlangeni. 'Couple Bheki and Sipho' 2009

 

Sabelo Mlangeni
Couple Bheki and Sipho
2009
From the series Country Girls
Gelatin silver print
40 x 30 cm
Courtesy the artist and Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Sabelo Mlangeni

 

 

Figures & Fictions: Sabelo Mlangeni from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.

 

Anton Kannemeyer. 'D is for dancing ministers' 2006

 

Anton Kannemeyer
D is for dancing ministers
2006
From the series Alphabet of Democracy
Lithograph on Chine Collé
22 1/16 x 24 in. (56 x 61 cm)
Courtesy the artist and Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Anton Kannemeyer

 

Terry Kurgan. 'Hotel Yeoville' 2012

 

Terry Kurgan
Hotel Yeoville
2012
Digital print on bamboo hahnemulle paper
Courtesy the artist
© Terry Kurgan

 

Penny Siopis. 'Untitled' from the series 'Shame' 2002

 

Penny Siopis
Untitled from the series Shame
2002
Paint on enamel
© Penny Siopis

 

Athi-Patra Ruga. 'The Future White Women of Azania' 2012

 

Athi-Patra Ruga
The Future White Women of Azania
2012
Performed as part of Performa Obscura in collaboration with Mikhael Subotzky
Commissioned for the exhibition Making Way, Grahamstown, South Africa
Photo: Ruth Simbao, courtesy Athi-Patra Ruga and WHATIFTHEWORLD/GALLERY

 

Athi-Patra Ruga. 'The Future White Women of Azania' 2012

 

Athi-Patra Ruga
The Future White Women of Azania
2012
Performed as part of Performa Obscura in collaboration with Mikhael Subotzky
Commissioned for the exhibition Making Way, Grahamstown, South Africa
Photo: Ruth Simbao, courtesy Athi-Patra Ruga and WHATIFTHEWORLD/GALLERY

 

Athi-Patra Ruga. 'The Night of the Long Knives I' 2013



 

Athi-Patra Ruga
The Night of the Long Knives I
2013


Archival inkjet Print on Photorag Baryta
202 x 157 cm

 

“The Future White Woman of Azania is an ongoing series of performances first conceived in 2010 and evolving to engage new definitions of nationhood in relation to the autonomous body. In the enactment of the site-specific work commissioned for the 55th Venice Biennale, the performance takes the form of an absurdist funerary procession. The participants are the ABODADE – the sisterhood order of Azania and the central protagonist – The Future White Woman.

“Azania, as a geographic location, is first described in 1stCentury Greek records of navigation and trade, The Peryplus of the Erythrean Sea and is thought to refer to a portion of the East and Southern African coast. The word Azania itself is thought to have been derived from an Arabic word referring to the ‘dark-skinned inhabitants of Africa.’

Azania is then eulogised in the black consciousness movement as a pre-colonial utopian black homeland – this Promised Land, referenced in struggle songs, political sermons and African Nationalist speeches. In Cold War pop culture, Marvel Comics used Azania as a fictional backdrop to a Liberation story that bares a close resemblance to the situation that was Apartheid in Old South Africa… so it is at once a mythical and faintly factual place/state that this performance unfolds… Who are the Azanians for what it’s worth? It is in this liminal state that the performance unfolds…”

Seeking to radically reimage the potential of Azania and its inhabitants, the performance questions the mythical place that we mourn for and asks who its future inhabitants may be. Using the “Nation-Finding language of pomp and procession,” Ruga proposes a bold and iconoclastic break with the past Utopian promise of the elders and instead presents us with a new potential and hybridity.”

Text from the Athi-Patra Ruga blog

 

Athi-Patra Ruga. 'Uzuko' 2013


 

Athi-Patra Ruga
Uzuko
2013
Wool, thread and artificial flowers on tapestry canvas
200 x 180 cm

 

 

“Athi-Patra Ruga is one of a handful of artists, working in South Africa today, who has adopted the tropes of myth as a contemporary response to the post-apartheid era. Ruga has always worked with creating alternative identities that sublimate marginalized experience into something strangely identifiable.

In The Future White Women of Azania he is turning his attention to an idea intimately linked to the apartheid era’s fiction of Azania – a Southern African decolonialised arcadia. It is a myth that perhaps seems almost less attainable now than when the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) appropriated the name in 1965 as the signifier of an ideal future South Africa – then at least was a time to dream more optimistically largely because the idea seemed so infinitely remote.

But Ruga, in his imaginings of Azania, has stuck closer to the original myth, situating it in Eastern Africa as the Roman, Pliny the Elder, did in the first written record of the name. Here Ruga in his map The Lands of Azania (2014-2094) has created lands suggestive of sin, of decadence and current politics. Countries named Palestine, Sodom, Kuntistan, Zwartheid and Nunubia are lands that reference pre-colonial, colonial and biblical regions with all their negative and politically disquieting associations. However, in what seems like something of a response to the ‘politically’ embroidered maps of the Italian artist Alighiero e Boetti, Ruga infers that the politicization of words are in a sense prior to the constructed ideology of the nation state.

What is more Azania is a region of tropical chromatic colours, which is populated with characters whose identities are in a state of transformation. At the centre of the panoply of these figures stands The Future White Woman whose racial metamorphosis, amongst a cocoon of multi-coloured balloons, suggests something disturbing, something that questions the processes of a problematic cultural assimilation. And it is here that the veracity of the myth of a future arcadia is being disputed if not entirely rejected.

To be sure, unlike Barthes’ suggestion in his essay ‘Myth Today’, Ruga is not creating myth in an act that depoliticizes, simplifying form in order to perpetuate the idea of an erroneous future ‘good society’. Instead, placing himself in amongst the characters in a lavish self portrait Ruga imagines himself into the space of the clown or jester (much like the Rococo painter Watteau did in his painting ‘Giles’), into the space of interpreter as well as a cultural product of the forces outside of his own control.

Ruga’s Azania is a world of confusing transformations whose references are Rococo and its more modern derivative Pop. But whatever future this myth is foreshadowing, with its wealth, its tropical backdrop, its complicated and confusing identities, it is not a place of peaceful harmony – or at least not one that is easily recognizable. As Ruga adumbrated at a recent studio visit, his generation’s artistic approach of creating myths or alternative realities is in some ways an attempt to situate the traumas of the last 200 years in a place of detachment. That is to say at a farsighted distance where their wounds can be contemplated outside of the usual personalized grief and subjective defensiveness.”

Statement from WHATIFTHEWORLD.com on the Empty Kingdom website

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse. 'Ponte City from Yeoville Ridge' 2008

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse
Ponte City from Yeoville Ridge
2008
Lightjet chromogenic print
Courtesy the artists and Goodman Gallery
© Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse. 'Ponte City, Johannesburg' 2008

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse
Ponte City, Johannesburg
2008
Lightjet chromogenic print
Courtesy the artists and Goodman Gallery
© Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse. 'Ponte City, Johannesburg' 2008

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse
Ponte City, Johannesburg
2008
Lightjet chromogenic print
Courtesy the artists and Goodman Gallery
© Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse. 'Cleaning the Core, Ponte City, Johannesburg' 2008

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse
Cleaning the Core, Ponte City, Johannesburg
2008
Lightjet chromogenic print
49 7/16 x 59 1/16 in. (125.5 x 150 cm)
Courtesy the artists and Goodman Gallery
© Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse. 'Untitled I, Ponte City, Johannesburg' 2008

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse
Untitled I, Ponte City, Johannesburg
2008
Lightjet chromogenic print
Courtesy the artists and Goodman Gallery
© Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse

 

Originally intended as a nuclear point in the upwardly mobile social cartography of Johannesburg’s Hillbrow, the 173 meter-high cylindrical apartment building Ponte City became an urban legend, and an essential part of visual renderings of the city. It was the conflicted spectacle of Ponte City that drew South African photographer, Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse, a British artist, to look more closely in rather than at the tower.

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse. 'Lift Portrait 2, Ponte City, Johannesburg (0328)' 2008

 

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse
Lift Portrait 2, Ponte City, Johannesburg (0328)
2008
C-print mounted on Dibond
124 cm x 151.5 cm

 

 

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Opening hours:
Sunday and Wednesday noon – 6.00 pm
Thursday -€“ Saturday noon – 8.00 pm
Free First Tuesday of the month noon – 8.00 pm

SFMOMA website

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01
Jun
14

Exhibition: ‘Apartheid and After’ at Huis Marseille – Museum for Photography, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 15th March – 8th June 2014

Artists: David Goldblatt met Paul Alberts, Pieter Hugo, Santu Mofokeng, Sabelo Mlangeni, Zanele Muholi, Jo Ractliffe, Michael Subotzky, Guy Tillim, Graeme Williams and others, and the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg

Curators: Els Barents, David Goldblatt

 

A raft of exhibitions finishing on the 8th June 2014 means a lot of postings over the next few days. This posting continues my fascination with African photography. The two excellent photographs by David Goldblatt are the stand out here, along with the portrait by Mikhael Subotzky.

Marcus

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Many thankx to Huis Marseille for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Santu Mofokeng (1956 Soweto) 'Sunflowers harvest, Vaalrand farm, Bloemhof' 1988

 

Santu Mofokeng (1956 Soweto)
Sunflowers harvest, Vaalrand farm, Bloemhof
1988
From the Bloemhof Series, 1988/9, 1994

 

Santu Mofokeng (1956 Soweto) 'Windmill, Vaalrand' 1988

 

Santu Mofokeng (1956 Soweto)
Windmill, Vaalrand
1988
From the Bloemhof Series, 1988/9, 1994

 

Jo Ractliffe (1961 Cape Town) 'Military watchtower in a domestic garden, Riemvasmaak' 2013

 

Jo Ractliffe (1961 Cape Town)
Military watchtower in a domestic garden, Riemvasmaak
2013
From The Borderlands (2011-2013)

 

Jo Ractliffe (1961 Cape Town) 'Playing soccer with marbles, Platfontein' 2012

 

Jo Ractliffe (1961 Cape Town)
Playing soccer with marbles, Platfontein
2012
From The Borderlands (2011-2013)

 

Graeme Williams (1958 Johannesburg) 'Kempton Park' Nd

 

Graeme Williams (1958 Johannesburg)
Kempton Park
Nd
From Previously Important Places series 1990s -2013

The Emperors Palace Casino and Chariots Entertainment World was build on the site [ in… add please date and place… ]? were the negotiations leading up to the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) took place. Now, at the very same place  a statue of the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus greets visitors at the entrance of the afore mentioned  entertainement center.

 

Pieter Hugo (1976 Johannesburg) 'In Sipho Ntsibande's Home, Soweto' 2013

 

Pieter Hugo (1976 Johannesburg)
In Sipho Ntsibande’s Home, Soweto
2013
from the series Kin, 2013

 

Guy Tillim (1962 Johannesburg) 'Neri James, Petros Village, Malawi' 2006

 

Guy Tillim (1962 Johannesburg)
Neri James, Petros Village, Malawi
2006
from the series Petros Village, 2006

 

 

“The scars left in South Africa’s collective memory by its apartheid regime were also inscribed visually on its collective retina. There is less consensus, however, on the period of ‘truth and reconciliation’ after political apartheid came to an end in South Africa in 1990. The exhibition Apartheid and After addresses the question: where did photographers whose earlier work had opposed the apartheid regime point their cameras after 1980?

They include David Goldblatt, for instance, now an éminence grise of South African photography whose exhibition Cross Sections hung in Huis Marseille and others. Has South African democracy been given a face? Where is the real development happening? And where are the scars? Has South African national identity got stuck on a runaway merry-go-round, as the South African visual artist William Kentridge has suggested? One thing is clear: after apartheid, most South African photographers continued to make their own country their work domain, and in doing so they have gained a considerable international reputation.”

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“It is astonishing to think that until the beginning of the 1990s, merely two decades ago, modern and contemporary African photography was largely in the shadows.”

Okwui Enwezor in Events of the Self: Portraiture and Social Identity: Contemporary African Photography from the Walther Collection, Steidl, 2013, p. 23.

 

David Goldblatt (1930 Randfontein) 'Child minder, Joubert Park, Johannesburg, 1975 (no.11)' 1975

 

David Goldblatt (1930 Randfontein)
Child minder, Joubert Park, Johannesburg, 1975 (no.11)
1975
From the series Particulars, 2003 (publishing date)

 

David Goldblatt (1930 Randfontein) 'Man on a beach, Joubert Park, Johannesburg, 1975 (no. 2)' 1975

 

David Goldblatt (1930 Randfontein)
Man on a beach, Joubert Park, Johannesburg, 1975 (no. 2)
1975
From the series Particulars, 2003 (publishing date)

 

Sabelo Mlangeni (1980 Driefontein) 'Coming to Johannesburg I, January, 2011' 2011

 

Sabelo Mlangeni (1980 Driefontein)
Coming to Johannesburg I, January, 2011
2011

 

Sabelo Mlangeni (1980 Driefontein) 'Coming to Johannesburg I, January, 2011' 2011

 

Sabelo Mlangeni (1980 Driefontein)
Coming to Johannesburg I, January, 2011
2011

 

Daniel Naudé (1984 Cape Town) 'Africanis 23. Richmond, Northern Cape, 298 January 2009' 2009

 

Daniel Naudé (1984 Cape Town)
Africanis 23. Richmond, Northern Cape, 298 January 2009
2009

 

Mikhael Subotzky (1981 Cape Town) 'Joseph Dlamini (Eye test), Matsho Tsmombeni squatter camp' 2012

 

Mikhael Subotzky (1981 Cape Town)
Joseph Dlamini (Eye test), Matsho Tsmombeni squatter camp
2012
From the series Retinal Shift

 

Graeme Williams (1958 Johannesburg) 'Nelson Mandela speaks at CODESA, 199..?' Nd

 

Graeme Williams (1958 Johannesburg)
Nelson Mandela speaks at CODESA, 199..?
Nd
From Previously Important Places series 1990s -2013

 

Zanele Muholi (1972 Umlazi, Durban) 'Being (T)here (Amsterdam)' 2009

Zanele Muholi (1972 Umlazi, Durban) 'Being (T)here (Amsterdam)' 2009

Zanele Muholi (1972 Umlazi, Durban) 'Being (T)here (Amsterdam)' 2009

 

Zanele Muholi (1972 Umlazi, Durban)
Being (T)here (Amsterdam)
2009

 

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Paul Alberts 'The portraits of the applicants' 1994

Paul Alberts 'The portraits of the applicants' 1994

Paul Alberts 'The portraits of the applicants' 1994

Paul Alberts 'The portraits of the applicants' 1994

 

Paul Alberts (1946 Pretoria – 2010 Brandfort)
The portraits of the applicants
1994

As the 1994 election approached in South-Africa many blacks living in small towns and rural areas had never been officially identified. In order to speed up these otherwise slow procedures, Charmaine and Paul Alberts set up an official, but temporary office and studio to process applications. The portraits of the applicants were taken before a paper back drop in the community hall of Majwemasweu. Each person held a slate with a number that corresponded to the number of the film and exposure, plus their name and place where they lived.

 

 

Huis Marseille – Museum for Photography
Keizersgracht 401
1016 EK Amsterdam

Opening hours:
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11 – 18 hr

Huis Marseille – Museum for Photography website

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04
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Pieter Hugo: This Must Be The Place – Selected Works 2003-2012’ at the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest

Exhibition dates: 24th May – 11th August 2013

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I have not seen enough of the other series of Pieter Hugo to make an informed decision, but work from the The Hyena & Other Men (2005-2007) and Permanent Error (2009-2010) series, the most often reproduced, is certainly strong. Whether I am fully convinced by his singular frontality is another matter…

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Many thankx to the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Pieter Hugo. 'The Hyena Men of Abuja, Nigeria' 2005

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Pieter Hugo
The Hyena Men of Abuja, Nigeria
2005
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Pieter Hugo. 'Aissah Salifu, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana' 2010

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Pieter Hugo
Aissah Salifu, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana
2010
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Pieter Hugo. 'Escort Kama. Enugu, Nigeria' 2008

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Pieter Hugo
Escort Kama. Enugu, Nigeria
2008
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Pieter Hugo. 'Chris Nkulo and Patience Umeh. Enugu, Nigeria' 2008

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Pieter Hugo
Chris Nkulo and Patience Umeh. Enugu, Nigeria
2008
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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“Pieter Hugo’s (b. Johannesburg, 1976) career is quite young, yet his photography is already so comprehensive that we can rightly speak of a consistent oeuvre. Since 2003 Hugo has photographed people and themes exclusively in sub-Saharan Africa. Daily life in post-colonial Africa, the complex conditions after the end of apartheid in his own land and the impact of global trade and commerce are themes that circulate throughout his intriguing series.

Pieter Hugo spends long periods of time photographing his extensive series in order to capture intimate and often bizarre moments. His use of a large-format camera requires patience and trust between photographer and subject, which is visible in straightforward expressions and candid interactions. There is a moment of calm and even timelessness in these works that allows the viewer to engage more fully with the subject matter.

The political diversity of a continent that is rapidly transforming – some note that Africa will be a global economic power of the future – is portrayed by Pieter Hugo with the clarity of familiar painting genres such as landscape, portraiture, group portraiture and still life. The subjects of his photography: the elderly, the poor, the blind, street artists, soap actors, close family and friends – form a social tableau that is at once personalized while also presenting a more universal image of Africa at the beginning of the twenty first century.

The initial motivation for the series The Hyena & Other Men (2005-2007) comes from a cell phone camera image Pieter Hugo discovered on the internet. The image concerns a group of performers who travel throughout Nigeria with tamed hyenas and other wild animals and collect money from their choreographed public performances. Hugo embarked on two separate trips to document this remarkable nomadic group up close. Hugo presents the complex relationship between animal and owner, capturing moments of calm and tenderness amidst situations full of drama and spectacle.

The Agbogbloshie market on the outskirts of Accra (Ghana) is the thematic of the Permanent Error series (2009-2010), which is mainly a dumping site for the technological waste of the western world. Here computers and other electronic equipment are collected and burned by inhabitants, often children, to extract precious raw materials. These machines formerly representing prosperity and progress are here transformed into only noxious and life threatening vapours. The charred ground, grey sky and scattered groups of foragers and cattle seem isolated from the world, but are in fact one of the last links in a chain of global commerce. Despite the harsh surroundings, the subjects stand tall, identified by full name and framed in the style of classical portraiture.

Nollywood (2008-2009) is the third largest film industry in the world, releasing between 500 and 1,000 movies each year. It produces movies on its own terms, telling stories that appeal to and reflect the lives of its public: it is a rare instance of self-representation on such a scale in Africa. The continent has a rich tradition of story-telling that has been expressed abundantly through oral and written fiction, but has never been conveyed through the popular media before. Stars are local actors; plots confront the public with familiar situations of romance, comedy, witchcraft, bribery, prostitution. The narrative is overdramatic, deprived of happy endings, tragic. The aesthetic is loud, violent, excessive; nothing is said, everything is shouted.

At a morgue in the township of Khayelitsha in Cape Town, Pieter Hugo turns his camera to individuals who have died of AIDS related illnesses. In The Bereaved (2005) as with many of his other series, Hugo gives first and last names of his subjects. Such a personal statement challenges the anonymity of AIDS statistics in South Africa. Ten years after the Rwandan Genocide, Pieter Hugo captures the unimaginable violence of these events through leftover fragments (Vestiges of a Genocide, 2004). The absence of human life is disturbingly present in the images. Bones are preserved with lime so as not to disintegrate. Heavy dust and dirt create an organic seal over the remains. While these substances often signify what is past and forgotten, the items in the photographs are preserved artificially and naturally for all to remember.

The series entitled Messina / Musina (2006) deals with the inhabitants of a small town on the border of Zimbabwe in South Africa’s Limpopo Province. The title reflects the correction of an earlier colonial misspelling of the town’s name (Messina), as well as the transition taking place at this geographical and social periphery.

In Pieter Hugo’s studio portraits of the elderly, the blind and people with albinism – Looking Aside, 2003-2006 – there is a direct and confrontational engagement between the viewer and the subjects. The viewer is made to feel uncomfortable and immobilized by the subject’s gaze. In There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends (2011) – a recent series of portraits realized in the same spirit and adopting a stripped back, close-up and confrontationally direct approach – Hugo explores similar territory [to his earlier series Looking Aside] but from practically the opposite angle. In this case, the subjects are simply the photographer and his friends, who represent an array of ethnicities but are not particularly atypical, abnormal or ‘unusual’ in a genetic sense. Instead they are rendered unusually, portrayed in a heightened monotone with their skin transformed into a range of exaggerated black spots and dark tones.

With Kin (2011), his most autobiographical series to date, Pieter Hugo reflects on his own family and deep ambivalence towards the notion of home. Personal moments such as the pregnancy of his wife, the birth of their child and an operation of his mother are interspersed with national icons: open landscapes, anthropological museums and references to historical places and figures in South Africa. The recent and historical, private and public, rich and poor, ugly and beautiful interact closely in this series and represent the social complexities of post-apartheid South Africa.”

Press release from the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art website

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Pieter Hugo. 'Naasra Yeti, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana' 2009

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Pieter Hugo
Naasra Yeti, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana
2009
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Pieter Hugo. 'John Kwesi, Wild Honey Collector, Techiman District, Ghana' 2005

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Pieter Hugo
John Kwesi, Wild Honey Collector, Techiman District, Ghana
2005
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Pieter Hugo. 'The Honourable Justice Unity Dow' 2005

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Pieter Hugo
The Honourable Justice Unity Dow
2005
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Pieter Hugo. 'Steven Mohapi, Johannesburg' 2003

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Pieter Hugo
Steven Mohapi, Johannesburg
2003
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Pieter Hugo. 'Ashleigh McLean' 2011

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Pieter Hugo
Ashleigh McLean
2011
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art
1095 Budapest Komor Marcell Street 1
Hungary 06 1 555-3444

Opening hours:
Tuesday-Sunday: 10.00-20.00
Closed on Mondays

Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art website

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01
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive Part I’ at The Walther Collection, Neu-Ulm, Germany

Exhibition dates: 9th June 9 2013 – 17th May 2015

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Another group of interesting colonial African photographs from The Walther Collection. Similar in scope to the 20 volume series The American Indian (1906 – 1930) by ethnologist and photographer Edward S. Curtis which “documented as much American Indian (Native American) traditional life as possible before that way of life disappeared,” (Wikipedia), A. M. Duggan-Cronin’s 11 volume series The Bantu Tribes of South Africa (1928 – 1954), “set out to depict what he considered the disappearing indigenous populations of South Africa.” Disappearance and loss are the all to ready themes of these recorders of vanishing races.

“Santu Mofokeng’s ‘The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950’ introduces the concept of the photographic archive as both a repository of documents and an assemblage of representations “ (media release). In this work Mofokeng juxtaposes images of “civilized” natives – images urban black working- and middle-class families had commissioned, requested, or tacitly sanctioned without evidence of coercion – with text that spurns, questions or challenges official integrationist policies taking their model from colonial officials and settlers. “The images depicted here reflect their sensibilities, aspirations and their self-image.”

The artist asks:

“Are these mere solemn relics of disrupted narratives or are these images expressive of the general human predicament?”

“Who is gazing”

“Who are these people?”

“What were their aspirations?”

“Did these images serve to challenge prevailing western perceptions of the African?”

“Do these images serve as testimony of mental colonisation?”

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Many thankx to The Walther Collection for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. See the full work and read the accompanying text of Santu Mofokeng’s The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950.

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Part I: The Black House: Santu Mofokeng and A.M. Duggan-Cronin

“A juxtaposition of A. M. Duggan-Cronin’s The Bantu Tribes of South Africa and Santu Mofokeng’s The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950 introduces the concept of the photographic archive as both a repository of documents and an assemblage of representations. Duggan-Cronin, an Irish South African who lived in the mining town of Kimberley, set out to depict what he considered the disappearing indigenous populations of South Africa. His monumental study, entitled The Bantu Tribes of South Africa, published between 1928-1954, includes photographs, descriptive captions, and anthropological essays. In addition to presenting all eleven Bantu Tribes books, a complete sequence of photogravure plates from The Nguni: Baca, Hlubi, Xesibe (1954) will be on view, alongside a selection of vintage gelatin-silver prints by Duggan-Cronin, which had previously circulated as individual objects.

In contrast to Duggan-Cronin’s renowned and contested ethnographic vision of African heritage, Santu Mofokeng’s The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950 portrays the modern self-representation of African subjects. In the early 1990s, the artist collected family studio portraits from late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century South Africa and transformed the images into a slide show, complete with narratives about the sitters. He also produced a series of gelatin-silver print reproductions of the portraits, which are on view together with a selection of the project’s original vintage prints and Mofokeng’s research notes. Envisioned as a “counter-archive,” The Black Photo Album challenges fixed ideas most often associated with images of Africans.

By placing these two bodies of work alongside one another, Part I of Distance and Desire opens up the question of the “African Archive,” understood here not so much as an official repository of documents and objects but as a contested assemblage of representations that have helped to construct and project a dominant image of Africans that is now under pressure and revision.”

Press release from The Walther Collection website

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Santu Mofokeng. 'The Black Photo Album / Look at me: 1890-1950' 1997

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A.M. Duggan-Cronin. 'The Late Chief Jonathan Molapo' South Africa, early twentieth century

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A.M. Duggan-Cronin
The Late Chief Jonathan Molapo
South Africa, early twentieth century

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A.M. Duggan-Cronin. 'Woman of Middle Age at Moitšupeli’s' South Africa, early twentieth century

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A.M. Duggan-Cronin
Woman of Middle Age at Moitšupeli’s
South Africa, early twentieth century

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A.M. Duggan-Cronin. 'A Morolong Youth' South Africa, early twentieth century

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A.M. Duggan-Cronin
A Morolong Youth
South Africa, early twentieth century

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A.M. Duggan-Cronin. 'Bomvana Initiates' 1930

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A.M. Duggan-Cronin
Bomvana Initiates
1930

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A.M. Duggan-Cronin. 'Ovambo (Ogandjera) Woman' 1936

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A.M. Duggan-Cronin
Ovambo (Ogandjera) Woman
1936

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Santu Mofokeng. 'The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950' 1997

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Santu Mofokeng
The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950
1997
(Bishop Jacobus G. Xaba and his family? Photographer: Deale, Bloemfontein, Orange River Colony, c. 1890s)
© Santu Mofokeng / Courtesy of Lunetta Bartz, MAKER, Johannesburg

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Santu Mofokeng. 'The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950' 1997

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Santu Mofokeng
The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950
1997
(Unidentified photographer, Moeti and Lazarus Fume)
© Santu Mofokeng / Courtesy of Lunetta Bartz, MAKER, Johannesburg

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Santu Mofokeng. 'The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950' 1997

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Santu Mofokeng
The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950
1997
(Scholtz Studio, Lindley, Ouma Maria Letsipa, née van der Merwe, with her daughter Minkie, Orange River Colony, c. 1900s)
© Santu Mofokeng / Courtesy of Lunetta Bartz, MAKER, Johannesburg

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Santu Mofokeng. 'The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950' 1997

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Santu Mofokeng
The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950
1997
(Unidentified photographer, South Africa, early twentieth century)
© Santu Mofokeng / Courtesy of Lunetta Bartz, MAKER, Johannesburg

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Santu Mofokeng. 'The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950' 1997

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Santu Mofokeng
The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950
1997
(Unidentified photographer, Elizabeth and Jan van der Merwe, Johannesburg, c. 1900s)
© Santu Mofokeng / Courtesy of Lunetta Bartz, MAKER, Johannesburg

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Santu Mofokeng. 'The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950' 1997

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Santu Mofokeng
The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950
1997
(Unidentified photographer, Elliot Phakane, Bethlehem Location, c. 1900s)
© Santu Mofokeng / Courtesy of Lunetta Bartz, MAKER, Johannesburg

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Santu Mofokeng. 'The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950' 1997

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Santu Mofokeng
The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950
1997
(Unidentified photographer, c. 1900s)
© Santu Mofokeng / Courtesy of Lunetta Bartz, MAKER, Johannesburg

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Santu Mofokeng. 'The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950' 1997

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Santu Mofokeng
The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950
1997
(Unidentified photographer, c. 1900s)
© Santu Mofokeng / Courtesy of Lunetta Bartz, MAKER, Johannesburg

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Santu Mofokeng. 'The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950' 1997

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Santu Mofokeng
The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950
1997
(Unidentified subjects, Clifton Studio, Braamfontein c.1900s)
© Santu Mofokeng / Courtesy of Lunetta Bartz, MAKER, Johannesburg

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The Walther Collection
Reichenauer Strasse 21
89233 Neu-Ulm, Germany

Opening hours:
Thurs – Sunday by appointment and with guided tour only
Public tours Saturday and Sunday at 3pm by appointment only

The Walther Collection website

Santu Mofokeng The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950

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17
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Concrete – Photography and Architecture’ at Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 2nd March – 20th May 2013

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When creating this blog, so much of my time is spent cleaning up clearly inadequate media images, an example of which can be seen below. I have become very adept at this process and my thoughts are this: would you want to be the artist whose work is displayed to the public in a remarkably decomposed manner, one not up to a standard of any artist who cares about their prints and reputation? I certainly would not. It is a wonder to me that museums and galleries spend thousands of dollars staging exhibitions and producing costly catalogues and yet cannot spend a tiny proportion of time, money and care on their media images to promote artist and said exhibition. I had to spend a lot of time on over half of these images to bring them up to presentable standard.

Having said that, there are some cracking photographs in this posting. The Sugimoto is sublime, Walker Evans so muscular, Lucien Hervé a masterpiece of light and texture, and Moriz Nähr a symphony of light and tone, to name but a few. I hope you enjoy all the effort it takes to bring these images to you.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Naehr-composite

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Moriz Nähr

Stiegenhaus im Haus Stonborough-Wittgenstein [Staircase in the house Stonborough-Wittgenstein] (composite)
1928

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Anonymous.
 'Hardstrasse with Hardbrücke in construction' 1972


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Anonymous
Hardstrasse with Hardbrücke in construction
1972
Gelatin-silver print
8,8 x 12,6 cm
Baugeschichtliches Archiv der Stadt Zürich

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Michael Wesely.
 'Canadian Embassy, Leipziger Platz, Berlin (5.2.2003 – 28.4.2005)' 
C-print

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Michael Wesely
Canadian Embassy, Leipziger Platz, Berlin (5.2.2003 – 28.4.2005)

C-print
125 x 175 cm
Galerie Fahnemann, Berlin
© Michael Wesely/Courtesy Galerie Fahnemann

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William Henry Fox Talbot
. 'The Bridge of Sighs, St. John’s College, 
Cambridge' 1845

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William Henry Fox Talbot
The Bridge of Sighs, St. John’s College, 
Cambridge
1845
Salt print from calotype negative
16.4 x 20.6 cm
Museum Folkwang Essen

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Charles-Marville-24-Rue-Bièvre-Paris-1865–1869-WEB

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Charles Marville
24, Rue Bièvre, Paris
1865-1869
Albumin print
27.4 x 36.6 cm
Collection Thomas Walther

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Lucien Hervé.
 'Le Corbusier: Façade of the Secretariat  Building, Chandigarh, 1961' 1961


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Lucien Hervé
Le Corbusier: Façade of the Secretariat Building, Chandigarh, 1961
1961
Gelatin-silver print
25.5 x 25.4 cm
Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal
© Estate Lucien Hervé

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F.C. Gundlach.
 '"Op Art" bathing suit by Sinz, Vouliagmeni/Greece' 1966

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F.C. Gundlach
“Op Art” bathing suit by Sinz, Vouliagmeni/Greece
1966
Gelatin-silver print
50 x 50 cm
F.C. Gundlach, Hamburg
© F.C. Gundlach

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Laurence Bonvin.
 'Blikkiesdorp, Cape Town, South Africa' 2009

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Laurence Bonvin
Blikkiesdorp, Cape Town, South Africa
2009
Inkjet-print
40 x 50 cm
Courtesy the artist
© Laurence Bonvin

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“Architectures and cities are both volumes and images alike. We experience them directly, physically and sensually, as well as through pictures. Pictures speak a language of their own. They offer a discourse that is quite unlike the physical experience of architecture. They transform volume into surface; distil matter into forms and signs – rarely, if ever, leaving it as it is. That is probably why so many architects try to get involved in determining the image of their buildings. Concrete – Photography and Architecture seeks to approach the singular and complex relationship between architecture and photography in light-hearted, narrative and dialectical ways. The exhibition explores issues of history and ideology, as well as the specifics of form and material, in the photographic image.

The visual appeal of destroyed or dilapidated buildings is also addressed, as are their powerful demonstrations of power and exclusivity, fragility and beauty. To what extent does photography influence not only the way architecture is perceived, but also the way it is designed? How does an image bring architecture to life, and at what point does it become uncanny? How do settlements develop into cities? Or, in sociological terms: how do work and life interconnect differently in, say, Zurich and Winterthur, as opposed to, say, Calcutta? And how do skyscrapers and living spaces translate into the flat, two-dimensional world of photography?

Concrete – Photography and Architecture is not, however, chronologically arranged. Instead, it is based on compelling positions, counterpositions and thematic fields that connect various concrete, fundamental and historical aspects. Alongside everyday buildings and prestigious architecture, structured by horizontal and vertical axes, alongside homes and houses, utopian fantasies, design and reality, an important aspect of the exhibition is the compelling appeal of architectural decay due to the passage of time, through both natural and deliberate destruction. It is almost as though photography were providing a moral reminder even such magnificence and presence, whether hewn in stone or cast in concrete, has its weaknesses too.

Architecture has always been an important platform for the frequently heated discussion of ideas and views, zeitgeist and weltanschauung, everyday life and aesthetics. Architecture is the bold materialisation of private and public visions, functionality and avant-garde art alike. It is, as Slavoj Žižek puts it, ideology in stone. Photography and architecture both play an undisputed role in our everyday lives. They confront us on a daily basis, often without our even noticing, and they influence how we think, act and live in subliminal and lasting ways. Concrete – Photography and Architecture provides visual answers to the question of what it is that makes up the intimate yet complex relationship between architecture and photography, architect and photographer.

The exhibition presents more than 400 photographs and groups of works from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, including William Henry Fox Talbot, Domenico Bresolin and Charles Marville as well as Germaine Krull, Lucia Moholy and Julius Shulman, and spanning an arc to contemporary works by Georg Aerni, Iwan Baan, Luisa Lambri and Hiroshi Sugimoto. Projects such as the long-term observations of Schlieren photography or Wolfgang Scheppe’s Migropolis show how the art of photography is playing an increasingly important role as an instrument of research and knowledge. The exhibition is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated book published by Scheidegger & Spiess, with some 300 colour and black-and-white pictures, essays by Jochen Becker, Johannes Binotto, Verena Huber Nievergelt, Michael Jakob, Nicoletta Leonardi, Lorenzo Rocha, Caspar Schärer, Aveek Sen and Urs Stahel as well as a conversation with Annette Gigon, Meret Ernst and Armin Linke.”

Press release from the Fotomuseum Winterthur website

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Guido Guidi. '#1176 01 29 1997 3:30PM Looking Southeast' From 'Carlo Scarpa's Tomba Brion' 
1997

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Guido Guidi
#1176 01 29 1997 3:30PM Looking Southeast
From Carlo Scarpa’s Tomba Brion
1997
C-print
19,5 x 24,6 cm
Courtesy the artist
© Guido Guidi

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Tobias Zielony.
 'Le Vele di Scampia' 2009

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Tobias Zielony
Le Vele di Scampia
2009
Blu Ray photoanimation
8.57 min
Courtesy Koch Oberhuber Wolff, Berlin
© Tobias Zielony/ KOW

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Hiroshi Sugimoto.
 'Seagram Building, New York City' 1997

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Hiroshi Sugimoto
Seagram Building, New York City
1997
Gelatin-silver print
58,4 x 47 cm
Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal
© Hiroshi Sugimoto/Courtesy of Gallery Koyanagi Tokyo

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Aage Strüwing.
 'Arne Jacobsen: Rødovre Town Hall' 1955


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Aage Strüwing
Arne Jacobsen: Rødovre Town Hall
1955
Gelatin-silver print
23,7 x 17 cm
EPFL Archives de la construction moderne, Lausanne
© Estate Strüwing

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Moriz Nähr. '
Stiegenhaus im Haus Stonborough-Wittgenstein' 1928


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Moriz Nähr

Stiegenhaus im Haus Stonborough-Wittgenstein [Staircase in the house Stonborough-Wittgenstein]
1928
Silbergelatine-Abzug
13.8 x 8.9 cm
Albertina, Wien
© Estate Moriz Nähr

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Haus Wittgenstein, also known as the Stonborough House and the Wittgenstein House) is a house in the modernist style designed and built on the Kundmanngasse, Vienna, by the Austrian architect Paul Engelmannand the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.

In November 1925, Wittgenstein’s sister Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein commissioned Engelmann to design and build a large townhouse. Margaret also invited her brother to help with the design in part to distract him from an incident that had happened while he had been a primary school teacher: he had hit a boy for getting an answer wrong and the boy had collapsed. The architect was Paul Engelmann, someone Wittgenstein had come to know while training to be an Artillery Officer in Olmutz. Engelmann designed a spare modernist house after the style of Adolf Loos: three rectangular blocks. Wittgenstein showed a great interest in the project and in Engelmann’s plans and poured himself into the project for over two years. He focused on the windows, doors, door knobs, and radiators, demanding that every detail be exactly as he specified, to the point where everyone involved in the project was exhausted. One of the architects, Jacques Groag, wrote in a letter: “I come home very depressed with a headache after a day of the worst quarrels, disputes, vexations, and this happens often. Mostly between me and Wittgenstein.” When the house was nearly finished he had a ceiling raised 30mm so the room had the exact proportions he wanted.

Waugh writes that Margaret eventually refused to pay for the changes Wittgenstein kept demanding, so he bought himself a lottery ticket in the hope of paying for things that way. It took him a year to design the door handles, and another to design the radiators. Each window was covered by a metal screen that weighed 150 kg, moved by a pulley Wittgenstein designed. Bernhard Leitner, author of The Architecture of Ludwig Wittgenstein, said of it that there is barely anything comparable in the history of interior design: “It is as ingenious as it is expensive. A metal curtain that could be lowered into the floor.”

The house was finished by December 1928, and the family gathered there that Christmas to celebrate its completion. Describing the work, Ludwig’s eldest sister, Hermine, wrote: “Even though I admired the house very much, I always knew that I neither wanted to, nor could, live in it myself. It seemed indeed to be much more a dwelling for the gods than for a small mortal like me”. Paul Wittgenstein, Ludwig’s brother, disliked it, and when Margaret’s nephew came to sell it, he reportedly did so on the grounds that she had never liked it either. Wittgenstein himself found the house too austere, saying it had good manners, but no primordial life or health. He nevertheless seemed committed to the idea of becoming an architect: the Vienna City Directory listed him as “Dr Ludwig Wittgenstein, occupation: architect” between 1933 and 1938. 

After World War II, the house became a barracks and stables for Russian soldiers. It was owned by Thomas Stonborough, son of Margaret until 1968 when it was sold to a developer for demolition. For two years after this the house was under threat of demolition. The Vienna Landmark Commission saved it – after a campaign by Bernhard Leitner – and made it a national monument in 1971, and since 1975 it has housed the cultural department of the Bulgarian Embassy.

(Text from Wikipedia)

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Lala Aufsberg.
 'Cathedral of Light' c. 1937


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Lala Aufsberg
Cathedral of Light
c. 1937
Gelatin-silver print
24 x 18 cm
Town Archive Nuremberg
© Photo Marburg

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Lala Aufsberg (actually, Ida Louise Aufsberg, born 26 February 1907 in Sonthofen, May 18, 1976 ibid) was a well-known art photographer. After attending primary school and six years of school for Higher daughters in Immenstadt she began training for the 1932 photo dealer in Oberstdorf. After completion of the training Lala Aufsberg moved to Nuremberg, where she worked in the photographers’ studios of Seitz and Rosemary. In 1931 she joined the photo club of friends of photography in Nuremberg.

From April 1938 Lala Aufsberg attended the State School of Applied Arts and Crafts in Weimar, Department Lichtbildnerei at Walter Hege. In July 1938, she passed the exam for the master photographer’s craft, and in the same year returned to Sonthofen and opened a photographic studio. In the years 1937 and 1938 she documented the Nazi Party rallies in Nuremberg (see above photograph). She received her first artistic job in the years 1941-1942, in which she photographed the murals in churches and monasteries in Carinthia and Styria. Owned by the University of Marburg “German documentation center for art history” – Bildarchiv Foto Marburg (listed in UNESCO Archives Portal) acquired 1976/1977 and 1996, the Lala-Aufsberg archive with about 46,000 art history, black and white negatives in sizes 6×6 and 9×12 and 103,000 photos.

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Walker Evans. 
'Chrysler Building under construction, New York' 1929


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Walker Evans

Chrysler Building under construction, New York
1929
Gelatin-silver print
16.8 x 8.3 cm
Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Fotomuseum Winterthur
Grüzenstrasse 44 + 45
CH-8400
Winterthur (Zürich)

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 11 am – 6 pm
Wednesday 11 am – 8 pm
Closed on Mondays

Fotomuseum Winterthur website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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