In a time of massive global environmental threats such as climate change, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and global health threats, Goodman Gallery's South South presentation in Johannesburg considers the connection between planetary transformations and human agency in relation to our current geological epoch, known as the Anthropocene.
Referred to by some as the Capitalocene, this epoch has been defined by the impact of industrial development on the climate. This exhibition considers from a Global South perspective the impact of these human activities, tracing the historic and current extraction and exploitation of human and natural resources.
Reprendre Casa. Carriéres centrales, 2013
Chromogenic colour prints, set of 15
30 x 30 cm (11.8 x 11.8 in)
Modernism as a colonial legacy is reflected in Yto Barrada’s Reprendre Casa, Carrières Centrales (2013). This series of photographs show trends in modernist urban development of the city, highlighting the failure of a universal model which did not take into account the needs and customs of the local population.
Yto Barrada similarly looks at strategies and gestures of survival and resistance in response to structures of power and control. Barrada unpacks the various ways in which authorities displace populations, raising questions of appropriation and authenticity.
Barrada’s work creates structures of resistance through engaging alternative histories, highlighting the prevalence of fiction in hegemonic narratives.
Gold in the Morning B, 1985
Lightbox with colour transparency
102 x 153 x 15 cm (40 x 20.8 x 6 in)
Serra Pelada is an opencast mine, a prodigious pit dug by human hands, the result of a massive influx of self-employed miners to a remote part of northeastern Brazil. The promise of gold lured more than 80 000 garimpeiros from their homes and families, to a life of arduous labour in hazardous conditions. In 1985 Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar traveled to Serra Pelada, and over the course of weeks, he documented these miners and their backbreaking work in the mammoth crater. It was on these bare, muddy, terraced slopes that Jaar photographed and filmed what was to become Gold in the Morning.
The resulting images are a stark portrayal of Promethean repetition; the treacherous, daily descent of the men down the slippery walls and the clambering back up, laden with sacks of sodden earth. Beyond the graphic representation of their toils, the works reveal the humanity of the miners and their suffering. Jaar provides a portal into a hidden and unfamiliar place, dramatic in its scale and topography. In giving ‘visibility to those our world denies it to’, Jaar invites us to examine the social, cultural and political motivations for their labour. This illuminated installation counterbalances the great, faceless demand of the industrialised world with a profusion of faces: the faces of those, in the developing world, who supply. Jaar is known for his uncompromisingly frank documentary imagery, as well as his public interventions. He describes himself as a project artist, preferring to spend extended periods in the field, rather than being sequestered in a studio. He explains, “I do not create my works in the studio. I wouldn’t know what to do. I do not stare at a blank page of paper and start inventing a world coming only from my imagination. Every work is a response to a real-life event, a real life situation.”
Singer Trio, 2019
Singer sewing machines, wood, mild steel, aluminium, found objects and electrical components
163 x 176 x 50 cm (64.2 x 69.3 x 19.7 in.)
Exploring and championing a breadth of mediums, such as animation, sculpture, performance and drawing, William Kentridge’s complex creations are multifaceted in form, resonating with audiences through their unifying exploration of the very fabric of our existence. Revisiting and reacting to philosophical, historical or political tropes, Kentridge conjures myriad themes in his polymorphic works which are experimental and conceptually rich.
Machines rattle, belch steam and thump. As a subject they permeate Kentridge’s pictorial worlds. Even during Antiquity water and steam power were used to drive automatic machines. Since then, machines have conquered the world. In industrialised times they stand for ingenuity, progress and prosperity. Kentridge’s works call to mind how machines made history.
Untitled (Whispering in the Leaves), 2016
Indian ink on found paper
108.4 x 124.1 cm (42.6 x 47.7 in)
William Kentridge’s Untitled (Whispering in the Leaves) is taken from his three-channel projection, Notes Towards a Model Opera. Rooted in the extensive research into the intellectual, political, and social history of modern China, from Lu Xun to revolutionary theatre, the work explores dynamics of cultural diffusion and metamorphosis through the formal prism of the eight model operas of the Cultural Revolution.
KILUANJI KIA HENDA
The Geometric Ballad of Fear (8), 2019
Inkjet print on fine art paper
Kiluanji Kia Henda’s The Geometric Ballad of Fear is a series of nine photographs of idyllic landscapes on the Sardinian coast, between stacks, wild vegetation and the open sea. However, each photograph was superimposed on the structure of a grid, evocative of metal barriers of protection and repentance. The landscape scenarios, already anaesthetised by the choice of black and white, appear inaccessible and forced into the distance as if they were observed through a security barrier. The work evokes the walls and borders, physical and legal, with which the European continent has equipped itself in response to migration.
Working with sound, film, performance, and objects, Kapwani Kiwanga relies on extensive research to transform raw information into investigations of historical narratives and their impact on political, social, and community formation. The Paris-based artist’s work focuses on sites specific to Africa and the African diaspora, examining how certain events expand and unfold into popular and folk narratives, and revealing how these stories take shape in objects and oral histories.
Trained as an anthropologist, Kiwanga performs this role in her artistic practice, using historical information to construct narratives about groups of people. Kiwanga is not only invested in the past but also the future, telling Afrofuturist stories and creating speculative dossiers from future civilizations to reflect on the impact of historical events.
“In Haiti, the conch (also called "lambi", the name of the mollusc) is used in rural areas as a trumpet to signal the beginning of a meeting of the community, as an alarm.
The waste of my time, Composition #18, 2020
Recycled cardboard, acrylic paint and grommet
73 x 65 x 6 cm (28.7 x 25.5 x 2.3 in)
Mateo Lopez’s collage works form part of the ongoing series, The waste of my time, in which the artist repurposes unused materials in his studio. The latest works in this series were made in the artist’s New York studio just before lockdown in 2020, using cardboard, acrylic paint and grommet. López draws inspiration from an anecdote on Josef Albers at Bauhaus Preliminary Class in 1923, which encapsulates his playful and pared-down approach.
Misheck Masamvu uses painting and drawing as a way in which to investigate human existence and our relationship to the natural world. Central to his practice is abstraction, which the artist employs to explore “the language and politics of space”. While abstraction forms an integral part of Masamvu’s practice he does not let go of figuration completely. Rather, his figures appear within the abstracted space he creates, attesting to his continued belief in the narrative potential of painting. For the artist, his paintings are understood as marks of existence, pointing not only to the realities of his lived experience but also to mental and psychological space, where each layer of paint, or brushstroke on the canvas proposes a search to resolve conflicted experiences or decisions.
Assim me encontro neste lugar, BarrigaFlora FloraBarriga
(This is how I find myself at this place, BellyFlora FloraBelly), 2018
Constantly opening new formal and conceptual developments in his work, Ernesto Neto describes sculpture as a living organism transgressing all limitations. Through his formalist (yet organic) vocabulary, the artist engages with the idea of social interaction. The deliberate choice of materials, the simultaneity of internal and external structures, the contrast between the organic and the mechanic, along with sensuality are all phenomena involved in his works. In so doing, Neto provides an opportunity to slow down and reconnect with essential multisensory experiences.
Neto's works are crafted by hand in an intense and detailed manner – exploring crochet as a community-based process of construction and labour, as well as the combination of the textiles' colours, the physical arrangement and the innate tension between the materials.
His works present a new mode of investigation for an artist that has been radically exploring and expanding the principles of sculpture since the beginning of his trajectory. Gravity and balance, solidity and opacity, texture, colour and light, symbolism and abstraction are all features that anchor his practice. Ultimately, the artist brings a delicate and meditative sensuality to his sculptural works, creating an exquisite language that is universally understood.
Yinka Shonibare’s Hockey Sticks similarly considers migration from a historical standpoint. Created as part of a project with Meadow Arts and Hereford Cathedral, Shonibare incorporated the characters from the medieval Mappa Mundi on display in the cathedral itself to create depictions of medieval and contemporary cultural hybrids. These depictions explore what Shonibare refers to as, “two of the most pressing concerns of our time, environmental protection and immigration. Inspired by the ability of the Mappa Mundi to still be reflecting our contemporary concerns of fear of the stranger or “other” which often leads to xenophobia. The depictions of extinct creatures of legend are a reminder that we may yet become extinct if we do not take care of our environment.”
Glossopteris (or Eduard Seuss), 2019
Ink n micropore tape
Eduard Suess, a 19th century geologist, is credited as the originator of the theory of Gondwana, a supercontinent that existed until the Jurassic period (about 180 million years ago) and consisted of two-thirds of today’s continental area, including South America, Africa, Antarctica, Australia, the Indian Subcontinent, Zealandia, and Arabia. Suess based this theory on the discovery of fossilised ferns, Glossopteris, which were found both on the African and South American continents.This work is part of a series deconstructing the “fathers” of various Western schools of thought and study.
This work is part of the series Massive Nerve Corpus, which included a number of works where photographs and found images were printed on micropore surgical tape, a bandage that covers and protects like a temporary skin where the body has been opened, but which can also be used to constrain movement. Its physical presence on paintings and collages thus became an important element in the deconstruction of white masculinity through a focus on the dichotomy of power and vulnerability.
These works were created as part of the collaborative residency project Conversations in Gondwana (Centro Cultural São Paulo), staged in 2019. Mikhael Subotzky collaborated with artist Clara Ianni on an installation including these works.
PAMELA PHATSIMO SUNSTRUM
Did you never think there would come a time, 2020
pencil and oil on wood panel
In Pamela Phatsimo Phatsimo Sunstrum’s, Did you never think there would come a time?, a distant volcano can be seen erupting. This scene is contrasted by a seated woman, poised as she watches the impending doom of the volcano inching closer and closer to this seemingly safe reality. Sunstrum further heightens this tension by introducing a hole, or void, below the woman’s feet, which the artist explains could pertain to “the seeming stability of the ground and what happens when we thought to be solid is not solid at all and falls out beneath us.”
What about El Max? Tell your people I, 2002-2003
Ink n micropore tape
The title of the exhibition is taken from a project by Sue Williamson, titled What about El Max? El Max was a small fishing community in the city of Alexandria, Egypt where, until it was recently demolished, life was lived much as it had been for centuries. At the time of Williamson’s project the community was under threat from the military stationed nearby which frequently interfered with fishing activities by closing the entrance from the canal to the sea.
A petrochemical company located at the top of the canal also wanted the community moved elsewhere because the fishermen complained about the water pollution caused by the company. While there, Williamson interviewed locals about life in El Max. Following this Williamson, together with her interviewees, settled on a statement which summed up their feelings about their community. This statement was painted on the walls of their houses, in English, in Arabic and in western alphabet Arabic. The signs were there for more than a decade until El Max was demolished.