Goodman Gallery Johannesburg
26 January – 9 March 2019
Ecstatic Archive presents new work from Gerhard Marx’s ongoing series of disorienting maps which investigate in the words of writer Alexandra Dodd, ‘the formal and fictive possibilities of perspective’.
The title of the exhibition refers to a series of archives Marx has been working with over the past two years. The archives came from two main sources. The first was a collection of decommissioned geographic, geological and political maps from the past two centuries, which were saved from being pulped. While the other archive was of a more personal nature, comprising outdated maps donated by individuals burdened by a nostalgic attachment to these documents, but unsure what to do with them. Rupturing the flatness of these maps, Marx has reworked the material with the dedicated rigor of a cartographer charting ever more imaginative territories. The geometrically complex drawings produced by these efforts are best read with the assistance of a navigational device. One such compass can be found in the form of a catalogue essay written by Professor Edgar Pieterse.
‘At the existential core of the nation state (and the modern idea of a community of nation states) is the power to define boundaries: who is in, who is out; who is legitimate, who is not; who can be seen and who must remain invisible. The boundaries are socialised through cartographical practices of map-making,’ writes Pieterse, offering a socio-historical context to Marx’s area of inquiry.
Over time then maps take on an authoritative quality. This legitimacy in turn reflects our confidence in the structures that undergird society. But what happens when our faith in these systems wane?
In such uncertain times there is a need to accept what we can’t control. This inability to fully discern where we may be heading requires a certain level of fortitude – a task, argues Pieterse, uniquely suited to Marx’s meditative drawings.
‘Marx’s drawings are about courting a form of madness – nurturing vaguely understood compulsions,’ he writes. This effort requires Marx to give himself ‘over to a demonic compulsion to cut into the (old) world and restage it as a fractal offering with endless potentialities.’ By reckoning with the past in this manner Marx’s drawings open up the space for possible alternative futures.
‘The physical world haunts these maps and there is always this sense that by altering the map one can affect reality, which really means by shifting the way you look, one can affect what is seen,’ says Marx. By reconfiguring these fragments into complex and often self-contradictory geometries, Marx’s drawings make evident ‘the tropes used to describe and understand the effects of Globalism and Contemporary Urbanism on our increasingly deterritorialised spatio-temporal world’. Marx achieves this by referring to these discourses through a distinct visual language of ‘rescalings’, ‘folds’, ‘collapses’, ‘spills’, ‘entanglements’, growths’, ‘knots’ and ‘agglomerations’. As a result of this process, Marx adds, ‘what was far comes near, the here is there, the distant is intimate, the solid dissolves and the bordered leaks. Everything can be present all the time, but everything is migrant, layered, and dense.’
In Ecstatic Archive Marx replaces the original scientific purpose of maps with a discursive one. Through this work, writes Pieterse, Marx ‘exposes the map as fetish… render[ing] traditional cartographic representation as inherently strange and arbitrary’ resulting in ‘maps of allusion instead of maps of authority… [which] occupy a hinge position between contested pasts and uncertain digital futures.’
Gerhard Marx (b. South Africa, 1976) develops his projects through an engagement with pre-existent conventions and practices. This process entails careful acts of dissection and rearrangement, which allow Marx to engage the poetic potential and philosophical assumptions of his chosen material, developing original drawing, sculptural and performative languages. Marx completed his undergraduate degree at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, UCT and received his MA (Fine Art) (Cum Laude) from Wits School of Art, Johannesburg.
Ecstatic Archive is Marx’s sixth solo project with the Goodman Gallery. Marx’s work is shown regularly at international art fairs, held in numerous public and private art collections and was included on the South African pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale. Marx has been involved in the making of numerous public sculptures, including The World On Its Hind Legs, a collaboration with William Kentridge (Beverley Hills, LA), Vertical Aerial: JHB, (the Old Ford, Constitution Hill, Johannesburg), The Fire Walker, in collaboration with William Kentridge (Queen Elizabeth Bridge, Johannesburg) and Paper Pigeon, in collaboration with Maja Marx (Pigeon Square, Johannesburg). In 2018 Marx participated in the third season at the Centre for the Less Good Idea with his project Vehicle, in collaboration with musicians Shane Cooper and Kyle Shepherd. Vehicle is scheduled to form part of the Holland Festival in June 2019.
He has extensive experience in theatre, as a scenographer, director, filmmaker and playmaker, including REwind: A Cantata for Voice, Tape and Testimony (directed by Marx, interactive film by Gerhard Marx and Maja Marx, composed by Philip Miller), performed at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank, London (2010), the Market Theatre, Johannesburg (2008) and the 62’Centre, William College, Massachusetts (2007).
Marx is a fellow of the Sundance Film Institute, the Annenberg Fund and of the Ampersand Foundation.