In early 2008, Mikhael Subotzky moved from Cape Town to Johannesburg, and since his move has been at work on two long-term projects. While independent, the projects are both influenced by Subotzky’s engagement with the city of Johannesburg. They are presented as works-in-progress, eventually to be realised as full exhibitions and publications.
The first body of work continues a long-held interest in crime, social marginalisation, and the public and private institutions of punishment and security. This investigation started in 2004 with Die Vier Hoeke (The Four Corners) and continued in subsequent years with Umjiegwana (The Outside) and Beaufort West. In this exhibition, Subotzky presents works that extend the three series into new environments. Loosely focusing on the lifestyle of fear in South Africa, the images explore the vexed and many-layered concept of security in contemporary society.
The second project, begun in 2008, is a collaboration with British artist Patrick Waterhouse – whom Subotzky met while on a residency in Italy. The work is located in Berea’s Ponte City building, an iconic structure in Johannesburg’s skyline that has long been a symbol for the city itself. Opened in 1976, Ponte has come to represent the best and the worst of Johannesburg, and has generated a particular mythology of city life.
Subotzky and Waterhouse combine photography, historical archives, found objects, and interviews to create a body of work that spans the pre-history of the building, its spectacular decline, and the recent attempts at its transformation. The building is cast as the central character in a tangled narrative about Johannesburg’s magnetic pull on people from all over the continent.
Mikhael Subotzky’s work has been widely exhibited and collected. He was included in New Photography 2008: Josephine Meckseper and Mikhael Subotzky at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and his first monograph, Beaufort West, was published the same year. He received the 2009 Oskar Barnack Award, the 2008 W. Eugene Smith Memorial Grant, and the 2008 ICP Infinity Award (Young Photographer). This is his fifth solo exhibition with Goodman Gallery.
Mikhael Subotzky (b. 1981, Cape Town) is a Johannesburg based artist whose works in multiple mediums (including film installation, video, photography, collage and painting) attempt to engage critically with the instability of images and the politics of representation.
Subotzky has exhibited in a number of important international exhibitions, including most recently Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at the Barbican in London (2020), Inheritance: Recent Video Art from Africa at the Fowler Museum (UCLA) in Los Angeles (2019) and Ex Africa in various venues in Brazil (2017-18). His award-winning Ponte City project (co-authored with Patrick Waterhouse) was presented at Art Basel Unlimited in 2018. The full exhibition and archive of this
project has since been acquired by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and will be the subject of a monographic exhibition there in 2021.
Subotzky’s work is collected widely by international institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Solomon R Guggenheim Museum (New York), the National Gallery of Art (Washington), Tate (London), Centre Pompidou (Paris), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the South African National Gallery, among others.
Subotzky’s work was included in Lubumbashi (2013) and Liverpool (2012) biennials. Pixel Interface, a multi-component video installation, was included in All The World’s Futures, curated by Okwui Enwezor at the 56th Venice Biennale (2015).