Haroon Gunn Salie
The artshow explores the ways in which history and memory exist in the process of making, as well as the process of viewing, and by extension, the relationship between the artist, the artwork and the viewer.
Imagine them reconstructing the conceptual framework of our cultural moment from those fragments. What are the parameters of that moment, the edge of that framework?” K Eshun (2003)
Other People’s Memories is a group show which explores the ways in which history and memory exist in the process of making, as well as the process of viewing, and by extension, the relationship between the artist, the artwork and the viewer.
The works included in the exhibition are the result of the artists’ relationship to something which has already happened, so that the artwork becomes an act of insertion, where the artists’ personal history becomes part of the historical, social or cultural moment which is referenced. In some instances the physical presence of the artists and their surroundings is consciously transferred to the artwork.
In Moshekwa Langa’s drawings, the artist uses string, tape and paint to map his memories and encounters. He includes domestic items like salt and wine, which he works into the fibrous paper and permeable string, so that the marks he makes are made viscerally – making overt the artist’s physical presence.
Transferral and human presence is also evoked in the beaded canvases of Liza Lou, who along with her team of skilled Zulu woman beaders, produces visual meditations on imperfect artistic production. The canvases retain traces of sweat, dirt and even blood which are testament to the fragile delicacy of her production and become a site of memory, recording the long struggle and sublime discomfort involved in the act of making.
Mikhael Subotzky’s work Sticky Tape Transfer 03 is formed through a process, developed by the artist, whereby adhesive tape is applied and then removed from images that feature in the artist’s personal history. In this delicate process, the tape picks up pigments and fragments of the original image so that a replica is formed. The pigments and fragments from the image are not all that is transferred onto the tape: dust and grime from the studio also become trapped in the glue, so that the image is made up not only of itself but also from the physical surroundings of the artist. Subotzky’s images then, become a meditation on memory itself. Like Subotzky’s transfers, a memory – each time it is evoked – is revised. Some parts are forgotten and left behind with the splinters and fragments of context replacing them.
The physical presence of the maker is made apparent in Kendell Geers’ work Foiled – where the artist has imprinted a religious figurine of Christ on the Cross on a large sheet of tin foil. Due to the delicate nature of the tin foil, the dents and folds deliberately made by the artists to demarcate the indented image are not the only marks on the material. As Geers manipulates the tin foil to create the image at its centre, his movement is picked up by the material so that the foil retains not only a visual “memory” of the devotional object but also a memory of how it came to be. The exhibition also allows for an exploration of how the artwork exists not only as something which contains the artists’ personal history – which happens in the process of making – but also how the viewer’s own history is projected onto the referred moment during the process of viewing and interpreting. Nolan Oswald Dennis’ work Tunnel 001 investigates the use of fire and what the artist terms “civil burnings” in the historical formation of South Africa.
The work consists of a plywood tunnel, the interior of which is covered in a thin layer of paraffin wax. Historical and personal accounts of how fire and burning existed in the formation of South African independence are carved into the wax. Like the foil in Geers’ work, the brittle yet stiff surface of the wax in Tunnel 001 means that in rewriting the texts, the artist physically changes what was originally written. Mistakes are made and words are scratched out, the wax breaks and obscures words, sentences run into each other and it becomes difficult to determine a precise starting and ending point. The size of the tunnel, which is just high enough to accommodate a human body, means that viewers are unable to gain perspective, and are forced by the physical constraints of the work to look at the carvings as fragments, and read the altered texts in pieces, so that each viewer has a different experience and constructs a different narrative and meaning. Where Dennis replicates and reworks texts onto a new surface, William Kentridge works directly onto archival documents, merging his drawing process into all that is contained by the archival document. Kentridge has worked with pages from an old cash book from East Rand Proprietary mines from 1906. In this way, the artist has worked the writing, texture and marks on the pages of the book into the landscapes – so that the history which the pages record becomes intrinsic to the landscape.
Image: Mounir Fatmi, The Blinding Light, 2013, Print on mirror, 103 x 150 cm, Edition of 5
Opening: 28 January 2015
GOODMAN GALLERY JOHANNESBURG
163 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood, Johannesburg, 2193
Saturday 09h30–16h00, Closed Monday