Tag Archives: Photography

Kanaval and ‘Caste’

Two upcoming exhibitions – one in Nottingham and one in London – present the work of photographer Leah Gordon through two different frames of reference.

The first is titled after the 2010 publication Kanaval: Vodou, Politics and Revolution on the Streets of Haiti and will juxtapose some of the images and oral histories from that book with a special commission by Haitian artist André Eugene that will utilise Jeremy Deller’s 2005 English ‘Folk Archive’.

Kanaval will be at the New Art Exchange, Nottingham, 16 June – 11 August 2012. Click here for more information.

This exhibition will also be preceded on the 15 June by a conversation between Leah  Gordon and Guardian columnist Sean O’Hagan at 6.15 – 7.30pm.

The Second exhibition titled Leah Gordon ‘Caste’ presents new photographic work from Gordon that investigates the Haitian colonial history of racial classification. In 18th-century Saint Domingue Moreau de St Mery was responsible for charting: “a surreal taxonomy of race which classified skin colour from Noir to Blanche using names borrowed from mythology, natural history and bestial miscegenation.”

‘Caste’ will be at The Riflemaker Gallery in London 28 May – 7 July 2012. Click here for more information.

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Arcade Fire in Haiti and Kanaval in Jacmel

The stimulus for this week’s video feature was a montage of clips made into a short video by the world-renowned band Arcade Fire from a couple of trips they made to Haiti.

These clips were filmed during a number of trips Arcade Fire made to Haiti in March 2011 and February 2012 and played to one of the best tracks – Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) – from their latest album The Suburbs. There are some great shots of the mountainous landscape that gave Haiti its name but also a lot of great clips showing Haitian carnival masks and costumes being used in performance in the Southern Haitian town of Jacmel.

These clips reminded me of the arresting images of Haitian carnival revealers by photographer Leah Gordon in the book Kanaval: Vodou, Politics and Revolution of the Streets of Haiti published in 2010. These extraordinarily potent images are surrounded by a number of compelling essays by scholars working in a variety of disciplines and an array of oral testimonies from contemporary carnival participants who discuss: their costume, their performance, and its meaning for them.

More images of Kanaval – with some short descriptions of stock characters – can be seen on Leah Gordon’s homepage. The Guardian also posted a review of the publication in 2010 that provoked a heated online debate with some though-provoking comments. This is still available to view online, click here to see it in full.

Showing the vast preparations for this annual event is another film created by Haitian youth working with Ciné Institute who are based in Jacmel. They began by creating Film Festival Jakmèl which screened international films to thousands of Haitians annually. This event was held for three years before Ciné Institute expanded to provide film education and edutainment, technical training, and media related micro enterprise opportunities to local youth.

This film is an assembly of stories filmed by Ciné Lekol students during the 2009 Jacmel Carnival under the instruction of Jonathan Stack in a workshop on Documentary Production and posted on Vimeo. This video follows a few individuals and groups who take part in carnival every year in the run up to the 2009 event. Its features a brilliant set of short interviews with participants who explain how they prepare for carnival each year revealing a mix of motivations behind carnival performance. Even such esteemed politicians as René Preval and Abraham Lincoln makes appearances among more familiar carnival characters like Charles Oscar and the lansekod.  Click here to find out more about Ciné Institute – whose latest film Stones in the Sun had its world premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this weekend.

Video of the Week: After Hot-En-Tot: Two conversations with Artist Renée Cox

Following on from the popularity of an earlier post – If you don’t ask, you don’t get, and then you get kicked to the curb – focusing on the work of Renée Cox this week’s video feature includes two clips, each containing an interview with artist Renée Cox recorded at the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art on 22 October 2009. The first is a conversation with an audience led by former Spelman Cosby chair Lisa E. Farrington, Ph.D., John Jay College, CUNY. The second is a one-on-one conversation that appears to have been filmed on the same day inside the Museum’s gallery space.

Each clip presents Cox ruminating on themes and driving forces behind her work including Race, Gender, Womanhood, Representation and Femininity. There are some overlaps in the conversation of each clip but also some interesting divergences.

The first conversation is pinned around specific works of Cox’s. It takes as its starting point the motivation for Cox’s work Hot-en-tot (1994) based on research she conducted which led her to find out about the “extraordinarily shocking histories” of human exhibition. Cox’s photographic work Hot-en-tot is inspired by the life and experiences of a Khosian woman, Saartje Baartman, who was objectified as a physiognomic curiosity and exhibited in Europe in the 19th century, as the ‘Hottentot Venus’. In Cox’s nude self-portrait her breasts and buttocks are covered with oversized prosthetic versions found for sale in a fancy dress shop. Cox discusses the power of the objectifying gaze and the importance for her in this, and other works, of revising history and creating a space to defy and return that gaze. Through revisiting Baartman’s body and the exploitative narrative that surrounded it – which became a potent symbol projected outwards onto the black female body as an abstract idea – Cox recreates, revises, and represents: A process that she employs through(out) her body (of work).

The second clip offers a more intimate and provocative discussion with Cox. She talks about the resonance of her work Queen Nanny of the Maroons (2004) which appeared in the exhibition Afro Modern: Journeys through the Black Atlantic at Tate Liverpool in 2010.  Generally though, this conversation explores more broadly the social issues that “inspire and impact” her work as a whole. Here Cox discusses specific issues surrounding: education and intergration in the contemporary context of the United States and; the comparative importance of race and skin tone as identity in Jamaica and the United States. Cox encapsulates her bold and assured approach to creating as she winds up the interview stating: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get, and then you get kicked to the curb.”

To read more about Cox’s work click here.

To view Renée Cox’s website click here

Click here to view some images of Cox’s work online via tumblr.

Appropriated Landscapes: The Walther Collection

Embedded in the picturesque, unassuming Bavarian town of Ulm, Germany, is a fascinating plot of land. It contains three unusual looking buildings: three houses

Opening of Appropriated Landscapes at the Walther Collection, June 2011 photo: The Walther Collection (flickr)

– one is traditional, covered in ivy, another black, mostly windowless, with a trendy interior and then a white cube, two stories high with a vast underground level. This is the home of the Walther Collection, and currently the exhibition, ‘Appropriated Landscapes’. Each year a new curator creates a show from the collection, and this one is part of a three-year project focusing on the holdings of African photography.

The show, curated by Corrine Diserens, explores the effects of colonization, war and ideology on physical and psychological landscapes of South Africa. Around 200 images are displayed by 14 artists including recent work from Jane Alexander and Guy Tillim as well as newly commissioned pieces from Ângela Ferreira, Christine Meisner, and Peter Friedl.

Each house has a different atmosphere. With its low ceilings and intimate rooms the Green House is perfectly suited to exhibit the small-scale work of two of South Africa’s most prominent photographers; David Goldblatt and Santu Mofokeng. At a time when ‘struggle’ documentary photography was playing a crucial role in exposing the horrors of apartheid in a most palpable manner, Goldblatt chose instead to look at the effects of this system in a different way. From the early 1960s he photographed the deep rooted effects of apartheid by veering towards the eventless, the ‘unnatural’ nature of the man-altered South African landscape. Santu Mofokeng’s work too engages with the concept of landscape as the mute witness to history. His photographs depict the previously undocumented, everyday life of the ‘forgotten society’ of black South Africans in the townships. Though trauma is manifested in this landscape, the key theme that emerges through Mofokeng’s images is survival.

In the Black House, Jo Ractliffe’s new body of work on Angola’s civil war is premiered. Ractliffe visited Angola at the end of the war and for two years traveled with South African and Angolan ex-soldiers through what Portuguese colonials referred to as “As Terras do Fim do Mundo” – the lands of the end of the world. The haunting images produced show a scarred landscape. Unease is purposefully implied through unusually inhabited images of unintelligible signage, mass graves, and vast spaces with solitary, strange objects.

In the main exhibition space – the architecturally striking White Box – are photographs and video installations. Most striking is the presentation of the work of Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse. The subject of their collaboration is Ponte City: a 54-storey cylindrical building situated in the centre of Johannesburg. This is the tallest residential tower block in Africa and a politically important building; abandoned by white residents, it is now a precarious home to thousands of squatters and so represents a place of constant struggle. The artists’ have displayed lightbox panels divided into three themes: doors, windows and TVs. Presented on large screens suspended from the ceiling, the 12-channel digital slide projection provides a multitude of perspectives on the contemporary skyline of the city of Johannesburg from the point of view of the residents, giving a new resonance to the work.

Guy Tillim disarms colonial inheritance, not merely recording collapsed histories but “a walk through an avenue of dreams”. His highly composed photographs show urban decay and disorder, leading one to question the aestheticisation of poverty by an outsider. The video work of Penny Siopis and Peter Freidl’s films work to analyse narrative tools in colonialized surroundings and the perilous public sphere. In contrast to much of the exhibition, Zanele Muholi and Sabelo Mlangeni’s photographs are ‘peopling’ the landscape with marginal groups. Muholi, working with victims of hate crime, undermines the ethnographic archive by exploring sexual indeterminacy and the scrambling of codes. In the Country Girls series Mlangeni visits cross-dressing communities in rural South Africa exploring masculine intimacy to a poignant effect.

The scars of memory and history on the land expand the definition of landscape. The images displayed together here as Appropriated Landscapes depict the trajectory – from production through reception to the legacy – of these scars which have shaped the land. The exhibition asks important questions about the relationship between history and memory, the role of the photographer, and the problems of moving on from a trauma embedded in the very landscape.

To view images of works in the Appropriated Landscapes exhibition click here and follow the links for specific artists within each building.

Contributed by: Hannah-Grace Fitzpatrick

New Moroccan Publications at ABC

A special selection of recent titles from two new publishers at the African Books Collective: Editions du Sirocco and Senso Unico Editions. Both are from Morocco and mostly publish illustrated books on the Art and the History of Morocco and the Mediterranean but some literature is also available. Many of the books are high quality hardbacks in colour and the photography collections are of particular note. Downloadable spreads are available on the ABC site for a look inside which is highly recommended.

Included among the titles are:

Elisa Chimenti, Anthologie

“Her works can be compared to brilliantly polished stones… she is without question one of the greatest figures in Moroccan folklore literature.” On the fortieth anniversary of her death, Elisa Chimenti’s works are gathered together for the first time and reissued in this Anthology, which pays homage to the moving humanism of this “donna mediterranea”.

Yasmina Filali, les passagers de l’oubli:

“In a sad, rainy day, a young woman accepts a dinner invitation reluctantly. Nothing makes her expect that her destiny is taking shape…”

“Yasmina Filali’s talent and great sensibility bind us to the story of an intense life flash and make us share it. Her words, filled with poetry, are thousands of mirrors reflecting emotions that mark our memory like scars.”

“Rabat is a city which aims for modernity but refuses to be subjected to it. The secrecy of its stones and back- alleys preserve the city history and traditions. … mainly a photographic book, words are nonetheless important: images and words have a mutual power of elation when the eyes of the photographer and the author meet. ”

“Toni Maraini recounts her life in Morocco, her reflections on the country traditions and her meetings with the most remarkable Moroccan artists and intellectuals between 1960 and 1980. This major work pays beautiful and insightful tribute to the country, written in a brilliant and poetic way.”  Toni Maraini (Antonella Maraini), is an art historian, a writer and a poet.

To see full listings click here: Moroccan_Titles

Toxteth 1981

(Via liverpoolmuseums.org)

A community exhibition to mark the 30th anniversary in July 2011 of the riots in Liverpool 8. A timely exhibition which features the memories and photographs of local people who were affected by Liverpool’s riots in the 1980s. The exhibtion includes previously unseen materials.

At the International Slavery Museum, Liverpool: 1 July 2011 – 1 July 2012.

For more information click here

Living Apart: photographs of apartheid by Ian Berry

(c) Ian Berry/ Magnum Photos (detail via liverpoolmuseums.org)

A powerful touring exhibition from Magnum Photos of some of the most dramatic and iconic moments over 40 years of South Africa’s history, captured by photojournalist Ian Berry. This exhibition is part of Liverpool’s first ever international photography festival, Look11.

At the International Slavery Museum, Liverpool: 8 April 2011 to 6 November 2011.

For more information click here