For Photo London Digital 2020 Goodman Gallery presents a selection of works from Shirin Neshat, Sue Williamson, David Goldblatt, Mikhael Subotzky & Patrick Waterhouse, and Lindokuhle Sobekwa.
Neshat and Williamson occupy influential and highly respected positions in the international art world, not only for their formidable artistic talents but also for their contributions as cultural workers.
Neshat and Williamson’s respective socially-based practices uncover hidden histories and engage with marginalised lived experiences; constructing expanding visual archives which claim legitimate, visible spaces for their subjects. By proposing these different modes and perspectives of representation, their works serve as prime examples of the nexus of art and social activism.
Presented at Photo London Digital is Neshat’s iconic ‘Women of Allah’ series, which examine the complexities of women’s identities, both through their personal and public lives. These works will be shown alongside images from ‘The Book of Kings’, an allegorical account of the uprising throughout the Middle East known subsequently as the Arab Spring, and more recent work called ‘Offerings’, a series designed for a wine label with text from Persian
poet Omar Khayyam.
Williamson’s ‘The Last Supper, Manley Villa’ is a series of photographs documenting the final days of one family’s home before it was demolished. These images, selected for Goodman Gallery’s presentation, illustrate the effects of the Group Areas Act, a proclamation made in 1966 by the apartheid government, which meant certain areas, such as District Six in Cape Town, were marked for whites only leading to the dislocation in that instance of 60,000 residents of mixed race. In the photographs, Williamson captured Naz and Harry Ebrahim celebrating Eid with their family and friends at their home, Manley Villa, for the last time on 2 August 1981. The last photograph in the portfolio was taken in 2008 and records the empty spot where Manley Villa once stood.
‘Fietas’, a series by David Goldblatt, similarly documents the destructive effects of the Group Areas Act.
In the photographer’s own words, “In 1950 the apartheid government in South Africa passed the Group Areas Act, under which residential and business areas in cities, towns and villages were to be reserved for different ethnic groups. In 1956 Pageview/Fietas was declared a White Group Area. The Indians were to be removed to Lenasia, a Group Area reserved for them 40 kilometres beyond the city – Fietas was about five from the city centre. Fietas was a small place with narrow streets and compact houses, heavily overcrowded, but with a strong sense of community.
Rich and poor, Black and White had come from many miles to shop there. Three generations had grown and lived there. Using every loophole in the law the people of Fietas fought against removal. But eventually in 1977 police with dogs moved in and except for a very few, the last of the Indians of Fietas were forced out. Shops and houses were destroyed and new houses were built for low-income Whites. These photographs were taken in 1976 and 1977, the last years of Fietas.”
Work by Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse, as well as Lindokuhle Sobekwa, continue the thread of Williamson and Goldblatt’s narratives, delving into post-aparthied South African life.
‘Ponte City’ is a powerful series of photographs documenting a 54- storey apartment building in downtown Johannesburg, completed by Subotzky & Waterhouse between 2008 and 2014. Built for white sophisticates during the heyday of apartheid, Ponte City proved more attractive to young people and immigrants. During the political
transition in the 1990s it became a refuge for black newcomers from the townships and rural areas, and then for immigrants from elsewhere in Africa. Soon Ponte was the prime symbol of urban decay in Johannesburg. In 2007, developers evicted half the tenants and gutted the apartments, but their redevelopment scheme soon
At this time, the artists started getting to know the remaining tenants, taking portraits and photographing life in the half-occupied block. They collected a large archive of documents and photographs from abandoned apartments, and meticulously photographed every door, window and television set in the building.
‘Ponte City’ presents a complex narrative about the social history of Johannesburg, interrogating the relationship between buildings, ideologies and human movement.
Sobekwa is a South African photographer born in 1995 in Katlehong, Johannesburg. In his work he focuses on creating intimate relationships with his subjects and his projects often span years as he builds trust. His most recent body of work focuses on ideas of home and the fragmentation of identity and belonging.
In 2018, Sobekwa was awarded a grant from the Magnum Foundation Fund to continue with his long term project Nyaope. He is also currently working on a collaborative project with French Photographer Cyprien Clément-Delmas about the community of Daleside in South Africa. This series will be published by Gost in 2021 and has been supported by the Rubis Mécénat Foundation. Sobekwa joined Magnum Photos in 2018 and became an associate member in 2020. He participates in a variety of photography related activities with the agency, including assignments in Kenya and South Africa, as well as giving lectures about his work and photography in South Africa for audiences in various European and American cities.
Sue Williamson (b. 1941, Lichfield, UK) emigrated with her family to South Africa in 1948. Trained as a printmaker, Williamson also works in installation, photography and video. In the 1970s, she started to make work which addressed social change during apartheid and by the 1980s Williamson was well known for her series of portraits of women involved in the country’s political struggle.
Referring to her practice, Williamson states: “You become aware of the audience to whom you speak. In that sense, you think backwards: what you have to say, whom you say it to, and how it will reach the audience. Having to consider your work through the eyes of somebody who knows nothing about you as an artist and what you are doing is a useful exercise.” Williamson has managed to avoid the rut of being caught in an apartheid-era aesthetic, “I am never particularly interested in doing what I did the last time. I take one thing and work it out a number of ways.”
In 2018, Williamson was Goodman Gallery’s featured artist at the FNB Joburg Art Fair, where she exhibited her work Messages from the Atlantic Passage, a large-scale installation of shackled, suspended glass bottles engraved with profiles of 19th-century victims of slavery. This installation was also exhibited that year at Art Basel in Switzerland and at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in India.
Williamson’s works feature in numerous public collections across the globe, including those at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA, Tate Modern, London, UK, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., USA, Wifredo Lam Centre, Havana, Cuba, Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa, and Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa.
Williamson has received various awards and fellowships such as the Bellagio Creative Arts Fellowship 2011, Italy, Rockefeller Foundation, the Visual Artist Research Award Fellowship 2007, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., USA and the Lucas Artists Residency Fellowship 2005, Montalvo Art Center, California, USA.
Sue Williamson lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa.
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.
Lindokuhle Sobekwa is a South African photographer born in in 1995 in Katlehong, Johannesburg. He was introduced to photography in 2012 through the Of Soul and Joy Project in Buhlebuzile high school in Thokoza township, where his photography mentors included Bieke Depoorter, Cyprien Clément-Delmas, Thabiso Sekgala, Tjorven Bruyneel and Kutlwano Moagi.
In 2013 Sobekwa joined Live Magazine as a part-time photographer in 2013. In subsequent years he exhibited work at Kalashnikovv Gallery in South Africa and with No Man’s Art Gallery in from the Netherlands and in their pop-up exhibitions in South Africa, Iran, and Norway. In the past year his work has been shown internationally at Paris Photo by both Goodman Gallery and Magnin-A gallery.
Sobekwa’s breakout photo series Nyaope: ‘Everything you do my Boss, will do’ was published in the Mail & Guardian (South Africa) in 2014 and his work was featured in Vice magazine and the Standaard in the same year. He completed the foundation course at Market Photo Workshop and in 2017, Sobekwa was selected by the Magnum Foundation as a fellow in the renowned Photography and Social Justice program. This is where he developed the project I carry Her photo with Me, a photographic search for answers about the disappearance of his sister Ziyanda. A journal created during this time was turned into a hand-made limited edition photo book and exhibited in the African Cosmologies exhibition, curated by Mark Sealy, at the Houston Fotofest in March 2020.
In 2018, Sobekwa was awarded a grant from the Magnum Foundation Fund to continue with his long term project Nyaope. He is also currently working on a collaborative project with French Photographer Cyprien Clément-Delmas about the community of Daleside in South Africa. This series will be published by Gost in 2021 and has been supported by the Rubis Mécénat Foundation.
Sobekwa joined Magnum Photos in 2018 and became an associate member in 2020. He participates in a variety of photography related activities with the agency, including assignments in Kenya and South Africa, as well as giving lectures about his work and photography in South Africa for audiences in various European and American cities.
Sobekwa continues to live and work in Thokoza.
Shirin Neshat (b. 1957, Qazvin, Iran) completed her education in the USA in 1974, five years later the Islamic Revolution prevented her from returning to her home country for almost twenty years. Her personal experiences as a Muslim woman in exile have informed her practice in which she employs photography, video installation, cinema and performance to explore political structures that have shaped the history of Iran and other Middle Eastern nations. Neshat portrays the alienation of women in repressive Muslim societies interrogating the role reserved for women Islamic value systems. In her practice, she employs poetic imagery to engage with themes of gender and society, the individual and the collective, and the dialectical relationship between past and present, through the lens of her experiences of belonging and exile.
She has mounted numerous solo exhibitions at museums internationally, including: the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Serpentine Gallery, London; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Recent solo exhibitions include: Kunstraum Dornbirn, Austria; Faurschou Foundation, Copenhagen; Kunsthalle Tübingen, Germany; and Museo Correr, Italy, which was an official corollary event to the 57th Biennale di Venezia in 2017. A major retrospective of her work was exhibited at the Detroit Institute of Arts in 2013. Neshat was awarded the Golden Lion Award, the First International Prize at the 48th Biennale di Venezia (1999), the Hiroshima Freedom Prize (2005), and the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize (2006). In 2009, Neshat directed her first feature-length film, Women Without Men, which received the Silver Lion Award for “Best Director” at the 66th Venice International Film Festival. Dreamers marked her first solo show on the African continent, which exhibited at Goodman Gallery Johannesburg in 2016. That same year, Neshat featured in the New Revolutions: Goodman Gallery at 50 exhibition in Johannesburg and in the Summers group exhibition at Goodman Gallery Cape Town. In 2017, Neshat was awarded the prestigious Praemium Imperiale award for Painting. That same year, Neshat directed Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida at the Salzburg. In 2017, Neshat was awarded the prestigious Praemium Imperiale award for Painting. That same year, Neshat directed Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida at the Salzburg. The Broad Museum in Los Angeles recently hosted a survey exhibition of the last 25 years of Neshat’s work.
The artist lives and works in New York, USA.