IN SITU reflects on the contemporary state of several key architectural structures in Johannesburg’s inner city.
The work presented as part of Mpho Mokgadi’s first solo showing at ROOM Gallery & Projects. This series of medium-format architectural portraits was initially developed as part of a collaborative research project between the young photographer and the Swiss collaboratives Kunstverein Zurich and Ortreport; which culminated in the publication UP UP: Stories of Johannesburg Highrises (2016, HATJE CANTZ and Fourthwall Books)
The exhibition at ROOM will comprise a selection depicting inner city landmark structures such as Anstey’s Building, Trustbank Towers among many others. Also included are several interior scenes of some well-loved, classic locations such as the Carlton and Sun Hotels and Ster City Cinema, many of which remain vacant. The selection intentionally places emphasis on this literal absence of the figurative. Several of these buildings, like dormant vaults, carry the names of the giant corporate entities that were directly responsible for or invested in their erection.
For the artist, the personal and the political are inextricable in these images. Born in the North West and having grown up in Tswane, Mokgadi identifies with the ‘outsider’ position in his interaction with Johannesburg.
Describing this body of work, Mokgadi writes:
I’ve only been based in Johannesburg since 2013, when I arrived to study at the Market Photo Workshop. Photographing in the city, I didn’t really experience difficulties with access because I quickly understood that my experience might not be so different from that of the people I met and spoke to. Everyone one comes to Johannesburg for all kinds of reasons.
Of-course, I was interested in the way people related to these buildings and to their environment. But I also feel like from afar, the city is pictured as this glamorous place.
It’s only when you enter these spaces and see how many of them are locked up behind tight security, that you realize that there is a darkness and emptiness here too.
Upon dwelling on these images, the viewer may very well encounter their own personal connection to this challenging metropolis and its contested landscape.
With thanks to Pro Helvetia Johannesburg, Bernard Clarke Framing and Silvertone Fine Art Printing.