Arena for Contemporary African, African-American and Caribbean Art

Dak’ Art: Candice Breitz


Candice Breitz participates in Dak’Art with:

Extra : Single-Channel Video, 2011, Commissioned by the Standard Bank Gallery, courtesy of the artist & Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.

In the single-channel video, Candice Breitz inserts herself in actual scenes of Generations, South Africa’s most popular soap opera that explores an aspect of post-Apartheid black middle-class reality through the lens of the media industry. Breitz does not play a character in Generations. Instead she is an invisible extra, whose presence is comically obvious. Breitz is a white South African and puts her body in strange positions to stand out against the all black cast, who appears not to see or notice her. In some of the scenes, her unacknowledged presence appears in fragments. She is awkwardly inserted as a hand with brightly painted nails inexplicably floating on a character’s shoulder or as a disembodied head floating on a table or silently listening to business or private conversations. In others, her full body is present yet painfully anonymous. Against the normative black-focused quotidian themes and actors of Generations, Breitz’s presence sticks out as a sore thumb. Indeed, it is a reverse of what institutional media representation used to be during the Apartheid era in South Africa.

Since the mid-1990s, Berlin-based South African artist Candice Breitz (born in Johannesburg in 1972) has produced a body of work treating various aspects of the structure of identity and psychological identification. In early series of photographic work such as Rainbow Series (1994) and Ghost Series (1996), made shortly after she left South Africa, Breitz used montage and found imagery to thematise the ways in which racial and sexual identity had come to be pictured in Apartheid South Africa within visual contexts ranging from postcards to pornography. Since 1999, she has predominantly created multi-channel video installations, in which the relationship between an individual channel of footage and the larger grid of moving imagery provides a space in which to think about the relationship between individual and community. Central to her work is the question of how an individual ‘becomes’ him or herself in relation to a larger community, be that community the immediate community that one encounters in family, or the real and imagined communities that are shaped not only by questions of national belonging, race, gender and religion, but also by the increasingly undeniable influence of mainstream media such as television, cinema and popular music. As such, multi-channel works made over the last decade have explored and unpicked processes of identification and emulation both as these manifest themselves within the relationship between the self and close family others (Factum, Mother + Father), but also as such processes have come to structure the relationship between fan and star within the realm of consumer culture (Legend, King, Queen). At the heart of Breitz’s work, lies an interest in the somewhat mysterious ways in which the subject finds his or her way into selfhood – her many obsessive returns to the genre of portraiture over the last fifteen years suggest both the impossibility of finitely coming to understand how it is that we become who we are, and the necessity to nevertheless keep on trying.
Candice Breitz has participated in biennales in Johannesburg (1997), São Paulo (1998), Istanbul (1999), Taipei (2000), Kwangju (2000), Tirana (2001), Venice (2005), New Orleans (2008), Göteborg (2003 + 2009) and Singapore (2011). Her work has also been exhibited at the Sundance Film Festival (New Frontier, 2009) and the Toronto International Film Festival (David Cronenberg: Transformation, 2013). Her work has been shown in prestigious venues and museums in Africa, Europe, North America, South America, and Asia.

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