Goodman Gallery Johannesburg
14 March – 11 April 2020
Ewa Nowak, Broomberg & Chanarin, Mary Wafer, David Goldblatt, Ja’Tovia Gary, Hyun-Sook Song, mounir fatmi, Jeremy Wafer, Kahlil Joseph and Nolan Oswald Dennis.
How To Disappear considers the pervasive modes and technologies of surveillance in the making of contemporary society. This includes subtle and overt practices of racial profiling in public spaces, the distant violence of aerial surveillance, and the silent accumulation and instrumentalisation of algorithmic and digital data.
Working with analogue and digital imaging technologies, found footage and photographs, and more traditional media, participating artists’ reflect on how these surveillance methods render us as visible and visualised subjects. And in some cases, attempt to reclaim a sense of autonomy by revealing how these technologies might be turned towards forms of resistance.
Pernicious forms of surveillance hold a particular resonance in the contemporary moment. Globally, we’re witnessing this in the form of ‘surveillance capitalism’ – a term coined by author Shoshana Zuboff to refer to the use of human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data. While earlier this year, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (Rica) has failed to safeguard South African’s rights to privacy.
Ewa Nowak’s speculative work Incognito (2018) aims to protect the individual from facial recognition algorithms used in surveillance cameras installed in public spaces and online. These cameras are able to recognise our age, mood, or sex and precisely match us to a database. Incognito disturbs the characteristic elements of the human face, making it difficult for this technology to operate. “The object is speculative,” says Nowak, “it can be assumed that in the future it could be a kind of commonly worn jewelry.”
Broomberg and Chanarin’s Anniversary of a Revolution (Parsed) (2019) reinscribes Dziga Vertov’s (1896-1954) debut film using digital technology in collaboration with London-based creative technology studio, The Workers. The film employs powerful machine-vision technology to map the physical movements from the original film onto a digital rendering using 21st century surveillance technology.
The Belfast Exposed archive was founded in 1983 as a response to concern over the careful control of images depicting British military activity during the Troubles, an ethno-nationalist conflict that took place in Northern Ireland in the late 20th Century. Drawing on this archive, Broomberg and Chanarin highlight the marks and censored sections of the photographic contact sheets. In turn, the artists reveal the presence of successive archivists and members of the public who have ordered, catalogued and defaced these photographs over the years.
Mary Wafer’s research-based paintings depict John Voster Square, a modernist building implicated in numerous cases of apartheid-era abuses. In Wafer’s depictions of the building, renamed Johannesburg Central Police Station, its louvered façade appears deteriorated, reflecting the ongoing culture of systemic and institutionalised violence and intimidation in the South African Police Service.
David Goldblatt’s little known photographic series While in Traffic, Johannesburg (1967) features candid images of people in their cars. These images were taken in the same year the South African Police force began counter-insurgency training. Assuming a voyeuristic perspective, Goldblatt captures his subjects in mid-conversation, gazing into the distance and glancing at other passengers.
Ja’Tovia Gary’s film, An Ecstatic Experience (2015), examines the legacy of resistance by reclaiming iconic historical events with the goal of reimagining the Black figure within moving image. The film uses recuperated archival material, montage editing, and analogue animation techniques. The result is a piece of work that explores transcendence as both a means of restoration and a form of resistance.
In her unique economical painting technique, Hyun-Sook Song uses semi-transparent tempera on canvas. The effect is almost transparent brushstrokes, each representing a single movement. The ‘wooden poles’ depicted in Song’s work refer to a basic form of shelter, while the fabrics she paints often suggest the ancient tradition of ramie weaving.
Peripheral Vision (2017) includes four photographic portraits of mounir fatmi in which the artist’s face is partly obscured behind a large geometry protractor held at eye level. The work addresses the question of vision as a set of cognitive processes and mental operations that contribute to the perception of our environment. In this work fatmi signals the way we percieve what surrounds us and encourages a new awareness of what connects us to the world and of the comprehension of its limits.
fatmi’s Black Screen (2005) appears as a large format painting constituted by VHS cassette tapes. The analogue tapes appear back-to-front beside each other, reflecting the obsolete nature of the technology, which contains what we have seen, or think we have seen, what we have been exposed to, and what remains hidden.
Jeremy Wafer’s circular photographic works, Nhlube (2004/2020) and Spitzkop (2004/2020) contrast two places, one deeply familiar to the artist and the other, a non-descript view of veld. Wafer sourced these images from the South African survey office, and scanned and isolated sections using a circular template. This forms part of Wafer’s ongoing exploration of cartography and aerial survey mapping photography as a means for bringing to light the socio-political and psychological implications of the division of land in South Africa.
Commenting on his practice, Wafer states: “The aerial view denies the openness or invitation to entry which is characteristic of a vista, the scanning or looking out and across space: it denies horizon, any hierarchy of foreground to background, direction or orientation, there and here. The affect of this looking down is somewhat oppressive and claustrophobic.”
Khalil Joseph’s BLKNWS (2019) redefines the genre of the news broadcast. BLKNWS consists of a continuously updated newscast of black life in America in the form of a two-channel video that splices historical and contemporary found footage with newly shot scenes of news room and documentary reportage. Each broadcast is shown on two adjacent screens that play simultaneous footage meant to inflect and inform each other in a continuous dialogue. Through Joseph’s use of juxtaposition and montage, _BLKNWS_ both comments on the inherent bias of the news-industrial complex by creating an editorial voices that approaches reportage through a distinctly black lens.
Nolan Oswald Dennis’ works Aporia (2016) are monoliths of light wrapped in grey utility blankets. The work is inspired by the interim state experienced during cycles of political contestation. Dennis points to the example of Chumani Maxwele’s fecal protest of the Cecil Rhodes statue in Cape Town, which lead to its removal by the University. “The statue was first wrapped in plastic and then boxed in plywood while the university attempted to respond to the decolonial demand of the students,” states Dennis. “This moment of half-removal, or attempting to conceal the issue, creates a suspension in the political process, an attempt to both remove and not remove the offending object.
In much the same way these works attempt to both share and conceal the light which is their operative function by covering them with utility blankets – a material associated with the protection and mobility of human bodies as well as objects. Aporia are monoliths with an irresolvable double agenda in that they are both physically imposing and functionally meek. This sculptural cycle is reaching toward a (South) African non-object, a language for postponement and deferral.”
mounir fatmi was born in Tangiers, Morocco, in 1970. When he was four, his family moved to Casa-blanca. At the age of 17, he traveled to Rome where he studied at the free school of nude drawing and engraving at the Acadaemy of Arts, and then at the Casablanca art school, and finally at the Rijksakad-emie in Amsterdam.
He spent most of his childhood at the flea market of Casabarata, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Tangiers, where his mother sold children’s clothes. Such an environment produces vast amounts of waste and worn-out common use objects. The artist now considers this childhood to have been his first form of artistic education, and compares the flea market to a museum in ruin. This vision also serves as a metaphor and expresses the essential aspects of his work. Influenced by the idea of de-funct media and the collapse of the industrial and consumerist society, he develops a conception of the status of the work of art located somewhere between Archive and Archeology.
By using materials such as antenna cable, typewriters and VHS tapes, mounir fatmi elaborates an experimental archeology that questions the world and the role of the artist in a society in crisis. He twists its codes and precepts through the prism of a trinity comprising Architecture, Language and Machine. Thus, he questions the limits of memory, language and communication while reflecting upon these obsolescent materials and their uncertain future. mounir fatmi’s artistic research consists in a reflection upon the history of technology and its influence on popular culture. Consequently, one can also view mounir fatmi’s current works as future archives in the making. Though they represent key moments in our contemporary history, these technical materials also call into question the transmission of knowledge and the suggestive power of images and criticize the illusory mechanisms that bind us to technology and ideologies.
Since 2000, Mounir fatmi’s installations have been selected for several biennials, the 52nd and 57th Venice Biennales, the 8th Sharjah Biennale, the 5th and 7th Dakar Biennales, the 2nd Seville Biennale, the 5th Gwangju Biennale, the 10th Lyon Biennale, the 5th Auckland Triennial, the 10th and 11th Bamako Bien-nales, the 7th Shenzhen Architecture Biennale, the Setouchi Triennial and the Echigo-Tsumari Trienni-al in Japan. His work has been presented in numerous personal exhibits, at the Migros Museum, Zur-ich. MAMCO, Geneva. Picasso Museum La Guerre et la Paix, Vallauris. AK Bank Foundation, Istan-bul. Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf and at the Gothenburg Konsthall. He has also participated in several group exhibitions at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Brooklyn Museum, New York. Palais de Tokyo, Paris. MAXXI, Rome. Mori Art Museum, Tokyo. MMOMA, Moscow. Mathaf, Doha, Hayward Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven and at Nasher Mu-seum of Art, Durham.
He has received several prizes, including the Uriöt prize, Amsterdam, the Grand Prix Léopold Sédar Senghor at the 7th Dakar Biennale in 2006, as well as the Cairo Biennale Prize in 2010.
David Goldblatt (1930 – 2018) was born in Randfontein, a small mining town outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. He began exploring the medium of photography after matriculating in 1948 but only formally made photography his profession after his father died in 1962 and the family business, a mining concession store, was sold. In the years that followed, while Goldblatt supported his family through photography commissions and magazine work, he produced more than ten major photographic series, documenting the people, landscapes and structures of South Africa.
In 1989, Goldblatt founded the Market Photography Workshop, a training institution in Johannesburg, for aspiring photographers. In 1998 he was the first South African to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2001, a retrospective of his work, David Goldblatt Fifty-One Years began a tour of galleries and museums. He was one of the few South African artists to exhibit at Documenta 11 (2002) and Documenta 12 (2007) in Kassel, Germany. He has held solo exhibitions at the Jewish Museum and the New Museum, both in New York. His work was included in the exhibition ILLUMInations at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011, and has featured on shows at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Barbican Centre in London. In 2017, Goldblatt installed a series of portraits from his photographic essay Ex-Offenders in former prisons in Birmingham and Manchester. The portraits depict men and women, from South African and the UK, at the scene of their crimes, with accompanying texts that relate the subjects’ stories in their words. In the last year of his life, two major retrospectives were opened at Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. The Goldblatt Archive is held by Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut.
Goldblatt is the recipient of the 2006 Hasselblad award, the 2009 Henri Cartier-Bresson Award, the 2013 ICP Infinity Award and in 2016, he was awarded the Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres by the Ministry of Culture of France.
Mary Wafer was born and grew up in Durban. After three years of study at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, she relocated to Johannesburg and completed her advanced diploma in fine art at Wits University. She travelled to London and Copenhagen where she worked as a gallery administrator and artist. By 2005, Wafer had returned to South Africa to embark on her Masters of Art in fine art.
Wafer’s earlier works draw on images related to movement and transport; she explored issues of exclusion and marginality in relation to the notion of space. Through paintings of alienating peripheral structures, such as freeways and bridges, focusing on the architectures of transport and mobility, Wafer explores ideas of structural marginality and exclusion in a contemporary South African context.In her paintings and prints, Wafer takes structures of corridors and lighting tracks, often seen on basement parking ceilings, as inspiration. By homing in on metaphorically isolated psychological spaces, Wafer explores notions of structural marginality and exclusion in contemporary South Africa. Depictions of peripheral structures, such as freeways and bridges, constitute this angle of exploration.
In her work, Wafer uses lines of perspective to create the sense of a space exceeding the limits of the page. She is careful not to over-work a print, leaving it up to the viewer to “complete” the image within our imaginations. The slightest suggestion of an extended space can be enough information to grasp the image and its underlying social commentary.
Kahlil Joseph is an American artist and filmmaker working in Los Angeles. Across his career, Joseph’s work has explored the space between music video, short film and art installation. He has collaborated with influential artists such as Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, FKA twigs and Shabazz Palaces. His previous work includes Until the Quiet Comes, which received widespread critical acclaim and won the Grand Jury Prize for Short Films at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and Video of the Year at the UKMVA’s in 2013. The following year, the film was included in Kara Walker’s celebrated exhibit, Ruffneck Constructivists, at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. Joseph’s first solo major museum show, Double Conscience, comprising his double-channel film, m.A.A.d., at the Museum of Contemporary Art, ranked #1 in the “Top 10 Los Angeles Art Shows of 2015” by leading art/culture site Hyperallergic. In 2016, m.A.A.d. was featured at Art Basel’s Unlimited exhibit in Switzerland as well as the popular group show, The Infinite Mix, at the Southbank Centre in London. The same year, Young Blood: Noah Davis, Kahlil Joseph and The Underground Museum, a show of new film works by Joseph and paintings by his late brother Noah Davis (and founder of the Underground Museum), opened at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle. Soon after, Wizard of the Upper Amazon, which included a performance piece with 25 Rastafarian men, was on view at Blum & Poe gallery in Los Angeles in the fall of 2016. Joseph was Emmy and Grammy nominated for his direction of Beyonce’s feature length album film, Lemonade. Joseph most recently completed a visually dynamic music film for Sampha’s debut album, Process, shot in London and Sierra Leone. Joseph is a recipient of the 2016 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. Currently, Joseph serves as Vice President of the board at The Underground Museum, a vanguard and pioneering independent art museum, exhibition space and community hub in Los Angeles.
Nolan Oswald Dennis (b. 1988, Zambia) is an interdisciplinary artist from Johannesburg, South Africa. His practice explores what he calls ‘a black consciousness of space’: the material and metaphysical conditions of decolonization.
Dennis’ work questions the politics of space and time through a system-specific, rather than site-specific approach. He is concerned with the hidden structures that pre-determine the limits of our social and political imagination. Through a language of diagrams, drawings and models he explores a hidden landscape of systematic and structural conditions that organise our political sub-terrain. This sub-space is framed by systems which transverse multiple realms (technical, spiritual economic, psychological, etc) and therefore Dennis’ work can be seen as an attempt to stitch these, sometime opposed, sometimes complimentary, systems together. To read technological systems alongside spiritual systems, to combine political fictions with science fiction.
He holds a degree in Architecture from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and a Masters of Science in the Art, Culture and Technology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Adam Broomberg (b. 1970, Johannesburg, South Africa) and Oliver Chanarin (b. 1971, London, UK) are artists living and working between London and Berlin. They are professors of photography at the Hochschule für bildende Künste (HFBK) in Hamburg and teach on the MA Photography & Society programme at The Royal Academy of Art (KABK),The Hague which they co-designed.
Their work considers themes of surveillance, warfare, and institutional authority. Having stood at the frontlines of war, Broomberg and Chanarin have captured zones of conflict not as documentarians, but rather as unassuming witnesses. Their images have resisted the allure of being purely representational, and have instead considered how a photograph can capture more than just a visual encounter. Tackling politics,religion, war and history, Broomberg and Chanarin prise open the fault lines associated with such imagery, creating new responses and pathways towards an understanding of the human condition.
Together they have had numerous solo exhibitions most recently at The Centre Georges Pompidou (2018) and the Hasselblad Center (2017). Their participation in international group shows include the Yokohama Trienniale (2017), Documenta, Kassel (2017), The British Art Show 8 (2015-2017), Conflict, Time, Photography at Tate Modern (2015); Shanghai Biennale (2014); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014); Tate Britain (2014), and the Gwanju Biennale (2012). Their work is held in major public and private collections including Pompidou, Tate, MoMA, Yale, Stedelijk, V&A, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Cleveland Museum of Art, and Baltimore Museum of Art.
Major awards include the ICP Infinity Award (2014) for Holy Bible, and the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize (2013) for War Primer 2. Broomberg and Chanarin are the winners of the Arles Photo Text Award 2018 for their paper back edition of War Primer 2, published by MACK.
Ja’Tovia M. Gary (b. Dallas, TX. 1984) is an artist and filmmaker currently living and working in Brooklyn, New York. Gary’s work seeks to liberate the distorted histories through which Black life is often viewed while fleshing out a nuanced and multivalent Black interiority. Through documentary film and experimental video art, Gary charts the ways structures of power shape our perceptions around representation, race, gender, sexuality, and violence. The artist earned her MFA in Social Documentary Filmmaking from the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
In 2017 Gary was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Filmmaking. Her award-winning films, An Ecstatic Experience and Giverny I (Négresse Impériale) have screened at festivals, cinemas, and institutions worldwide including Edinburgh International Film Festival, The Whitney Museum, Anthology Film Archives, Atlanta Film Festival, the Schomburg Center, MoMa PS1, MoCA Los Angeles, Harvard Film Archives, New Orleans Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival and elsewhere. She has received generous support from Sundance Documentary fund, the Jerome Foundation, Doc Society, among others.
In 2016 Gary participated in the Terra Foundation Summer Residency program in Giverny, France. She was a 2018-2019 Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University. Gary is a 2019 Creative Capital Awardee and a Field of Vision Fellow.
Hyun-Sook Song was born in 1952 and grew up in a mountain village in Korea. In 1972 she travelled to West Germany and soon after that she began to draw and to paint. In doing so she often gave voice to her nostalgic memories of her beloved motherland. Over several decades she created paintings with only a handful of motifs or themes: clay pots, silk ribbons draped around posts, or woven textiles hung on a thread.
Song developed both a very distinctive style and a technique that blends elements from the West and the East. She chose to use tempera, a type of paint made by mixing pigments with egg yolk. This technique was widely used in Western painting in the Middle Ages, notably because of the paint’s opaque character. Song, by contrast, uses tempera in a way that is almost transparent: the brushstrokes are economical but accurate. Each brushstroke represents a single movement and there is no room for doubt.
Hyun-Sook Song studied at the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg between 1976 and 1981. In 1984 she returned to her homeland for a year to study Korean art history at Chonnam National University in Gwangju.
Hyun-Sook Song’s work is included in the collections of the following institutes: Kunstmuseum Bern, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, Leeum-Samsung Museum of Modern Art, Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Seoul Museum of Art, Gwangju Art Museum and Gyeonggido Museum of Art.
Jeremey Wafer (b. 1953, Durban, South Africa) grew up in Nkwalini in what was then Zululand. He studied fine art at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg (B.A.F.A.1979) and at the University of the Witwatersrand (B.A. Hons. in Art History 1980 and M.A. Fine Art 1987).
Wafer has taught in the Fine Art Departments of the former Technikon Natal (now DUT) and Technikon Witwatersrand (now UJ) before being appointed Associate Professor. Wafer received his PhD in 2016 and was subsequently appointed full professor of Sculpture in the School of Arts of the University of the Witwatersrand.
Wafer is the recipient of numerous awards and residencies, notably the Standard Bank National Drawing Prize in 1987 and the Sasol Wax Art Award in 2006. His work featured on the South African Pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015. Wafer has exhibited in South Africa and internationally, his work is represented in the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC, the South African National Gallery, the Johannesburg Art Gallery as well as in many other museum, private and corporate collections.
Wafer lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Ewa Nowak is a graduate of the Faculty of Design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Her projects have been repeatedly awarded in competitions for designers and shown at exhibitions in Poland and abroad. She designs utility objects, creates conceptual art, sculptures and jewelery. In her artistic works, she is interested in combining various areas – the scrupulous experience of the industrial designer with the freedom of expression in the world of art. Ewa, together with Jarosław Markowicz, established the NOMA design studio, where they both deal with industrial design. She also designs jewelry for her newly created brand, Ferja.