Sammy Baloji: Extractive Landscapes

Salzburg International Summeracademy of Fine Arts, Salzburg, Austria
25 Jul 2019 - 17 Aug 2019

Sammy Baloji, Untitled, 2017, copper shell casings, various sizes, exhibition view at Galerie Art & Essai, Rennes (FR), 2018

How is history reflected in landscape? How does an object give evidence of its own transformations, and how do these become visible?

Sammy Baloji’s exhibition in Salzburg enquires how history is inscribed in artefacts and landscapes. The exhibition shows traces left by mining in the province of Katanga, rich in raw materials, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Starting from the exploitation of natural resources in this region, Baloji examines processes of abstraction and transformation. Geological maps become abstract compositions when separated from their legends. The habit of a mineral is no longer recognisable in its geometric form. Photographs of rugged landscapes give only an indirect suggestion of human bodies that have laboured there. Even copper shell casings can be unresistingly turned to decorative account as flower vases.

Thus the historical living conditions and work processes in the mining region are rendered invisible. The power exerted by global value-chains, operative here, is lost in perfectly alluring images and objects that negate their origin. The traces of mining in Salzburg are still clearly evident in the landscape and in the wealth of the town – though quite differently from those left in Katanga. Without suggesting direct parallels, the exhibition invites the viewer to take a close look at landscapes, and asks how images and objects operate as bearers of testimony.

An exhibition by Sammy Baloji curated by Lotte Arndt and Simone Rudolph




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