Posts Tagged ‘South African photographer

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

 

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

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, b. 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

 

 

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 (above) 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

.
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, b. 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 neighbouring 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, b. 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 organised 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, b. 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 neighbourhood 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, b. 1961)
Video club, Roque Santeiro market
2007
Inkjet print, 2015
Height: 14 3/16 in. (36cm) Width: 17 11/16 in. (45cm)
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 centre 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, b. 1961)
‘God with us’, Pomfret
2011
Inkjet print, 2015
Height: 17 11/16 in. (45cm) Width: 22 1/16 in. (56cm)
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, b. 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 defences 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, b. 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, b. 1961)
Thorn tree, Platfontein
2012
Inkjet print, 2015
Height: 14 3/16 in. (36cm) Width: 17 11/16 in. (45cm)
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, b. 1961)
Playing soccer with marbles, Platfontein
2012
Inkjet print, 2015
Height: 10 1/4 in. (26cm) Width: 12 13/16 in. (32.5cm)
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) 'Veteran soldiers of 'Omega' 31/201 Battalion, Paulo Cassanga and Automover Kakenge, Schmidtsdrift (portrait under instruction)' 2012

 

Jo Ractliffe (South African, b. 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. (36cm) Width: 17 11/16 in. (45cm)
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, b. 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, b. 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 militarised landscapes.

The Aftermath of Conflict has been organised 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, b. 1961)
Man maintaining the lawn of the Monumento de Agostinho Neto
2007
Inkjet print, 2015
Height: 13 3/4 in. (35cm) Width: 13 3/4 in. (35cm)
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 symbolising 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, b. 1961)
Banco Nacional de Angola (diptych left and right)
2007
Inkjet prints, 2015
Height: 17 11/16 in. (45cm) Width: 17 11/16 in. (45cm)
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, b. 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 globalised 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, b. 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. (35cm) Width: 13 3/4 in. (35cm)
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, b. 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. (35cm) Width: 13 3/4 in. (35cm)
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 centre 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 legitimise 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, b. 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, b. 1961)
Mural depicting Fidel Castro, Agostinho Neto and Leonid Brezhnev, circa 1975, Viriambundo (details)
2009
Inkjet prints, 2015
Height: 15 3/4 in. (40cm) Width: 19 11/16 in. (50cm)
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.

 

 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
New York, New York 10028-0198
Phone: 212-535-7710

Opening hours:
Sunday – Tuesday, and Thursday: 10am – 5pm
Friday and Saturday: 10am – 9pm
Closed Wednesday

The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

08
Oct
15

Exhibition: ‘In Focus: Animalia’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 26th May – 18th October 2015

 

Daniel Naudé (South African, born 1984) 'Africanis 17. Danielskuil, Northern Cape, 25 February 2010' 2010

 

Daniel Naudé (South African, b. 1984)
Africanis 17. Danielskuil, Northern Cape, 25 February 2010
2010
Chromogenic print
60 x 60cm (23 5/8 x 23 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Daniel Naudé

 

 

Some of the photographs in this postings are sad, others are just gruesome.

One animal’s in/humanity to many others.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Taryn Simon. 'White Tiger (Kenny)' 2007

 

Taryn Simon (American, b. 1975)
White Tiger (Kenny), Selective Inbreeding Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge and Foundation Eureka Springs, Arkansas
2007
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Taryn Simon

 

 

In the United States, all living white tigers are the result of selective inbreeding to artificially create the genetic conditions that lead to white fur, ice-blue eyes and a pink nose. Kenny was born to a breeder in Bentonville, Arkansas on February 3, 1999. As a result of inbreeding, Kenny is mentally retarded and has significant physical limitations. Due to his deep-set nose, he has difficulty breathing and closing his jaw, his teeth are severely malformed and he limps from abnormal bone structure in his forearms. The three other tigers in Kenny’s litter are not considered to be quality white tigers as they are yellow-coated, crosseyed, and knock-kneed.

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916) The South African Cheetah (Felis Jubata.) c. 1865

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916)
The South African Cheetah (Felis Jubata.)
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
8.2 x 17.2 cm (3 1/4 x 6 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916) The South African Cheetah (Felis Jubata.) c. 1865 (detail)

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916)
The South African Cheetah (Felis Jubata.) (detail)
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
8.2 x 17.2 cm (3 1/4 x 6 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916) 'The Zebra, Burchell's, or Dauw. (Asinus Burchellii.)' c. 1865

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916)
The Zebra, Burchell’s, or Dauw. (Asinus Burchellii.)
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
8.3 x 17.2 cm (3 1/4 x 6 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916) 'The Zebra, Burchell's, or Dauw. (Asinus Burchellii.)' c. 1865 (detail)

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916)
The Zebra, Burchell’s, or Dauw. (Asinus Burchellii.) (detail)
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
8.3 x 17.2 cm (3 1/4 x 6 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916) 'The Tiger. (Felis Tigris.)' c. 1865

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916)
The Tiger. (Felis Tigris.)
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
8.2 x 17.1 cm (3 1/4 x 6 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916) 'The Tiger. (Felis Tigris.)' c. 1865 (detail)

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916)
The Tiger. (Felis Tigris.) (detail)
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
8.2 x 17.1 cm (3 1/4 x 6 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Capt. Horatio Ross (British, 1801-1886) '[Dead stag in a sling]' c. 1850s - 1860s

 

Capt. Horatio Ross (British, 1801-1886)
[Dead stag in a sling]
c. 1850s – 1860s
Albumen silver print
27.9 x 33.2 cm (11 x 13 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Capt. Horatio Ross (British, 1801-1886) '[Dead stag in a sling]' (detail) c. 1850s - 1860s

 

Capt. Horatio Ross (British, 1801-1886)
[Dead stag in a sling] (detail)
c. 1850s – 1860s
Albumen silver print
27.9 x 33.2 cm (11 x 13 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Animals have never been camera shy – almost since the introduction of the medium in 1839, they have appeared in photographs. While early photographs typically depicted animals that were tame, captive, or dead, modern and contemporary artists have delved into the interdependent relationship between man and beast.

Drawn entirely from the J. Paul Getty Museum’s photographs collection, In Focus: Animalia, on view May 26-October 18, 2015 at the Getty Center, illustrates some of the complex relationships between people and animals. From an intimate studio portrait with dog and owner to the calculated cruelty of inbreeding practices, these photographs offer nuanced views of the animal kingdom.

“It is easy to understand why artists choose animals for their subject matter – their lives are profoundly intertwined with our own, often eliciting powerful emotions,” says Timothy Potts, Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Whether seen as beloved pets, kept in zoos, or threatened by human activity, animals continue to fascinate and act as catalysts for artistic creativity. This exhibition highlights the many different ways in which animals as subject matter have served as an endearing theme for photographers throughout history right up to the present day.”

Photographs of pets, working animals, taxidermied game, and exotic beasts in newly opened zoos circulated widely during the second half of the 19th century. Early daguerreotypes required a subject to remain still for several minutes to ensure that the image would not blur, so photographing moving animals posed a problem. In Study of a White Foal (about 1845) the Swiss nobleman and amateur daguerreotypist Jean-Gabriel Eynard (1775-1863), focused the lens of his camera on a foal at rest, a moment when its movements were limited, in order to make a successful picture.

By the early 1850s most major cities in Europe and America could boast studios specialising in daguerreotype photography. Customers sat for portraits in order to preserve their own images, and also commissioned photographs of their family members and loved ones, including pets. In Dog Sitting on a Table (about 1854; artist unknown) an eager dog is photographed sitting on a tasseled pedestal. The slight blurring of the head, indicating movement during exposure, betrays the barely contained energy of this otherwise well-trained animal.

The mid-19th century saw increasing demand for stereoscopic photographs – two nearly identical prints made with a double lens camera that created a three-dimensional image when viewed in a stereoscope viewer. Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916) made a reputation for himself by photographing animals at the London Zoo, much to the delight of those fascinated by hippos, lions, zebras, and other exotic beasts. Eadweard J. Muybridge’s (American, born England, 1830-1904) pioneering work in motion studies are best remembered for his depictions of animals. Devising a system for successively tripping the shutters of up to 24 cameras, Muybridge created the illusion of movement in a galloping horse.

Artists have also relied on animals to convey symbolism and to represent fantastical worlds. A photograph by Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) of a harnessed and castrated horse serves as a critical metaphor for American identity in the early 1920s, which Stieglitz viewed as materialist and culturally bankrupt. An elaborately staged photograph by Sandy Skoglund (American, born 1946) presents a dreamlike atmosphere filled with handmade, larger-than-life sculptures of goldfish that create a scene at once playful and disturbing. Recently-acquired works by Daniel Naudé (South African, born 1984) depict portraits of wild dogs the photographer found on the arid plains of South Africa. Made from a low vantage point, individual dogs are cast against broad views of the landscape, and the photographs harken back to the equestrian portrait tradition popular during the 17th century. Taryn Simon’s photograph of a caged white tiger (American, born 1975) demonstrates the oftentimes debilitating results of the inbreeding practices utilized to obtain highly desired traits such as a white coat. This work illuminates the mistakes and failures of human intervention into a territory governed by natural selection.

In Focus: Animalia is on view May 26-October 18, 2015 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition will be accompanied by the publication of Animals in Photographs (Getty Publications) by Arpad Kovacs.

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

Sandy Skoglund. 'Revenge of the Goldfish' 1981

 

Sandy Skoglund (American, b. 1946)
Revenge of the Goldfish
1981
Color photograph
27 1/2″ x 35″
Individually hand-made ceramic goldfish by the artist, with live models in painted set
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© 1981 Sandy Skoglund

 

 

Like many of her other works, such as Radioactive Cats and Fox Games, the piece is a set composed of props and human models, which Skoglund poses and then photographs. In the piece, a child sits on the edge of a bed while an adult sleeps next to him. The set of the scene is a monochromatic blue, with contrasting bright orange goldfish floating through the room. The goldfish in the piece were sculpted by Skoglund out of terracotta and bring an element of fantasy to an otherwise normal scene. According to Skoglund, “If the fish are eliminated the image shows nothing unusual; just a room with two people in bed.” The piece was first on display at the Saint Louis Art Museum in 1981. Since then, the piece has been in several collections at various museums, including Smith College Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Art, Akron Art Museum, and Amon Carter Museum of American Art. Smith College Museum of Art also owns the original installation.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Eadweard J. Muybridge (American, born England, 1830-1904) 'Running (Galloping)' 1878 - 1881

 

Eadweard J. Muybridge (American, born England, 1830-1904)
Running (Galloping)
1878 – 1881
Iron salt process
18.9 x 22.6cm (7 7/16 x 8 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Unknown maker, American. 'Portrait of a Girl with her Deer' c. 1854

 

Unknown maker, American
Portrait of a Girl with her Deer
c. 1854
Daguerreotype 1/4 plate
Image: 6.9 x 9cm (2 11/16 x 3 9/16 in.)
Plate: 8.1 x 10.7cm (3 3/16 x 4 3/16 in.)
Mat: 8.2 x 10.6cm (3 3/16 x 4 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Unknown maker, American. 'Portrait of a Girl with her Deer' c. 1854 (detail)

 

Unknown maker, American
Portrait of a Girl with her Deer (detail)
c. 1854
Daguerreotype 1/4 plate
Image: 6.9 x 9cm (2 11/16 x 3 9/16 in.)
Plate: 8.1 x 10.7cm (3 3/16 x 4 3/16 in.)
Mat: 8.2 x 10.6cm (3 3/16 x 4 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

William Eggleston (American, born 1939) 'Memphis' Negative 1971; print 1974

 

William Eggleston (American, b. 1939)
Memphis
Negative 1971; print 1974
Dye imbibition print
32.9 x 47.9cm (12 15/16 x 18 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

Keith Carter (American, born 1948) 'Goodbye to a Horse' 1993

 

Keith Carter (American, b. 1948)
Goodbye to a Horse
1993
Gelatin silver print
39 x 39.2cm (15 3/8 x 15 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
© Keith Carter

 

André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985) '[Wooden Mouse and Duck]' 1929

 

André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985)
[Wooden Mouse and Duck]
1929
Gelatin silver print
20.9 x 16.7cm (8 1/4 x 6 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of André Kertész

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Spiritual America'
 1923

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Spiritual America

1923
Gelatin silver print
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Unknown maker, American. '[Dog sitting on a table]' c. 1854

 

Unknown maker, American
[Dog sitting on a table]
c. 1854
Hand-colored daguerreotype 1/6 plate
Image: 6.8 x 5.7cm (2 11/16 x 2 1/4 in.)
Mat: 8.3 x 7 cm (3 1/4 x 2 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Hiro (American, born China, born 1930) 'David Webb, Jeweled Toad, New York, 1963' 1963

 

Hiro (American, born China, born 1930)
David Webb, Jeweled Toad, New York, 1963
1963
Dye imbibition print
50.2 x 39.1cm (19 3/4 x 15 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Hiro

 

Soon Tae (Tai) Hong (South Korean, born 1934) 'Chong Ju' 1970

 

Soon Tae (Tai) Hong (South Korean, born 1934)
Chong Ju
1970
Gelatin silver print
24.8 x 20cm (9 3/4 x 7 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Hong Soon Tae (Tai)

 

William Wegman (American, born 1943) 'In the Box/Out of the Box [right]' 1971

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
In the Box/Out of the Box [right]
1971
Gelatin silver print
35.4 x 27.7cm (13 15/16 x 10 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© William Wegman

 

William Wegman (American, born 1943) 'In the Box/Out of the Box [left]' 1971

 

William Wegman (American, born 1943)
In the Box/Out of the Box [left]
1971
Gelatin silver print
35.5 x 27.7cm (14 x 10 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© William Wegman

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 5pm

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

05
Mar
15

Exhibition: ‘Pieter Hugo: Kin’ at Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

Exhibition dates: 14th January – 26th April 2015

 

Pieter Hugo. 'Green Point Common, Capetown' 2013

 

Pieter Hugo (South African, b. 1976)
Green Point Common, Capetown
2013
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy Stevenson Gallery, Capetown/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

 

 

At this moment in time, I believe that Pieter Hugo is one of the best photographers in the world.

Approaching photography with a keen awareness of the problems inherent in pointing a camera at anything, Hugo’s latest series Kin is a tour de force where concept meets clarity of vision and purpose; where a deep suspicion of photography and what it can accurately portray is used in the most incisive way to interrogate identity formation and power structures, colonisation, racial diversity and economic disparity in Hugo’s homeland of South Africa. This is intelligent, beautiful, focused art.

While there is a deep suspicion about what photography can achieve, Hugo uses that suspicion… and balances it with sensitivity, respect and dignity towards subject. An enquiring mind coupled with a wonderful eye, fantastic camera position and understanding of his colour palette complete the picture. These are beautiful, classical and yes, iconic images. Not for Hugo the interchangeability of so much contemporary photobook photography, where one image, one artist, can be replaced by another with no discernible difference in feeling or form. Where single images, whole series of work even, mean very little. The re/place ability of so much post-photography.

Just look at those eyes and face in Daniel Richards, Milnerton (2013, below), eyes that bore right through you; or the human being in At a Traffic Intersection, Johannesburg (2011, below) and tell me you’re not moved. Hugo is one of the brightest of stars in the photographic firmament.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Pieter Hugo. 'Loyiso Mayga, Wandise Ngcama, Lunga White, Luyanda Mzanti and Khungsile Mdolo after their initiation ceremony, Mthatha' 2008

 

Pieter Hugo (South African, b. 1976)
Loyiso Mayga, Wandise Ngcama, Lunga White, Luyanda Mzanti and Khungsile Mdolo after their initiation ceremony, Mthatha
2008
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy Stevenson Gallery, Capetown/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

 

Pieter Hugo. 'Outside Pretoria' 2013

 

Pieter Hugo (South African, b. 1976)
Outside Pretoria
2013
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy Stevenson Gallery, Capetown/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

 

Pieter Hugo. 'Thoba Calvin and Tshepo Cameron Sithole-Modisane, Pretoria' 2013

 

Pieter Hugo (South African, b. 1976)
Thoba Calvin and Tshepo Cameron Sithole-Modisane, Pretoria
2013
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy Stevenson Gallery, Capetown/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

 

Pieter Hugo. 'Hilbrow' 2013

 

Pieter Hugo (South African, b. 1976)
Hilbrow
2013
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy Stevenson Gallery, Capetown/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

 

 

Created over the past eight years, Pieter Hugo’s series Kin confronts complex issues of colonisation, racial diversity and economic disparity in Hugo’s homeland of South Africa. These subjects are common to the artist’s past projects in Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia and Botswana; however, this time, Hugo’s attention is focused on his conflicted relationship with the people and environs closest to home. 
Hugo depicts locations and subjects of personal significance, such as cramped townships, contested farmlands, abandoned mining areas and sites of political influence, as well as psychologically charged still lives in people’s homes and portraits of drifters and the homeless. Hugo also presents intimate portraits of his pregnant wife, his daughter moments after her birth and the domestic servant who worked for three generations of Hugo’s family. Alternating between private and public spaces, with a particular emphasis on the growing disparity between rich and poor, Kin is the artist’s effort to locate himself and his young family in a country with a fraught history and an uncertain future.

Text from the Fondation Henri-Cartier Bresson website

 

 

“I have a deep suspicion of photography, to the point where I do sometimes think it cannot accurately portray anything, really. And, I particularly distrust portrait photography. I mean, do you honestly think a portrait can tell you anything about the subject? And, even if it did, would you trust what it had to say?… It sounds extreme, but for me to work at all as a photographer, I have to be conscious always of the problems inherent in what I do. I have to be conscious, if you like, of the impossibility of photography…

I matriculated at the end of apartheid and the photographs I grew up looking at were directly political in that they attempted to reveal, or change, what was happening. Back then, the lines were clear. You tried to tell the world what was going on with your photographs. It’s much more complex now. I am of a generation that approaches photography with a keen awareness of the problems inherent in pointing a camera at anything.

My homeland is Africa, but I’m white. I feel African, whatever that means, but if you ask anyone in South Africa if I’m African, they will almost certainly say no. I don’t fit into the social topography of my country and that certainly fuelled why I became a photographer.”

.
Pieter Hugo quoted in Sean O’Hagan. “Africa as you’ve never seen it,” on the Guardian website 20th July 2008 [Online] Cited 24/02/2015

 

 

Pieter Hugo. 'The Miners’ Monument, Braamfontein' 2013

 

Pieter Hugo (South African, b. 1976)
The Miners’ Monument, Braamfontein
2013
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy Stevenson Gallery, Capetown/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

 

 

From January 14th to April 26th, Fondation HCB is showing Kin, the last project of the south-african photographer Pieter Hugo. Through landscapes, portraits and still life photography exhibited for the first time in France, the photographer offers a personal exploration of South Africa. The exhibit, accompanied by a book published by Aperture is coproduced with Foto Colectania Foundation, Barcelone and Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town/Johannesburg.

Created over the past eight years, Pieter Hugo’s series Kin confronts complex issues of colonisation, racial diversity and economic disparity in Hugo’s homeland of South Africa. These subjects are common to the artist’s past projects in Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia and Botswana; however, this time, Hugo’s attention is focused on his conflicted relationship with the people and environs closest to home.

Hugo depicts locations and subjects of personal significance, such as cramped townships, contested farmlands, abandoned mining areas and sites of political influence, as well as psychologically charged still lives in people’s homes and portraits of drifters and the homeless. Hugo also presents intimate portraits of his pregnant wife, his daughter moments after her birth and the domestic servant who worked for three generations of Hugo’s family. Alternating between private and public spaces, with a particular emphasis on the growing disparity between rich and poor, Kin is the artist’s effort to locate himself and his young family in a country with a fraught history and an uncertain future.

“South Africa is such a fractured, schizophrenic, wounded and problematic place. It is a very violent society and the scars of colonialism and Apartheid run deep. Issues of race and cultural custodianship permeate every aspect of society here and the legacy of Apartheid casts a long shadow … How does one live in this society? How does one take responsibility for history, and to what extent does one have to? How do you raise a family in such a conflicted society? Before getting married and having children, these questions did not trouble me; now, they are more confusing. This work attempts to address these questions and to reflect on the nature of conflicting personal and collective narratives. I have deeply mixed feelings about being here. I am interested in the places where these narratives collide. ‘Kin’ is an attempt at evaluating the gap between society’s ideals and its realities.”

 

Biography

Born in Johannesburg in 1976, Pieter Hugo grew up in Cape Town where he currently lives. His work is held in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne; Huis Marseille, Amsterdam; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, among others. He is the winner of numerous awards, including in 2008 the KLM Paul Huf Award and the Discovery Award at Rencontres d’Arles. He won the Seydou Keita Award at the ninth Rencontres de Bamako African Photography Biennial, Mali, in 2011, and was short-listed for the 2012 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize.

Press release from the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson

 

Pieter Hugo. 'Inside the Bester’s home, Vermaaklikheid' 2013

 

Pieter Hugo (South African, b. 1976)
Inside the Bester’s home, Vermaaklikheid
2013
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy Stevenson Gallery, Capetown/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

 

Pieter Hugo. 'At a Traffic Intersection, Johannesburg' 2011

 

Pieter Hugo (South African, b. 1976)
At a Traffic Intersection, Johannesburg
2011
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy Stevenson Gallery, Capetown/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

Used under fair use conditions for the purposes of academic comment and criticism

 

Pieter Hugo. 'Daniel Richards, Milnerton' 2013

 

Pieter Hugo (South African, b. 1976)
Daniel Richards, Milnerton
2013
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy Stevenson Gallery, Capetown/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

 

Pieter Hugo. 'Daniela Beukman, Milnerton' 2013

 

Pieter Hugo (South African, b. 1976)
Daniela Beukman, Milnerton
2013
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy Stevenson Gallery, Capetown/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

 

Pieter Hugo. 'Ann Sallies, who worked for my parents and helped raise their children, Douglas' 2013

 

Pieter Hugo (South African, b. 1976)
Ann Sallies, who worked for my parents and helped raise their children, Douglas
2013
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy Stevenson Gallery, Capetown/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

 

 

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson
79 rue des Archives
75003 Paris

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday
11am – 7pm
Closed on Mondays

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

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

 

 

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

 

Santu Mofokeng (South Africa, 1956-2020)
Opening Song, Hand Clapping and Bells
1986
From the series Train Church
Pigment print
9 13/16 x 13 3/4 in. (25 x 35cm)
© Santu Mofokeng

 

 

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. 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

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

 

Santu Mofokeng (South Africa, 1956-2020)
Leading in Song, Johannesburg – Soweto Line
1986
From the series Train Church
Pigment print
9 13/16 x 13 3/4 in. (25 x 35cm)
© Santu Mofokeng

 

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

 

Santu Mofokeng (South Africa, 1956-2020)
Hands in Worship, Johannesburg – Soweto Line
1986
From the series Train Church
Pigment print
9 13/16 x 13 3/4 in. (25 x 35cm)
© Santu Mofokeng

 

 

These images, by the South African photographer Santu Mofokeng, ostensibly depict scenes of segregated transport during apartheid. Yet in their composition they evoke something more: the rhythms and textures of everyday life. Taken from within and among a crowd of commuters, the pictures seem to sway with the velocity of the train carriage. Shards of light blur the edges of figures, interplaying with shifting shadows as passengers move in unison. Titled “Train Church,” Mofokeng’s series was made during a few weeks in 1986, and in South Africa it became veritably synonymous with his name. Mofokeng, who died in January, at the age of sixty-three, was a photographer whose body of work – both images and text – waded through themes of history and land, memory and spirituality, and helped shape the course of South African photography.

Oluremi C. Onabanjo. “How Santu Mofokeng Shaped South African Photography,” on The New Yorker website February 24, 2020 [Online] Cited 10/04/2021.

 

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

 

Santu Mofokeng (South Africa, 1956-2020)
Supplication, Johannesburg – Soweto Line
1986
From the series Train Church
Pigment print
9 13/16 x 13 3/4 in. (25 x 35cm)
© Santu Mofokeng

 

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

 

Ian Berry (British, b. 1934)
Guests at a ‘moffie’drag party
Cape Town, South Africa, 1960
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

Ian Berry was born in Lancashire, England. He made his reputation in South Africa, where he worked for the Daily Mail and later for Drum magazine. He was the only photographer to document the massacre at Sharpeville in 1960, and his photographs were used in the trial to prove the victims’ innocence.

He moved to South Africa in 1952, where he soon taught himself photography. He worked under the tutelage of Roger Madden, a South African photographer who had been an assistant to Ansel Adams. After some time as an amateur photographer, Berry began photographing communities and weddings. During this period he met Jürgen Schadeberg, also a European immigrant and photographer. Schadeberg was offered a position with the new African Sunday newspaper eGoli but declined, suggesting Berry apply for the position instead. After working there only 10 months, the newspaper closed, and Berry began working for the Benoni City Times, but he soon became more interested in freelance work.

Berry returned to Great Britain and traveled for some time but returned to South Africa in the early 1960s and worked for the Daily Mail. Later Tom Hopkinson, previously editor of the British Picture Post, hired Berry to work for Drum magazine. He was in Sharpeville on 21 March 1960, when a peaceful protest turned violent, leading to the deaths of 69 people and the wounding of 178 others by police. There were no other photographs documenting the events, and Berry’s were entered into evidence in the court proceedings proving that the victims had done nothing wrong. Berry was invited by Henri Cartier-Bresson to join Magnum Photos in 1962 when he was based in Paris; five years later he became a full member. In 1964 he moved to London and began working for Observer Magazine. He has since traveled the globe, documenting social and political strife in China, Republic of Congo, Czechoslovakia, Ethiopia, Israel, Ireland, Vietnam, and the former Soviet Union. He has contributed to publications including Esquire, Fortune, Geo, Life, National Geographic, Paris-Match, and Stern.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

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 40.64cm)
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

 

William John Monk (died 31 July 1982) was a South African, known for his photographs of a Cape Town nightclub between 1967 and 1969, during apartheid. In 2012 a posthumous book was published, Billy Monk: Nightclub Photographs. …

When Monk’s work as a bouncer did not work out he took up photography. Still working in The Catacombs, he began to make his living taking pictures of the diverse clientele in a seedy bar. He used a Pentax camera, with a 35 mm focal-length lens, a small flash and Ilford FP4 film. Monk stopped taking pictures in 1969. His photographs show a variety of the underbelly of Cape Town life at the time – ranging from old men with young wives and gay couples, to midgets and mixed race relationships, he shows a side of life under apartheid that is rarely seen elsewhere.

 

Discovery of his work

Monk’s work was discovered in 1979 by Jac de Villiers, when he moved into Monk’s old studio. Not only were they already well constructed by the photographer, they were also impeccably annotated with dates and names, which made curation a simple and enjoyable process. The first exhibition of Monk’s work took place at the Market Gallery in Johannesburg in 1982 – and although Monk could not attend the event it was subject to much critical acclaim.

 

Apartheid

Monk was working during apartheid in South Africa – a time when the colour of your skin was indicative of where you could live, work, who you could marry, and where you could drink. The underground lifestyle of The Catacombs allowed for dissent. Monk chose to take pictures originally as a way of making money, by selling them to his clients.

His photographs reveal a variety of clientele. Some are sloppy, some are neat and put together. Many of the women are heavily made up with short dresses, and almost all the photographs are highly sexually charged. The photographs reveal much of what was not allowed under apartheid rule – specifically a variety of same sex and mixed race couples.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

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

 

Zanele Muholi (South Africa, b. 1972)
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 86.5cm)
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 (South Africa, 1930-2018)
Woman smoking, Fordsburg, Johannesburg
1975
Pigment inkjet print
23 5/8 in. x 29 1/2 in. (60 cm x 75cm)
Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase
© David Goldblatt

 

 

David Goldblatt HonFRPS (29 November 1930 – 25 June 2018) was a South African photographer noted for his portrayal of South Africa during the period of apartheid. After apartheid had ended he concentrated more on the country’s landscapes. What differentiates Goldblatt’s body of work from those of other anti-apartheid artists is that he photographed issues that went beyond the violent events of apartheid and reflected the conditions that led up to them. His forms of protest have a subtlety that traditional documentary photographs may lack: “[M]y dispassion was an attitude in which I tried to avoid easy judgments. … This resulted in a photography that appeared to be disengaged and apolitical, but which was in fact the opposite.”

 

 

Jointly organised 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 neighbours 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.

 

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 organisation Inkanyiso, which gives visibility to conditions facing lesbians of colour 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 colourful 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 colour 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

 

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.

 

Sabelo Mlangeni. 'Couple Bheki and Sipho' 2009

 

Sabelo Mlangeni (South Africa, b. 1980)
Couple Bheki and Sipho
2009
From the series Country Girls
Gelatin silver print
40 x 30cm
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 (South Africa, b. 1967)
D is for dancing ministers
2006
From the series Alphabet of Democracy
Lithograph on Chine Collé
22 1/16 x 24 in. (56 x 61cm)
Courtesy the artist and Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Anton Kannemeyer

 

 

Anton Kannemeyer (born 1967) is a South African comics artist, who sometimes goes by the pseudonym Joe Dog.

Anton Kannemeyer was born in Cape Town. He studied graphic design and illustration at the University of Stellenbosch, and did a Master of Arts degree in illustration after graduating. Together with Conrad Botes, he co-founded the magazine Bitterkomix in 1992 and has become revered for its subversive stance and dark humour. He has been criticised for making use of “offensive, racist imagery”. Kannemeyer himself said that he gets “lots of hate mail from white Afrikaners”.

His works challenge the rigid image of Afrikaners promoted under Apartheid, and depict Afrikaners having nasty sex and mangling their Afrikaans. “X is for Xenophobia”, part of his “Alphabet of Democracy”, depicts Ernesto Nhamwavane, a Mozambican immigrant who was burnt alive in Johannesburg in 2008. Some of Kannemeyer’s works deal with the issues of race relations and colonialism, by appropriating the style of Hergé’s comics, namely from Tintin in the Congo. In “Pappa in Afrika”, Tintin becomes a white African, depicted either as a white liberal or as a racist white imperialist in Africa. In this stereotyped satire, the whites are superior, literate and civilised, and the blacks are savage and dumb. In “Peekaboo”, a large acrylic work, the white African is jumping up in alarm as a black man figure pokes his head out of the jungle shouting an innocuous ‘peekaboo!’ A cartoon called “The Liberals” has been interpreted as an attack on white fear, bigotry and political correctness: a group of anonymous black people (who look like golliwogs) are about to rape a white lady, who calls her attackers “historically disadvantaged men”.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Terry Kurgan. 'Hotel Yeoville' 2012

 

Terry Kurgan (South Africa, b. 1958)
Hotel Yeoville
2012
Digital print on bamboo hahnemulle paper
Courtesy the artist
© Terry Kurgan

 

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

 

Penny Siopis (South Africa, b. 1953)
Untitled from the series Shame
2002
Paint on enamel
© Penny Siopis

 

 

Siopis established herself as one of the most talented and challenging artists in South Africa and beyond, by working across painting, installation and film, bringing together diverse references and materials in ways that disturb disciplinary boundaries and binaries.

Concepts of time run through all her work often manifesting in the actual physical changes of her materials; in her early cake paintings oil paint is made to be unnaturally affected by gravity, age and decay; in her films using archival footage time is marked as much by the effects of age on the celluloid as by the historical period caught in the sweep of the camera; in her accumulations of found objects in her installations, ideas of the heirloom come to the fore with her ongoing conceptual work Will (1997- ) – in which she bequeaths objects to beneficiaries – being the ultimate time piece only becoming complete on her death; her glue and ink paintings index flux as they record the material transformation that happens when viscous glue matter reacts with pigment, gravity, the artist’s bodily gestures, and the drying effects of the air.

Siopis sees her art practice as ‘open form’, operating as an intimate model in which the physical changes of her materials can be extrapolated into a larger ethics of personal and political transformation. According to Achille Mbembe this quality marks her interest in process as a perpetual state of becoming and entails “the crafting of an unstable relation between form and formlessness, in the understanding that the process of becoming proceeds in ways that are almost always unpredictable and at times accidental.”

 

Shame paintings

Siopis began the Shame paintings in 2002 and they became a key feature of her exhibition Three Essays on Shame (2005), an intervention in the museum of Sigmund Freud, once his house, in London. It was part of a project that marked the centenary of Freud’s groundbreaking publication Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. Responding to Freud, Siopis’ installation consisted of three parts located in Freud’s study (with the famous couch), dining room and bedroom and titled Voice, Gesture and Memory. The small paintings shown in a grid in this room were presented as a frieze in the Memory section of the original exhibition. The artist invokes this exhibition here through the arrangement of some of the objects from the installation on a table reminiscent of that in Freud’s dining room, where she had placed Baubo, one of Freud’s objects from his collection of antiquities. Baubo is a small terracotta figurine who gestures to her genitalia in a provocative way, an act some have interpreted as a show of shame that speaks of both vulnerability and empowerment.

In the installation Siopis also evoked a complex dialogue between Freud’s ideas and her personal experiences by inserting references (voice recordings and objects) to the traumatic proceedings of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and colonial and apartheid history. Once again she was interested in binding the traces of human vulnerability and the dramatic effects of sweeping historical narratives.

In this body of work Siopis manipulates thick and gooey lacquer gel paint, used in home-craft to create stained glass and coloured mirror effects on surfaces. For her it is a physical process that moulds anxiety into form. It translates the result of childhood trauma that we know as shame onto a painted surface. Through the reflective qualities of the medium Siopis blends the bodily sensation with the experience of being looked at, both of which define shame. The use of language in the form of ready-made rubber stamped clichés that clash with the raw power of this familiar emotion further underscores the ‘unspeakable’ character of the experience.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

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

 

Athi-Patra Ruga (South Africa, b. 1984)
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 (South Africa, b. 1984)
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 (born in 1984) is a South African artist who uses performance, photography, video, textiles, and printmaking to explore notions of utopia and dystopia, material and memory. His work explores the body in relation to sensuality, culture, and ideology, often creating cultural hybrids. Themes such as sexuality, HIV/AIDS, African culture, and the place of queerness within post-apartheid South Africa also permeate his work. …

 

Future White Women of Azania (FWWoA, 2010-2016)

FWWoA consists of several works, including performance, tapestry, sculpture, video, and photography creating a saga. FWWoA is an allegory of post apartheid nationalism, where Ruga then becomes the “elder” or historian. Creating this constellationary history, drawing references from pre Xhosa history and post apartheid South Africa, tells the history of the non-dynastic line of queens who rule the lands of Azania. Ruga’s works are attentive to the demands for justice for his ancestors and the need for radical transformation in the future, to shatter the ideologies of “rainbowism”. By using Azania as the framework for a critical history of South Africa, FWWoA reveals the silencing of black voices that extends back to the first moments of colonial contact, while also addressing the impossible and unrealized ideologies of forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption practiced in a post apartheid South African.

Azania’s allegorical capacity derives from its status as a symbol of a liberated South Africa during the anti-apartheid struggle. However, the term has a specific history that complicates such dreams. The place name ‘Azania’ first appears in The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (40 AD) to refer to the lands of southern and eastern Africa. By designating the lands of Africa as ‘Azania’, Ruga understands the label as one example in a long history of constructing Africa as uninhabited until European colonial contact.

Ruga’s tapestries in the FWWoA saga chronicles allegorical depictions of queens, maps, and other iconography of Azania. The struggles of the non-dynastic line of queens depicting signifiers of an Azanian national identity: national seal, crest, flower, maps, while also including Ruga’s long standing interest in popular culture. Taking inspirations from Gustave Eiffel’s ‘Statue of Liberty’ or Eugene Delacroix’s ‘Liberty Leading the People’, Ruga brings about the idea of objectifying the woman’s body as the conflict, but in his own work creates them as powerful but passive. In his work ‘The Lands of Azania’, Ruga reworks the map of Eastern Africa. Insetting a national animal, the saber-tooth zebra, the Azanian flag, and giving several countries new names. Throughout the geography of Azania he further explores the overlaps of exile and diaspora in the African and Jewish communities.

A narrative with five characters, a national flower, crest and animal including the rainbow coloured balloon characters. One of Ahti-Patra’s goals was to make a myth accessible even for children. A cute figure that has the capacity to be festive, create fanfare yet become disquieting when it violently pops and bleeds.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

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



 

Athi-Patra Ruga (South Africa, b. 1984)
The Night of the Long Knives I
2013


Archival inkjet Print on Photorag Baryta
202 x 157cm

 

 

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 March 17, 2015 [Online] Cited 08/04/2021.

 

Athi-Patra Ruga. 'Uzuko' 2013


 

Athi-Patra Ruga (South Africa, b. 1984)
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 marginalised 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 politicisation 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 depoliticises, 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 recognisable. 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 personalised grief and subjective defensiveness.

Statement from WHATIFTHEWORLD.com on the Empty Kingdom website [Online] Cited 20/06/2014. No longer available online

 

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 150cm)
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 151.5cm

 

 

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

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

SFMOMA website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

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 2013 – 17th May 2015

 

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

 

 

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 “civilised” 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?”

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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.

 

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

 

 

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

 

A.M. Duggan-Cronin (Irish-born South African, 1874-1954)
The Late Chief Jonathan Molapo
South Africa, early twentieth century

 

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

 

A.M. Duggan-Cronin (Irish-born South African, 1874-1954)
Woman of Middle Age at Moitšupeli’s
South Africa, early twentieth century

 

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

 

A.M. Duggan-Cronin (Irish-born South African, 1874-1954)
A Morolong Youth
South Africa, early twentieth century

 

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

 

A.M. Duggan-Cronin (Irish-born South African, 1874-1954)
Bomvana Initiates
1930

 

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

 

A.M. Duggan-Cronin (Irish-born South African, 1874-1954)
Ovambo (Ogandjera) Woman
1936

 

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

 

Santu Mofokeng (South African, 1956-2020)
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

 

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

 

Santu Mofokeng (South African, 1956-2020)
The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950
1997
(Unidentified photographer, Moeti and Lazarus Fume)
© Santu Mofokeng / Courtesy of Lunetta Bartz, MAKER, Johannesburg

 

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

 

Santu Mofokeng (South African, 1956-2020)
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

 

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

 

Santu Mofokeng (South African, 1956-2020)
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

 

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

 

Santu Mofokeng (South African, 1956-2020)
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

 

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

 

Santu Mofokeng (South African, 1956-2020)
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

 

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

 

Santu Mofokeng (South African, 1956-2020)
The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950
1997
(Unidentified photographer, c. 1900s)
© Santu Mofokeng / Courtesy of Lunetta Bartz, MAKER, Johannesburg

 

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

 

Santu Mofokeng (South African, 1956-2020)
The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950
1997
(Unidentified photographer, c. 1900s)
© Santu Mofokeng / Courtesy of Lunetta Bartz, MAKER, Johannesburg

 

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

 

Santu Mofokeng (South African, 1956-2020)
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

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Thurs – Sunday 2 – 5pm

The Walther Collection website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

13
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive Part III: Poetics and Politics’ at The Walther Collection Project Space, New York: Part 2

Exhibition dates: 22nd March – 18th May 2013

 

Unidentified photographer. 'Dressing hair. Women of the E. Coast. Africa' Tanzania, early twentieth century

 

Unidentified photographer, inscribed:
Dressing hair. Women of the E. Coast. Africa
Tanzania, early twentieth century
Gelatin or collodion printed-out print mounted on album page

 

 

“Distance invokes travel, geographic dichotomies, estrangement, otherness, and separation in time. Whereas desire implies proximity, closeness, affect, and unfulfilled longing.”

.
Part 2 of the posting about the exhibition Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive Part III. I have added notes under some of the photographs to give context to the tribes, the people and the titles of the photographs. For more information see The New Yorker: Photo Booth’s interview with curator South African scholar Tamar Garb.

Marcus

*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS PHOTOGRAPHS OF FEMALE NUDITY – IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

.
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.

 

 

Samuel Baylis Barnard. 'Damara Servant Girl, S. Africa' South Africa, late nineteenth century

 

Samuel Baylis Barnard (English, 1841-1916), inscribed:
Damara Servant Girl, S. Africa
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Albumen print

 

Unidentified photographer. 'Photograph of a young woman' East Africa, Early twentieth century

 

Unidentified photographer
Photograph of a young woman
East Africa, Early twentieth century
Gelatin-silver developed-out print

 

Samuel Baylis Barnard. 'Zulu Kaffir' South Africa, late nineteenth century

 

Samuel Baylis Barnard (English, 1841-1916), inscribed:
Zulu Kaffir
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Albumen print

 

Unidentified photographer. 'Studio photograph of a man' East Africa, late nineteenth century

 

Unidentified photographer
Studio photograph of a man
East Africa, late nineteenth century
Albumen print

 

 

This man is from the Hadendowa tribe, eastern Sudan.

Hadendoa (or Hadendowa) is the name of a nomadic subdivision of the Beja people, known for their support of the Mahdiyyah rebellion during the 1880s to 1890s. The area historically inhabited by the Hadendoa is today parts of Sudan, Egypt and Eritrea.

 

Unidentified photographer. 'Monsiga Chief of Mafeking' South Africa, late nineteenth century

 

Unidentified photographer, inscribed:
Monsiga Chief of Mafeking
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Gelatin or collodion printed-out print mounted on album page

 

 

Mahikeng – formerly, and still commonly, known as Mafikeng and historically Mafeking in English – is the capital city of the North-West Province of South Africa. It is best known internationally for the Siege of Mafeking, the most famous engagement of the Second Boer War.

Located close to South Africa’s border with Botswana, Mahikeng is 1,400 km (870 mi) northeast of Cape Town and 260 km (160 mi) west of Johannesburg. In 2001, it had a population of 49,300. In 2007, Mafikeng was reported to have a population of 250,000 of which the CBD constitutes between 69,000 and 75,000. It is built on the open veld at an elevation of 1,500 m (4,921 ft), by the banks of the Upper Molopo River. TheMadibi goldfields are some 15 km (9.3 mi) south of the town.

 

A. James Gribble. 'Masupa. Kaffir Chief & sons. Basutoland' South Africa, late nineteenth century

 

A. James Gribble, inscribed:
Masupa. Kaffir Chief & sons. Basutoland
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Albumen print

 

 

Basutoland or officially the Territory of Basutoland, was a British Crown colony established in 1884 after the Cape Colony’s inability to control the territory. It was divided into seven administrative districts; Berea, Leribe, Maseru, Mohales Hoek, Mafeteng, Qacha’s Nek and Quthing.

Basutoland was renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho upon independence from the United Kingdom on October 4, 1966.

 

W. Rausch. 'Indaba of Induna Chiefs, Buluwayo' Zimbabwe, 1890s

 

W. Rausch (South African, 1862-1900), inscribed:
Indaba of Induna Chiefs, Buluwayo
Zimbabwe, 1890s
Gelatin or collodion printed-out print mounted on card

 

 

InDuna (plural: izinDuna) is a Zulu title meaning advisor, great leader, ambassador, headman, or commander of group of warriors. It can also mean spokesperson or mediator as the izinDuna often acted as a bridge between the people and the king. The title was reserved for senior officials appointed by the king or chief, and was awarded to individuals held in high esteem for their qualities of leadership, bravery or service to the community. The izinDuna would regularly gather for an indaba to discuss important issues. An indaba is an important conference held by the izinDuna (principal men) of the Zulu or Xhosa peoples of South Africa. (Text from Wikipedia)

William Rausch was born in Cape Colony, South Africa in 1862. Eventually he made his way to Bulawayo where established himself as a photographer. His earliest photos date from 1895. He is one of four photographers listed in Matabeleland during this time: C. Hines, C. H. Newberry, J. Parkin, and W. Rausch. The Rhodesia Scientific Association (1899) lists Rausch as having won a prize for his Rhodesian photographs. He died of pneumonia at Memorial Hospital on 24 September, 1900. H. A. de Beers was appointed as executor and his estate was finalised 24 January 1901.

 

Unidentified photographer. 'Studio photograph of a man' South Africa, late nineteenth century

 

Unidentified photographer
Studio photograph of a man
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Carte de visite

 

Gray Brothers (Diamond Fields). 'Zulu / Young Warrior in fighting order, and in skin Kaross. Armed with hatchet and assegai' South Africa. c. 1870s

 

Gray Brothers (Diamond Fields), inscribed:
Zulu / Young Warrior in fighting order, and in skin Kaross. Armed with hatchet and assegai
South Africa. c. 1870s
Carte de visite

 

G. F. Williams. 'Studio photograph of two women' South Africa, c. 1870s

 

G. F. Williams
Studio photograph of two women
South Africa, c. 1870s
Carte de visite

 

Lawrence Brothers, Cape Town (attr.). 'Kaffir girl' South Africa, c. 1870s

 

Lawrence Brothers, Cape Town (attr.), inscribed:
Kaffir girl
South Africa, c. 1870s
Carte de visite

 

 

The partners of Lawrence Bros. were James Lawrence and Colin Gibb Lawrence and they were doing business from Ashley street, Cape Town in 1864. Left for England in 1865. James employed his brothers Alexander and Colin Gibb as his assistants and later joined with Colin in a partnership.

Kaffir (/ˈkæfər/,Afrikaans: “kaffer”, Sarnami: “kafri”) is an ethnic slur which is used in reference to black Africans in South Africa. Derived from the Arabic word Kafir meaning “nonbeliever”, particularly of Islam.

 

Unidentified photographer. 'Portrait of King Khama III' South Africa, early twentieth century

 

Unidentified photographer
Portrait of King Khama III
South Africa, early twentieth century

 

 

Khama III (1837?-1923), also known as Khama the Good, was the kgosi (meaning chief or king) of the Bamangwato people of Bechuanaland (now Botswana), who made his country a protectorate of the United Kingdom to ensure its survival against Boer and Ndebele encroachments.

After Khama became king in 1875, after overthrowing his father Sekgoma and elbowing away his brother Kgamane his ascension came at a time of great dangers and opportunities. Ndebele incursions from the north (from what is now Zimbabwe), Boer and “mixed” trekkers from the south, and German colonialists from the West, all hoping to the seize his territory and its hinterlands. He answered these challenges by aligning his state with the administrative aims of the British, which provided him with cover and support, and, relatedly, by energetically expanding his own control over a much wider area than any “kgosi” before him. Khama converted to Christianity, which moved him to criminalise sectarianism and to deprecate the institutions favoured by traditionalists. At Khama’s request stringent laws were passed against the importation of alcohol.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

G. T. Ferneyhough (attr.) and unidentified photographers. 'Albumen prints mounted to album page' South Africa, last third of the nineteenth century

 

G. T. Ferneyhough (attr.) and unidentified photographers
Albumen prints mounted to album page
South Africa, last third of the nineteenth century

 

G. T. Ferneyhough (attr.), Crewes & Van Laun (attr.), H. F. Gros (attr.), and unidentified photographers. 'Album page with photographs of Cetshwayo and his family, Chief Sekhukhune, and unidentified persons' South Africa, last third of the nineteenth century

 

G. T. Ferneyhough (attr.), Crewes & Van Laun (attr.), H. F. Gros (attr.), and unidentified photographers
Album page with photographs of Cetshwayo and his family, Chief Sekhukhune, and unidentified persons
South Africa, last third of the nineteenth century

 

 

The bottom right hand text says, “Cetshwayo’s wives who came to England.” Obviously on the ship that took the King to England in 1882 (see below)

 

Invading Zululand

Lieutenant-General Sir Frederic Thesiger, 2nd Baron Chelmsford, led the invasion of Zululand on 11 January, with British centre column crossing at Rorke’s Drift. Additional British forces massed at Lower Drift on the Thukela River, near the coast, and on the north-western border near Utrecht.

 

Isandlawana and Rorke’s Drift

Despite an early success at Isandlwana (22 January) where 24,000 Zulu warriors overran the British camp of 1,700 – over 1,300 British and Imperial troops were annihilated (only 60 of the survivors were Europeans). That evening the small garrison at Rorke’s Drift regained British self-respect by defending the (hospital) station against a force of more than 3,000 Zulu warriors.

 

Defeat at Ulundi

Cetshwayo’s army was finally defeated at oNdini (Ulundi) on 4 July 1879 and his royal homestead burnt to the ground. Although Cetshwayo escaped from oNdini, he was soon captured in the Ngome Forest by British dragoons (28 August). He was informed by Shepstone that he was to be exiled from Zululand and that the nation would be divided into 13 independent chiefdoms under the authority of the British.

 

Exile

On 15 September 1879 Cetshwayo was dispatched to Cape Town. He was held as a prisoner of war until February 1881 when he was transferred from the castle to Oude Molen, a farm on the Cape Flats.

“In 1882 Cetshwayo was permitted to travel to England for audience with Queen Victoria – he petitioned for his return to Zululand as ruler. He was a hit amongst London society and became a favourite of the public.”

Cetshwayo was returned in secret to Zululand on 10 January 1883. He was met at Port Durnford by Sir Theophilus Shepstone (who was brought out of retirement for the process). Shepstone arranged the details of Cetshwayo’s restoration (29 January), but he was not permitted an army to defend his somewhat reduced ‘nation’ – part of the arrangement was that the north of Zululand was to be put under the control of his rival, Zibhebhu kaMaphitha.

 

Defeat and Retreat

By March 1883 Zibhebhu was moving against Cetshwayo’s supporters in his assigned northern territory and Cetshwayo’s uSuthu marched against him. The uSuthu were defeated and driven into Transvaal and back south to oNdini. The civil war between Cetshwayo and Zibhebhu ranged across the Mahlabathini plain and the uSuthu was once again defeated. Whilst Cetshwayo and his 15-year old heir, Dinizulu, were able to escape the capital of oNdini and hide out in the Nkandla forest, theuSuthu leadership was decimated. Cetshwayo was escorted to Eshowe by Henry Francis Fynn jr, the British Resident in Zululand, on the 15 October 1883.

 

A Disputed Cause of Death

On the afternoon of 8 February 1884 Cetshwayo died. Although officially recorded as a heart attack (Surgeon Scott, the resident military medical officer, was refused permission to do an autopsy and so could record no other cause). However an abortive assassination attempt (by poison) was made against Mnyamana kaNgqengelele, chief of the Buthelezi and Cetshwayo’s chief inDuna, around the same so time it seems likely that Cetshwayo was also poisoned.

Text from the African History website [Online] Cited 11/05/2013 no longer available online

 

Unidentified photographers. 'Albumen prints mounted to album page' South Africa, late nineteen century

 

Unidentified photographers
Albumen prints mounted to album page
South Africa, late nineteen century

 

Unidentified Photographer. 'Native Policemen' South Africa, late nineteen century

 

Unidentified photographer
Native Policemen
South Africa, late nineteen century
from Albumen prints mounted to album page

 

Unidentified Photographer. 'Portrait of a Man' (detail) South Africa, late nineteen century

 

Unidentified Photographer
Portrait of a Man (detail)
South Africa, late nineteen century
from Albumen prints mounted to album page

 

Notice how the white spots have been painted on by the photographer after exposure, presumably to “exoticise” the noble savage.

 

Unidentified photographers. 'Album page' South Africa, late nineteenth century

 

Unidentified photographers
Album page
South Africa, late nineteenth century

 

 

The Walther Collection Project Space
Suite 718, 508-526 West 26th Street
New York
Phone: +1 212 352 0683

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Saturday 12pm – 6pm

The Walther Collection website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

11
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive Part III: Poetics and Politics’ at The Walther Collection Project Space, New York: Part 1

Exhibition dates: 22nd March – 18th May 2013

 

Unidentified photographer. 'Photograph of a man' South Africa, late nineteenth century

 

Unidentified photographer
Photograph of a man
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Gelatin or collodion printed-out print

 

 

Undertaking research in to the work of South African photographer Ernest Cole, I wanted to know more about “South African colonial photography” pre-Apartheid. If you type the phrase into Google images there is absolutely nothing online about this historical archive. So it is a great privilege that The Walther Collection has allowed me to publish nearly 40 photographs over two postings on Art Blart. What a honour to be the first online space to promote this important historical record.

It is vital that colonial photographs such as these are visible in contemporary society for they bare witness to the conditions of the past and provide a visual language to textualise our experience and thereby make it available for interpretation and closure – for people of all colours and races. This is particularly true for a post-colonial country such as South Africa where the history of the nation must be examined impartially no matter how painful the subject matter in order to understand how the actions of the past influence the present and will continue to be re/sighted in the future. Through continual re/citation by being present in the public sphere for all to see (not hidden away offline) these images will become a source of pride (for person, family, tribe, country) – for these were strong human beings that survived the vicissitudes of colonialism to form the history and lineage of a nation.

We must thank numerous private collectors that have saved many of these photographs from the rubbish tip when no public institution was interested in collecting them. Interesting books about the South African archive include Surviving the Lens: Photographic Studies of South and East African People, 1870-1920 by Michael Graham Stewart (2001) and Contemporary African Photography from the Walther Collection. Events of the Self, Portraiture and Social Identity by Okwui Enwezor (ed.) Göttingen, Steidl, 2010.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
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.

 

 

Caney Brothers, inscribed: 'Ordinary & Fighting Dresses.' South Africa, late nineteenth century

 

Caney Brothers, inscribed:
Ordinary & Fighting Dresses.
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Albumen print

 

Henri Noyer (attr.), inscribed: 'Taisaka Spearsmen No. 2' Madagascar, early twentieth century

 

Henri Noyer (attr.), inscribed:
Taisaka Spearsmen No. 2
Madagascar, early twentieth century
Gelatin or collodion printed-out print

 

The Taisaka come from the South-East coast of the island of Madagascar.

 

Unidentified photographer. 'Mouv, Nthaka warrior' East Africa, early twentieth century

 

Unidentified photographer
Mouv, Nthaka warrior
East Africa, early twentieth century
Gelatin or collodion developed out print

 

 

The Ameru had an age set system which provided the community with warriors for defence. Boys are circumcised and become Nthaka (warriors). They stay in a Gaaru and learn to defend the community and take care of their families. The warriors were called Nthaka and were isolated from the community for military training

 

Unidentified photographer. 'Studio photograph of a man' South Africa, late nineteenth century

 

Unidentified photographer
Studio photograph of a man
South Africa, late nineteenth century

 

Unidentified photographer. 'Studio photograph of a man' South Africa, late nineteenth century

 

Unidentified photographer
Studio photograph of a man
South Africa, late nineteenth century

 

J. E. Middlebrook (attr.), inscribed: 'A Zulu girl. Hair strung with beads' South Africa, late nineteenth century

 

J. E. Middlebrook (South African, active 1870s-1900s) (attr.), inscribed:
A Zulu girl. Hair strung with beads
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Gelatin-silver printed-out print

 

 

The Zulu (Zulu: amaZulu) are the largest South African ethnic group, with an estimated 10-11 million people living mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Small numbers also live in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique. Their language, Zulu, is a Bantu language; more specifically, part of the Nguni subgroup. The Zulu Kingdom played a major role in South African history during the 19th and 20th centuries. Under apartheid, Zulu people were classed as third-class citizens and suffered from state-sanctioned discrimination. They remain today the most numerous ethnic group in South Africa, and now have equal rights along with all other citizens.

J. E. Middlebrook. Late 19th-century South African photographer. The flourishing diamond mines in Kimberley brought hundreds of workers and photographers to the area beginning in 1867. J. E. Middlebrook followed soon thereafter in the early 1870s, and set up his photography studio, The Premier Studio, on West Street West ; he had a second studio in Durban, “Opposite the Club.” Middlebrook photographed the landscape, farms, cities, and people of South Africa. His photographs of the Zulu people are considered to be theatrical, deliberating portraying the native people in an idyllic, romantic, and exotic light. He took photographs during the South African war (1899-1902). A number of well-known photographers were based at the studio, including C. Evans, Wunsch, Atkinson and Dyer, who documented Kimberley’s early days. By 1906, Middlebrook’s was bought by Frank Hancox and when German, Charles Seidenstucker, arrived in South Africa, he promptly became the studio’s new owner.

 

A. James Gribble, inscribed: 'Kaffer woman' South Africa, late nineteenth century

 

A. James Gribble (South African, 1863-1943), inscribed:
Kaffer woman
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Albumen print

 

 

The word kaffer is a word that is used widely in South Africa and is a derogatory word for a black person. Used mainly by Afrikaans people. In old Dutch it means unbeliever (in God), so should not necessarily mean black, but just unholy or non-Christian. Boers gave the name in early South African history as native Africans did not believe in Jesus. Name came after Bantu – which means the same thing, but was banned as it was discriminatory.

 

Unidentified photographer. 'Zulu mothers' South Africa, late nineteenth century

 

Unidentified photographer, inscribed:
Zulu mothers
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Gelatin-silver printed out print

 

Samuel Baylis Barnard. 'Hottentott S. Africa [Portait of /A!kunta]' South Africa, early 1870s

 

Samuel Baylis Barnard (English, 1841-1916), inscribed
Hottentott S. Africa [Portait of /A!kunta]
South Africa, early 1870s
Albumen print

 

 

The word ‘Hottentots’ was a name disparagingly used to refer to the Khoikhoi people that lived in the southern parts of the African continent as early as the 5th century AD and continued to live till the first colonists arrived in the middle of the seventeenth century. The Dutch colonists called them Hottentots. It means ‘stammerer’ in Dutch. Khoikhoi means ‘people people’. The word Hottentot is no longer used to describe the people.

 

 

The Walther Collection is pleased to announce Poetics and Politics, the third and last exhibition in the series Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive, curated by Tamar Garb. Poetics and Politics presents an extraordinary range of previously unseen vintage portraits, cartes de visite, postcards, and album pages from Southern and Eastern Africa, produced from the 1870s to the early twentieth century. The exhibition makes visible both the ideological frameworks that prevailed during the colonial period in Africa and the exceptional skill of photographers working in the studio and landscape.

The culmination of Distance and DesirePoetics and Politics offers a remarkable opportunity to view the narratives that emerge from this African photographic archive, describing in particular the experience of the studio – the curiosity between subject and photographer, the negotiations of costume and pose, and the will for self-representation. The exhibition investigates typical European depictions of Africans, from scenes in nature, to sexualised images of semi-nude models, to modern sitters posing in elaborate studios, critically addressing the politics of colonialism and the complex issues of gender and identity.

Among over 75 vintage prints, Poetics and Politics includes a selection of elegant studio portraits by Samuel Baylis Barnard, one of Cape Town’s most prominent nineteenth century photographers. Original album pages of landscapes and ethnographic imagery are displayed alongside a series of carte de visite portraits of Africans, created in the 1870s in the Diamond Fields of Kimberley, South Africa. The exhibition also features several double-sided displays of album pages, showing striking combinations of personal and stock images, and the juxtapositions of prominent figures in both African and Western contexts.

Distance and Desire is accompanied by an extensive catalogue, published by The Walther Collection and Steidl, and edited by Tamar Garb. Including twelve original essays, the catalogue offers new perspectives by contemporary artists and scholars on the African archive, reimagining its diverse histories and changing meanings. On June 8, 2013 the expanded exhibition incorporating all three parts of Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive will open at The Walther Collection in Neu-Ulm, Germany. The Walther Collection is a private non-profit foundation dedicated to researching, collecting, exhibiting, and publishing modern and contemporary photography and video art, based in Neu-Ulm, Germany and New York. Distance and Desire is part of the collection’s multi-year investigation of African photography and video.

Press release from the Walther Collection website

 

Unidentified photographe. 'Native Police' South Africa, Late nineteenth century

 

Unidentified photographer, inscribed:
Native Police
South Africa, Late nineteenth century
Albumen print mounted on album page

 

Kimberley Studio (New Rush, Diamond Fields). 'Zulu / Warrior in skin kaross, armed with assegais' and 'Guerrier Zulu a manteau de fourrure et armé de piques' South Africa, c. 1870s

 

Kimberley Studio (New Rush, Diamond Fields), inscribed:
Zulu / Warrior in skin kaross, armed with assegais and Guerrier Zulu a manteau de fourrure et armé de piques
South Africa, c. 1870s
Carte de visite

 

John Salmon. 'Basuto' South Africa, c. 1870s

 

John Salmon, inscribed:
Basuto
South Africa, c. 1870s
Carte de visite

 

See Sotho people on Wikipedia

 

Samuel Baylis Barnard. 'Photograph of a woman' South Africa, late nineteenth century

 

Samuel Baylis Barnard (English, 1841-1916)
Photograph of a woman
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Carte de visite

 

William Moore (attr.), 'Macomo and his chief wife [Portrait of Maqoma and his wife Katyi]' South Africa, c. 1869

 

William Moore (attr.), inscribed:
Macomo and his chief wife [Portrait of Maqoma and his wife Katyi]
South Africa, c. 1869
Albumen print

 

G. F. Williams. 'Studio photograph of a man' South Africa South Africa, late nineteenth century

 

G. F. Williams
Studio photograph of a man, South Africa
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Carte de visite

 

Unidentified photographer. 'Fingo swells' South Africa, late nineteenth century

 

Unidentified photographer, inscribed:
Fingo swells
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Gelatin or collodion printed-out print

 

 

The Fengu (plural amaFengu) are a Bantu people; originally closely related to the Zulu people, but now often considered to have assimilated to the Xhosa people whose language they now speak. Historically they achieved considerable renown for their military ability in the frontier wars. They were previously known in English as the “Fingo” people, and they gave their name to the district of Fingoland (Mfenguland), the South West portion of the Transkei division, in the Cape Province.

 

M. Veniery. 'Choubouk' Sudan, early twentieth century

 

M. Veniery, inscribed:
Choubouk
Sudan, early twentieth century
Gelatin or collodion printedout print mounted on card

 

Unidentified photographer. 'Bushman' South Africa, late nineteenth century

 

Unidentified photographer, inscribed:
Bushman
South Africa, late nineteenth century
Gelatin or collodion printed-out print

 

 

The San peoples, also known as the Bushmen, are members of various Khoe, Tuu, or Kx’a-speaking indigenous hunter-gatherer groups that are the first nations of Southern Africa, and whose territories span Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and South Africa. In 2017, Botswana was home to approximately 63,500 San people, which is roughly 2.8% of the country’s population, making it the country with the highest population of San people. “Bushmen” is now considered derogatory by many South Africans.

 

A.C. Gomes & Son. 'Views in Zanzibar – Natives Hairdressing' Tanzania Late nineteenth century

 

A.C. Gomes & Son, inscribed:
Views in Zanzibar – Natives Hairdressing, Tanzania
Late nineteenth century
Gelatin or collodion printed-out print mounted to album page

 

 

A. C. Gomes established a photo studio in Zanzibar perhaps as early as 1868. He had a brief partnership with J. B. Coutinho in the 1890s. His son P. F. Gomes continued the family business in Zanzibar for many years, he died in 1932. Over those years both have left us with some marvellous images.

 

 

The Walther Collection Project Space
Suite 718, 508-526 West 26th Street
New York
Phone: +1 212 352 0683

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Saturday from 12pm – 6pm

The Walther Collection website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

18
Apr
13

Review: ‘Aliza Levi / Books on a White Background’ at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 10th April – 4th May 2013

 

Aliza Levi. 'Across Australia' 2011

 

Aliza Levi (South African, b. 1969)
Across Australia
2011
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

 

Aura of white

Shadow of black

Books for the boys *

Black bodies out the back

 

 

* Books for the bourgeois

* Books for the parlour

* Books for the burning

* Books to hide memories

* Books lost in archives

* Books still in libraries

* Books for the tower (implying Babel)

* Books for the scrapheap

* Books for academics

* Books for the garbo

* Books for the church stall

* Books to forget

 

Marcus

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

 

 

Aliza Levi. 'Australia, its History and Present Condition' 2013

 

Aliza Levi (South African, b. 1969)
Australia, its History and Present Condition
2013
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

Aliza Levi. 'Australia the Land of Promise' 2012

 

Aliza Levi (South African, b. 1969)
Australia the Land of Promise
2012
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

Aliza Levi. 'Black But Comely' 2013

 

Aliza Levi (South African, b. 1969)
Black But Comely
2013
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

Aliza Levi. 'Malthus on Population' 2012

 

Aliza Levi (South African, b. 1969)
Malthus on Population
2012
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

 

“I began this series by choosing books that reflected the assumptions and behaviour of the nineteenth century colonists, the persistent notations of self and other. I soon started to notice, that many of the titles were pertinent to today. A blurring of time and relevance, where views from a hundred years ago were intersecting with current attitudes and events.”

.
Aliza Levi

 

 

South African born artist, Aliza Levi premiers her latest body of work Books on a White Background at Edmund Pearce Gallery. Camera and lights in hand, Aliza has been photographing nineteenth century books in small town junk shops, second-hand book dealers, flea markets, rare book collections and libraries both here and in her native South Africa. Books authored by anthropologists, ethnologists and laypersons who took it upon themselves to comment on their travels. To date she has captured nearly 250 books.

The books, were initially chosen to reflect the ideologies and assumptions of the nineteenth century West. However, Aliza soon realised, that some of the titles were pertinent to today. A blurring of time and relevance where titles from a hundred years ago were intersecting with current attitudes and events. For example, the book Strangers May be Present, in its evocation of colonial settlers viewing the other as stranger also evoked for her the more recent, disturbing events in which the other is articulated: xenophobic attacks and corrective rapes in South Africa. Closer to home, the century old book entitled Australia, the Land of Promise immediately raises questions around certain stark realities such as refugee detention centres.

Kate Warren writes in the accompanying exhibition essay: “The precise regularity of her photographic compositions create a compelling visual plane that immediately draws the viewer’s attention. But look closer. In the situation that Levi presents us with, the seductive nature of the visual cannot escape the immediacy of language. The force of their titles – often starkly confronting and potentially upsetting – leaves the embossing, decoration and materiality of the books themselves as an ironic supplement.”

Born in 1969 in South Africa, Aliza Levi’s practice is multidisciplinary in form yet single-minded in concept. Much of her work presents a relationship to land, consciousness and memory brought on by her South African and Australian citizenship. Having recently presented her work in the UK, this is her first solo show in Melbourne, where she has been producing art as well as facilitating women’s art groups with refugees from Sudan. Levi is currently completing a Masters Degree in Fine Art at Monash University.

Press release from the Edmund Pearce Gallery website

 

Aliza Levi. 'Ourselves Writ Strange' 2011

 

Aliza Levi (South African, b. 1969)
Ourselves Writ Strange
2011
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

Aliza Levi. 'Scenes and Sports of Savage Lands' 2012

 

Aliza Levi (South African, b. 1969)
Scenes and Sports of Savage Lands
2012
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

Aliza Levi. 'Strangers May Be Present' 2010

 

Aliza Levi (South African, b. 1969)
Strangers May Be Present
2010
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

Aliza Levi. 'The Art of Living in Australia' 2012

 

Aliza Levi (South African, b. 1969)
The Art of Living in Australia
2012
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42 cm

 

 

Textual thresholds: The uncomfortable nature of titles in Books on a White Background

by Kate Warren

Aliza Levi’s research-based photographic project, Books on a White Background (2012), confronts the viewer with an array that is at once visually compelling and profoundly difficult to look at. The precise regularity of her photographic compositions, the ‘grid-like’ repetition of these images’ installation, the consistent form and shape of her subject matter, and the contrast between the stark white background and the darker shadows thrown, all create a compelling visual plane that immediately draws the viewer’s attention. But look closer. In the situation that Levi presents us with, the seductive nature of the visual cannot escape the immediacy of language. The force of their titles – often starkly confronting and potentially upsetting – leaves the embossing, decoration and materiality of the books themselves as an ironic supplement.

This is not a ‘library’. Although developed from Levi’s archival research, the final photographic project is not an ‘archive’. Rather than displaying the original books themselves as objets trouvés, Levi disavows their materiality and tactility. Photographing the books’ ‘spines’, she not only flattens but removes entirely from view their ‘flesh’ the pages and the content – and in doing so opens up a liminal space that can accommodate and illuminate a multiplicity of (sometimes uncomfortable) and connections between the past and the present.

In the human form, our spines form the connection between the psychical realm of our brains and the physicality of our bodies; between our ‘inner’ subjectivity and our ‘outer’ ability to move, communicate and interact with our surroundings. Likewise in the case of the books that Levi photographs; the spines and titles are liminal spaces that mediate their content and the cultural and historical contexts in which they exist. Gérard Genette calls this the ‘paratext’, the “fringe [which] constitutes a zone between text and off-text, a zone not only of transition but also of transaction: a privileged place of a pragmatics and a strategy, of an influence on the public.” Levi’s project works at this juncture. By denying access to the detailed substance and content of these books she denies their overt ‘authority’, yet at the same time she reveals uncomfortable legacies that persist and cannot be wholly escaped.

The various ‘post’ discourses (post-colonialism, post-structuralism, post-modernism) and their influential theorists and practitioners have done enormous amounts of work to deconstruct and destabilise dominant narratives and histories. The process is necessarily ongoing and open-ended; because although many narratives that were once unquestioned have been removed from their dominance and acceptability, it is often through language that their traces and legacies remain.

Thus in the selection of Australian books included in this exhibition, there emerges jarring and disturbing contrasts between titles that clearly belie values that are no longer widely accepted (such as The Aboriginal as Human Being), and other titles which still resonate with national myths (such as Australia the Land of Promise). Other titles like Ourselves Writ Large and The Gulf Between become more ambiguous; for without access to the specificities of their content, these books’ paratexts are revealed in Levi’s project as (necessarily) multifaceted signifiers. They immediately open up a ‘zone of transaction’ that reveals the past as an immanent presence, constantly transformed by and transforming of the present. These now abstracted titles retain a force and power to reveal uncomfortable truths and forgotten narrative tropes, speaking to the way that Australian history and presumed cultural values are constructed and repeated in our contemporary life.

Kate Warren would like to thank Aliza Levi for the stimulating and ongoing discussions; and David Wlazlo for his timely and astute insights.

Gérard Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 2.

 

Aliza Levi. 'The Aboriginal as Human Being' 2012

 

Aliza Levi (South African, b. 1969)
The Aboriginal as Human Being
2012
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

Aliza Levi. 'The Gulf Between' 2012

 

Aliza Levi (South African, b. 1969)
The Gulf Between
2012
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

Aliza Levi. 'The Report of the Aborigines Committee of the Meeting for Sufferings 1840' 2012

 

Aliza Levi (South African, b. 1969)
The Report of the Aborigines Committee of the Meeting for Sufferings 1840
2012
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

Aliza Levi. 'White Settlers and Native Peoples' 2012

 

Aliza Levi (South African, b. 1969)
White Settlers and Native Peoples
2012
Archival Inkjet Print
59 x 42cm

 

 

Edmund Pearce Gallery

This gallery is no longer open.

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top




Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. If you would like to unsubscribe from the email list please email me at bunyanth@netspace.net.au and I will remove you asap. Thank you.

Join 2,876 other followers

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

Follow Art_Blart on Twitter
Art Blart on Pinterest

Blog Stats

  • 12,353,749 hits

Recent Posts

Lastest tweets

September 2022
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Archives

Categories

If you would like to unsubscribe from the email list please email me at bunyanth@netspace.net.au and I will remove you asap. Thank you.

Join 2,876 other followers