Sightings features the work of seven artists who variously reflect upon the ways in which the materiality and veracity of the present are constructed from scattered and partial remains of personal and collective memory.
The works in the exhibition are primarily lens-based, and point to the ways in which media such as photography and film are complicit in assembling the present. Many of the works negotiate archival material, demonstrating how the archive is subject to misinterpretation and material disintegration. Other works engage with personal and collective fictions, signalling the construction inherent in constituting the present. The exhibition title Sightings refers to our elusive and partial vantage point on the present moment which slips from view.
A number of works consider the problematics of ‘explorations’ and ‘discovery’ in Africa. Bridget Baker’s The Assemblers #0 (2013) reflects on the discovery and mis-sightings of the coelacanth fish and its implication into myth making and throwback theory, as well as its co-option into contemporary culture, manifest in horror films. Bianca Baldi’s installation Zero Latitude (2014) looks to the Italian-French dandy Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza’s commissioned transporter for his explorations in the Congo. Through careful decontextualisation and erasure Baldi demonstrates how the explorer’s day bed is capable of containing and unfolding, both physically and conceptually, the trappings and projections accompanying the aesthetic of colonial ambition at Zero Latitude.
Other works reflect on conditions of history and memory and the complicity of lens-based media. Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin’s Kodak Ektachrome 34 1978 frame 4 C-41 and KodaColor-X 1968 frame 9, C-41 (2012) explore the relationship between the history of colour photography and race, exposing the complicity of the Western photographic industry with colonial and racial power structures. Uriel Orlow’s Yellow Limbo (2011) destabilises the conventional history of the Six-Day War (between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and Syria) through interweaving recent footage taken on location with photographs and Super8 film taken by crew members of 14 cargo ships stranded in the Suez Canal for 8 years. This is shown alongside a slide projection of events of particular relevance, general importance or personal interest from the eight years of the ships’ confinement. Resisting a singular narrative, Orlow allows for a multiplicity of voices and vantage points to exist within the work, constituting a grammar of process, construction, and the viewer’s involvement in completing the work.
Abri de Swardt’s newly realised works, Streams (2015) and Ridder Thirst (a voiceover) (2015) draw from Alice Mertens’ photographs of apartheid-era couples next to the Eersterivier in her book Stellenbosch (1966) to explore queer desire in provincial, tertiary settings as an intervention into photographic acts and archives. Kemang Wa Lehulere’s Ukuguqula iBatyi 3 (2012) documents the artist embodying the roles of forensic investigator and scientist in unearthing a buried skeleton. Wa Lehulere’s gesture here is poignant in thinking through the forensic and archaeological process undertaken in negotiating the fictions at work in both the past and the present.
Curated by Amy Watson
Bridget Baker (SA/UK), Bianca Baldi (SA/DE), Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin (SA/UK), Abri de Swardt (SA), Uriel Orlow (CH/UK) and Kemang Wa Lehulere (SA)
With thanks to Goodman Gallery, Stevenson Gallery, LUX Artists’ Moving Image, The Kino Club, Gearhouse Durban, Will Hanke and Ernest Westbrooke.
The exhibition is generously funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF) and the National Arts Council, South Africa.
Exhibition dates: 18 August – 6 September 2015
Opening event: Tuesday 18 August, 18:00 for 18:30 – 20:00
Opening times: Tuesday – Friday 9:00 – 17:00
Saturday 9:00 – 16:00
Sunday and public holidays 10:00 – 15:00
KZNSA Gallery, Bulwer Rd, Durban, South Africa,