SPIRAL OF CONTAINMENT
In his latest exhibition, a series of installations, Alfredo Jaar, the global giant of social justice and conceptual art, meditates on the binary positions of spectatorship to war, and the role of the media. It's a must-see, says Kathy Berman.
‘Genocide’ — the word is inextricably linked with Rwanda, an association imprinted on the consciousness and consciences of millions across the globe. No matter how many years pass, and how much the current political leadership works on erasing the horror of the past, those 100 days in 1994 remain a stain on contemporary global history. As do Bosnia Herzegovina, Syria, Yemen, the plight of the Uyghurs, the Rohingyas and other short-hand proper nouns for what is politely termed “Human Rights Violations”.
How does an artist approach the atrocities of a contemporary genocide? How does the artist convey the emotion, the visceral brutality, in a digital age of infinite instant images? How does the artist steer clear of either obscene voyeurism or indifference and compassion fatigue?
These are the complexities that the Chilean-born, New York-based, globally-lauded conceptual artist, Alfredo Jaar, tackles in The Rwanda Project, which has been installed at the Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town from November 2020 until 23 May 2021.
For Jaar, the answer is “minimalistically; conceptually; cerebrally; in binary black and white”. It is free of searing, bleeding, war porn. And in so doing, the message is as searing. In the absence arises a deep spiritual presence; in the silence, a sonic scream.
Mexican-born cinematographer, Elisa Iannacone, whose career traversing over 40 countries in service of breaking news and war photo-journalism, is a rare mix of documentary and fictional cinematographer, of war correspondent and fantastical realist, of artist and journalist.
Iannacone first came to public prominence with a photographic and multi-media installation at the Oxo Tower Bargehouse Gallery in London in March 2018. The Spiral of Containment: Rape’s Aftermath is a monumental exhibition on rape and its aftermath.
The 24 photographs in the series each stretch over 1,5m and were constructed into an experiential journey through five floors of the Oxo Towers. They included photographs, soundscapes, oral testimony and holographic images of two dozen men and women – their brutal stories depicted in striking, glossy images that cover vast fantasy-scapes.
Each work is a composite real/unreal mise en scène depicting one person’s private journey beyond their sexual violation to a place of creative reconstruction and re-creation.
Evocative and gut-wrenching, each piece took months to complete as the subject/co-author and Iannacone traversed each personal journey, emerging with one encapsulating image depicting their triumphant transition from pain and devastation in a single dominant colour drawn from the 24-colour wheel.
Jackson Hlunwani: An epochal journey through, and beyond, time.
I first met Jackson Hlungwani in 1986 at his home in Mbhokota village near Giyani in present-day Limpopo – at that time, in the apartheid homeland of Gazankulu. He was a slight, wizened man whose smile filled the majestic surrounds – an ancient and revitalised iron-age rock temple, similar in feel to the Zimbabwe ruins, then transformed by Hlungwani to become his “New Jerusalema”, a shrine and temple housing his sacred homages to his Christian God.
Humbly attired in working clothes – ageing khaki pants and frayed white shirt, complemented with a threadbare woollen pullover and jacket, and knitted cap reaching the sky and concealing a head of dreadlocks, he walked with a limp – the result of a deep and constantly seeping injury to his right shin in the 1960s – but his arms were always open wide to welcome his visitors and his God with a booming “Hallelujah!” to his stone eyrie from where he created a spiritual world of “Up and Down, Old and New, Alpha and Omega”.
Today Hlungwani’s vast oeuvre has been resurrected for 21st century audiences: brought together into a meticulously mounted exhibition, curated by Karel Nel, Nessa Leibhammer and Amos Letsoalo at the Norval Foundation in Cape Town. The exhibition brings together many of the original works curated for the first Hlungwani retrospective held in Newtown in 1989 and then curated by Ricky Burnett.
In 1987, architect Peter Rich, photographer Rogan Coles & TV Director, Kathy Berman visited artist, visionary and preacher, Jackson Hlungwane at his temple, New Jerusalema, in then-Gazankulu. This is Part 2 of a documentary directed by Kathy Berman. It has been transferred and re-mastered for the Jackson Hlungwane retrospective exhibition of 2020 at the Norval Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa. This is the only known available footage of Jackson Hlungwane at New Jerusalema, built on the site of an iron-age settlement. In 1989, all the sculptures from the altar were transported to Johannesburg for his retrospective exhibition at the Newtown Galleries. They were subsequently sold to the Standard Bank African Art Collection, at the Wits Art Museum.
William Kentridge – A Grand Procession over Four Decades.
From the gentility of the bourgeois boudoir and boardroom to the Real-politik “on the ground”. That has been the four-decade long journey of South Africa’s most significant and globally capped visual artist, William Kentridge. And while so much of the focus of the dual retrospective exhibitions, “Why Should I Hesitate: Putting Drawings to Work,”and “Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture”, which opened in Cape Town at the Zeitz MOCAA and Norval Foundation this past weekend, has been on art as art-making process, it is in the searing social commentary, and its artistic formulation, that Kentridge’s genius lies. Significantly, it was born from the fertile soils of Apartheid South Africa. Kathy Berman takes a step back in time
While the art world across every continent has luxuriated in expansive exhibitions and monumental installations of the genius that is William Kentridge, we have had to wait for decades for William Kentridge to share his prodigious oeuvre with us, his nation-family, in, apparently, the largest retrospective exhibitions to date. (Kentridge has enjoyed the honour of many “career surveys” in the past). And: What a journey. What a Homecoming. Traversing decades and lifetimes. At once so familiar. Kentridge, the cultural commentator, and his full team of collaborators, have unfurled on us, the gallery-attending public, a massive oeuvre. Emanating as it did from the violent despotism of 1970s and ‘80s South Africa – and onwards over four decades, and many more countries, Kentridge has soared and flourished, amassed global acclaim and brought in more and more collaborators on larger commissions. From Art/Apartheid reality he provided macroscopic commentaries encompassing art and cultural history, ideologies, political depravity - colonial, post-colonial and contemporary histories and realities – Ethiopia, Istanbul, and, most recently, Lampedusa, Southern Italy.
A lecture by Kathy Berman in 2018 using archival recorded interview by Esmé Berman of Maggie Laubser in 1968, with intervention and commentary at