Joburg Contemporary Art Foundation explores liminal identities of seminal female artists in the Global South

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Joburg Contemporary Art Foundation explores liminal identities of seminal female artists in the Global South
Installation view.

JOHANNESBURG.- In the second of three exhibitions that forms part of the Joburg Contemporary Art Foundation’s research on Female Identities in the Global South, this year’s exhibition explores hybridity and resistance in the artistic practices of seminal women artists from Latin America, the MENA region, the African diaspora and South Africa.

Titled Liminal Identities in the Global South, the exhibition will run for six months, from August 2021 to January 2022. With some artists and artworks new to the South African public, it features Jane Alexander, Lina Bo Bardi, Lygia Clark, Kamala Ibrahim Ishag, Kapwani Kiwanga, Ana Mendieta, Lygia Pape, Berni Searle and Sumayya Vally/Counterspace.

The exhibition considers heterogeneous forms of expression across art, architecture and music, from the 1960s to the present. Given the impact of Covid-19, the pandemic body forms a second curatorial thread running through the exhibition.

“The coronavirus pandemic has placed the world in a state of limbo or liminality,” explains Clive Kellner, Executive Director of JCAF, “so that we are caught between a pre-Covid-19 world and a world in which we imagine a better future.”

The exhibition is divided into five areas: Prelude, Requiem, Movements I, II and III, with each area conceptualised according to a moderate, fast or slow musical tempo that denotes a timebased experience of the exhibition.

It begins with a Prelude, an archive that includes the concept of anthropophagia (cultural ‘cannibalism’ or assimilation) developed by Oswald de Andrade in his Manifesto Antropófago (1928), and embodied in the painting Abaporu (1928) by the painter Tarsila do Amaral. The last item in this area, is a work by architect Lina Bo Bardi, who developed a quintessential Brazilian architectural language in the 1970s derived from indigenous vernacular expression. These concepts resonate with contemporary South African society, which is engaged in asserting itself against Western postcolonial cultural domination through various decolonising movements.

The Covid-19 pandemic is understood as an ‘event’ that ruptures the normal run of things and changes our perception of the world around us. In this liminal state, the second area – Requiem – reflects on previous pandemics such as the Black Death (bubonic plague, 1346–1353) and the Spanish Flu (influenza, 1918–1920).

The pandemic body is alluded to in the masks that appear in the works in Movement I. The ubiquity of the mask in our time is at once ominous and comforting. Masks filter the air we breathe, helping to prevent infection and possibly death, since it is through breathing that we can be infected by the virus.

Movement II explores the precarious nature of life, suggested by images of the female body in the landscape, rituals performed by women, and bouquets of flowers that decay over time. The passage of time, which encompasses death, ritual and trace, points in turn to liminality.

The exhibition culminates with Movement III. During afflictions and disasters such as the coronavirus pandemic we discover our ‘radical vulnerability’ and the need for grace. In this section eternity is represented by the colour gold and by luminescence and reflection.

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