For his work Gravitas the African American artist Hank Willis Thomas used a photo of South African photographer Graeme Williams. He turned the orginal work into a black and white photo highlighting the image of the children outside the context of the militairy patrol on the bus in the original photo. Williams got furious and called Thomas a thief, Thomas called for reflection but, in the end, removed the work from the fair where it was presented. Stealing or appropriating? A crime or just a commentary?
Author: Athi Mongezeleli Joja
This article of the South African art critic Athi Mongezeleli is a “solidarity criticism” in what appears to be an interesting public provocation about the state or economies of the South African visual arts industry. He reacts on an article of the art historian and curator Thembinkosi Goniwe in the newspaper Main and Guardian.
A work of Mary Sibande at the Joburg Art Fair, 2018, © photo: Alon Skuy
The failures of this show are not immediately in the works, but how the curators chose to conceive it. The short-circuiting and catch-phrasing stunts that have come to typify curatorial practice are slowly leading towards sterility. But if we look beyond the show’s slightly unimaginative presentation, Mlangeni’s images intimately and charmingly indicate a complexity in the Zion church, a complexity only a caring artist has.
Athi Mongezeleli Joja on the South African photographer Sabelo Mlangeni
But caught between limits of representational possibilities and the contradiction of colonial representation, here portraiture finds itself in an interesting aporia. That is between an enchanting representation, and the existential reality of knowing oneself as a problem for humanity. This performative contradiction creates problems for the lauded humanizing acts of the photograph as a general conflict in Black Chronicles IV.
Athi Mongezeleli Joja on the travelling exhibition Black Chronicles IV
Wellington Majiza, The African Choir, London 1891. By London Stereoscopic Company.©-Hulton Archive/Getty Images. Courtesy of Hulton Archive and Autograph ABP, London.
Using found material to make statements about the intimacy between sexuality, religion and race Adams’ oeuvre renews our interests in topical subjects in ways that beckon us to pay attention to subtly sustained institutionalized bigotries and discontinuities.