mounir fatmi
Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

Narrative Means, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, 2018

Narrative Means

Goodman Gallery Johannesburg

 2 June – 14 July 2018


Alfredo Jaar | Broomberg and Chanarin | David Goldblatt | Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh | Kendell Geers | Kiluanji Kia Henda | Mikhael Subotzky | Misheck Masamvu | mounir fatmi | Samson Kambalu | William Kentridge | Hank Willis Thomas

The life of an artwork is a curious thing. It begins with an experience or idea translated into a tangible expression by an artist. Traditionally, this has taken the form of painting, photography or sculpture, but in some instances, the process involves the artist rethinking the boundaries of these mediums as a way to explore their subject matter. The result can be a heightened encounter between the object produced, the hand that made it, and the viewer. Through this exchange, a story unfolds and, with it, new meanings are made.

Each artist featured on this exhibition uniquely grapples with this tension between perception and meaning. The constellation of artists originating from the African continent and its Diaspora also raises important questions about the literal narrative means sometimes expected from artists of African descent in today’s growing market for narrative-led art.

While Hank Willis Thomas and Mikhael Subotzky explore ‘whiteness’ as a construct within the photographic medium; Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh interrogate stereotypes around female sexuality by ‘othering’ the white female form and subverting traditional ‘women’s craft’; Misheck Masamvu pushes against pressure to take a literal figurative approach in responding to socio-political issues; conceptual artists Samson Kambalu and Kendell Geers play with form to address Western ideas around the currency of African forms.

Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh’s collaborative works on paper have welcomed rich interpretation. A recent review in the Mail & Guardian describes their depiction of women in seductive repose as ‘transmissible and viral, but when you start to look more closely … there’s no end to the possibilities they bring into play.’ Amer’s position: ‘If I painted a black woman or an Arab or Asian women, people would think that these groups of people are oppressed. In the west, the ‘other’ has no real importance. So, I have deliberately chosen to represent ‘white women’ as a universal stand in for ‘all women’ […] when I do this I subvert expectations and force the viewer to realise these women are not ‘others’.’

mounir fatmi’s Darkening Process also subverts expectations through its problematic depiction of ‘black face’. His short film reflects on the life of John Howard Griffin, a white civil rights activist who temporarily darkened his skin in response to heightened racial tensions during the American civil rights era. fatmi engages in an intertextual game with history, splicing footage from a sixties film inspired by Griffin’s life, with images linked to the black experience. In so doing he asks the viewer to re-examine their conceptions of blackness, whiteness and solidarity in a contemporary era which has given rise to personalities like Rachel Dolezal.

A charcoal drawing by William Kentridge conveys the bleak surrounds of a World War I war-torn landscape. The work, Untitled (Drawing from Wozzeck 35), was created for Kentridge’s production of Alban Berg’s opera, Wozzeck, which recently premiered at the Salzburg Festival. While Kentridge draws on documentary photographs of a WWI battlefield, when viewed by modern audiences, the work may also resonate with war scenes today, such as the brutal ISIS beheadings in Syria.

Broomberg and Chanarin’s The Day Nobody Died repurposes photographic film as a storytelling medium. The title alludes to a period in which the artists were embedded in Afghanistan and tasked with documenting the horrors of war. The image, an abstraction of shapes and colour, was created by unrolling and exposing a seven-metre section of film to the sun for 20 seconds. ‘The results,’ in the words of the artists, ‘deny the viewer the cathartic effect offered up by the conventional language of photographic responses to conflict and suffering.’

Misheck Masamvu’s Misheck we miss you love mother and dead twin sister takes the form of a stretcher used to transport sick people and dead bodies. Embedded in the sculpture is a letter Masamvu wrote to himself in the voice of his mother and twin sister, who died during childbirth – transforming the hand-carved stretcher into a bridge between life and death.

Samson Kambalu uses an invented form of site-specific, spontaneous filmmaking, dubbed ‘Nyau Cinema’, creating poetic vignettes that explore ‘how we might find meaning in what appears to be meaningless’ (Kambalu).

In Masking Tradition DXIII, Kendell Geers uses the image of the African mask to reinforce tropes around its reappropriated use in museological contexts. Through this gesture, Geers brings attention to the uncomfortable position these ethnographic ‘objects’ have come to occupy in our cultural dichotomy. In his other work on show, Mined, Geers casts a broken Heineken beer bottle in gold as a form of self-portraiture, imbued with subtextual reference to his white, South African identity.

For the lightbox Searching for Spain, Alfredo Jaar took a photograph from the grounds of an abandoned palace on the coast of Algeria. The ruins serve as a symbol of the economic and social disarray in which the country was left after decades of colonial rule. Looking through the hollow shell of the building, Jaar pointed his camera in the direction of Spain and the Mediterranean Sea, which tens of thousands of migrants attempt to cross each year in order to reach Europe. It is an image full of hope and despair.

Expositions personnelles I Solo shows (selection)
Ceysson & Bénétière 2019Wilde Gallery 2019CDAN Museum 2018
Göteborgs Konsthall 2018Art Front Gallery 2017Officine dell'Immagine 2017
Galerie De Multiples 2017Analix Forever Gallery 2017Jane Lombard Gallery 2017
Galerie Delacroix 2017Goodman Gallery 2017Lawrie Shabibi 2017
Analix Forever Gallery 2017Maisons des Arts du Grütli 2017ADN Platform 2016
Keitelman Gallery 2016Labanque 2016MMP+ 2016
MAMCO 2015MIAMIBUS 2015Analix Forever 2015
CCC Tours 2014ADN Galeria 2014ADN Platform 2014
Analix Forever 2014Yvon Lambert 2014Museum Kunst Palast 2013
Keitelman Gallery 2013Paradise Row 2013Institut Français de Casablanca 2013
Galerie Fatma Jellal 2013Analix Forever 2013Goodman Gallery 2012
Shoshana Wayne Gallery 2012 Lombard-Fried Projects 2012Galerie Conrads 2011
Fondazione Collegio San Carlo 2011Galerie Hussenot 2011AKBank Sanat 2011
Galerie Hussenot 2010Galerie Conrads 2009FRAC Alsace 2009
Galerie Delacroix IFM 2008Creux de l'enfer 2008Galerie Ferdinand van Dieten 2007
Musée national Pablo Picasso 2007Shoshana Wayne Gallery 2007La maison rouge 2007
Lombard Freid projects 2007Bank galerie 2006CAC d'Istres 2005
Espace des arts Colomiers 2004 CAC Le Parvis 2004Migros museum 2003
Biennales & Triennales I Biennials, Triennials (selection)
13eme Biennale de Dakar 20187th Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale 20181er Biennale de Rabat 2018
57th Venice Biennale 20177eme Biennale d'Architecture de Shenzhen 201711eme Biennale de Bamako 2017
15eme Biennale d'art contemporain Alios! 2017Biennale Poznan 2016Setouchi Triennale 2016
10èmes Rencontres de Bamako 20155th Thessaloniki Biennale 201516th Media art Biennale Wro 2015
1st Trio Biennale, Rio de Janeiro 20152nd Bodrum Biennial 2015Fotofest Biennial 2014
5th Auckland Triennial 201310th Dakar Biennial 2012 White House Biennial 2013
Manif d'Art 6 20123rd Thessaloniki Biennial 201111th Lyon Biennial 2011
54th Venice Biennial 2011XIIth Cairo Biennial 20101st Mediterranean Biennial of Haifa 2010
Port Izmir 2, international triennial of contemporary art 20108th Dakar Biennial 2010Biennale Cuvée 2010
Xth Lyon Biennial 2009Art Tel Aviv 20098èmes Rencontres de Bamako 2009
1st Brussels Biennial 2008Pontevedra Biennial 200824th Biennial Memorial of Nadezda Petrovic 2007
1st Luanda Triennial 2007 52th Venice Biennial 20078th Sharjah Biennial 2007
2nd Seville Biennial 2006 Gwangju biennial 2004 7th Dakar Biennial 2006
4th Dakar Biennial 20007th Biennal Art Media 1999
Expositions collectives I Group shows (selection)
Maison Populaire 2019Bedford Gallery 2019 Evliyagil Museum 2019
Jane Lombard 2019James Cohan 2019Mathaf 2018
MACAAL 2018Fondation Boghossian 2018Sammlung Philara 2018
Nasher Museum of Art 2018Ellen Noël Art Museum 2018Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea 2018
MOCAK 2018Bozar Center for fine arts 2018Philharmonie de Paris 2018
The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery 2018Goodman Gallery 2018Institut Français de Saint Louis 2018
Pensacola Museum of Art 2018 Von der Heydt-Kunsthalle 2018Gifu Museum 2017
Huntsville Museum of Art 2017Bandjoun Station 2017Institut des Cultures d’Islam 2017
Bellevue Arts Museum 2017Mudac 2017Primo Marella Gallery 2017
Goodman Gallery 2017MACAAL 2017Museum De Wieger 2017
Conrads Gallery 2017Galerie Ceysson & Bénétière 2017Keitelman Gallery 2017
Musée du Pays de Hanau 2017Château de Servières 2017CEAA 2017
Fondazione Fotografia Modena 2017H&R Block Artspace 2017Bedford Gallery 2016
Beijing Today Art Museum 2016Hôtel des Arts 2016Museum of Old and New Art 2016
Labanque 2016Les Photaumnales 2016Al Maaden 2016
Kunsthalle Faust 2016Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg 2016Archives Nationales 2016
Bardo National Museum 2016Arles 2016Musée d'Art Moderne de Troyes 2016
Rotor 2016Goodman Gallery 2016Musée Bartholdi 2016
Institut d’Art Contemporain 2016Santander Art Gallery 2016Brandts & Viborg Kunsthal 2016
Fondazione VIDEOINSIGHT 2015A Tale of a Tub 2015Contemporary Istanbul 2015
ADMAF 2015Goodman Gallery 2015Keitelman Gallery 2015
Galeria Municipal do Porto 2015Fabra i Coats 2015AMOCA 2015
Monastère Royal de Brou 2015CAC La Traverse 2015FRAC Franche-Comté 2015
ZKM 2015The National Library 2015Station 2015
La FabriC - Fondation Salomon 2015Van Abbemuseum 2015The Brooklyn Museum 2015
MMP+ 2015Sharjah Museum 2015Kamel Lazaar Foundation 2015
Sextant & + 2015Gwangju Museum of Art 2014QAGOMA 2014
N.B.K. 2014CAyT Centro de Arte y Technologia 2014Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery 2014
Station 2014Institut du Monde Arabe 2014Art Gallery of Western Australia 2014
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art 2014Palais de Tokyo 2014L'art dans les chapelles 2013
MAD Museum 2013Marseille - Provence 2013V&A Museum 2013
30 ans des FRAC 2013MAC Marseille 2013MAXXI 2013
Museu de Arte Moderna de Salvador de Bahia 2012Institut du Monde Arabe 2012Edge of Arabia 2012
Apexart 2012B.P.S. 22 2012Dorsky Gallery 2012
International Center of Graphic Arts 2012Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art 2011Fondation Blachère 2011
Brooklyn Museum 2011Dublin Contemporary 2011Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts 2011
Museum on the Seam 2011Tri Postal Lille 2011Meeting Point 6 2011
The New School 2010Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil 2010Fondazione Fotografia Modena 2010
Aargauer Kunsthaus 2010KAdE 2010Kunst Museum Bochum 2010
Moscow museum of modern art 2010Art Gallery of Ontario 2010Fondation Gulbenkian 2009
Centro de Arte de Santa Monica 2009Beirut Art Center 2009Salina Art Center 2009
Kunstverein Medienturm Ilz 2008Te Papa museum 2008Studio Museum Harlem 2008
Haus der Kunst 2008Centre Pompidou 2008CAAM 2008
Centro de Arte de Santa Monica 2008Johannesburg Art Gallery 2007CAC Le Parvis 2006
CAPC musée d'art contemporain 2006Bank Galerie 2006Les Abattoirs 2006
Moderna museet 2006Mori art museum 2006Wereldmuseum 2005
Centre Pompidou 2005The Stenersen Museum 2005Saw gallery 2005
Konstmuseum 2005Hayward Gallery 2005Museum Kunst Palast 2004
Tri Postal Lille 20042nd international contemporary art meeting 2003Espacio C 2002
O.N.A. Foundation 1999CAC Castres 1999Musée des beaux-arts de Dôle 1999
Musée des arts décoratifs 1999  
interventions publiques I public space projects (selection)
metavilla 2015Collateral Project to the 12th Havana Biennial 2015Prison Qara Meknès 2015
Art Paris 2015Analix Forever 2014Sculpture Beach Art Dubai 2012
Le Printemps de Septembre 2012Narracje 4 2012Ivry 2010
FIAC Tuileries 2010 Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt 2004