On Thursday 27 November we attended the opening of Uncertain Terms, a group exhibition currently showing at Whatiftheworld Gallery in Cape Town. Showcasing the work of fourteen artists from across four continents, the show is visually rich and captivating – spanning the mediums of painting, photography, sculpture and installation. The group of artists brought together under one roof engage with changing dynamics; be it in response to formal issues of materiality within their practice, or as a reaction to broader social-political themes.
In all cases the work that makes up Uncertain Terms is a reaction to dominant hegemonic structures. Looking at artist Frowhawk Two Feathers, this reaction takes the form of directly questioning Westernized depictions of history and colonialism.
More subtle is the work of Nico Krijno, which disrupts the perceived importance of certain modes of production and the objects through which they manifest. His installations (some documented and presented as photographs, others physically present) transform ordinary objects – curtain rings, wooden planks, bits of metal piping – into something aesthetically fantastic.
Continuing this reinvention of the banal is Rodan Kane Hart, who transforms the humble and unsophisticated braai grid into a homage to hard edge modernism. Zimbabwean artist Moffat Takadiwa also adapts unlikely objects. Taking a cue from Arte Povera (poor art) he turns the remnants and waste of everyday consumer products into enchanting objects that serve as a warning against thoughtless consumption. Similarly, in the bold work of Chloë Hugo-Hamman, a “family sized” chip packet becomes a monumental, almost religious belief. Removed from the clutter of the supermarket shelf, her junk food shrine is a signifier for both class and consumption.
While symbolic representations of state, citizenship and revolution are a strong undercurrent to much of the exhibition; these are particularly evident in the works of Athi-Patra Ruga and Rowan Smith. Rowan seeks to empty symbols of their significance, stripping them of the veneer of truth.
Athi’s work, on the other hand, performs in the opposite way: by proliferating ideologies and embellishing extravagant symbols to support them. Though worlds apart in medium and approach, the works of both these artists are a reaction to South Africa’s status as a post-revolutionary state while political talk remains empty and a class disparity that continues to grow. Within this context, these ideas spill into a discourse around migration, the experience of exile and the alienation of people living in the diaspora.
Daniella Mooney continues her ongoing exploration of ritual, performance and belief with her sculpture Holy Water – A Study in Rainmaking.
In the elegant collage work of Nigerian born artist Marcia Kure, images culled from disparate print material are brought together to suggest the loss of certainties, post-colonial destabilization and the fragmentation of identities.
These themes correlate with the issues of territory, borders and belonging as explored by Zimbabwean artist Dan Halter, who symbolically re-maps “non-places” that exist purely in the memory of the displaced through physically deconstructing and re-fabricating images taken from Google maps.
Questions of authenticity and the consumption of images and ideas are another recurring theme of the exhibition. Notably, this is critiqued in Cameron Platter’s work Endless Pleasure Love Vibes Lover G, which speaks of the commodification of culture and the erosion of the authentic object until it ceases to exist and instead, becomes a one dimensional and consumable representation of itself.
The French Brazillian collective known as Assume Vivid Astro Focus create an explosive sexual kaleidoscope in their series of paintings, African Vicars Authorize Felatio – a title offering an idealist counterproposal to the wave of homophobic violence and anti-gay legislation currently plaguing countries across the African continent.
Photographers Oliver Kruger and Lakin Ogunbanwo are also presented in the exhibition; two artists who find their subjects in the urban metropolises of Johannesburg and Lagos (respectively) and use portraiture to expand on the aesthetics and tradition of African studio photography. Through his ongoing series, Golden Youth, Oliver documents new currents in Johannesburg’s youth culture.
In contrast to these portraits of stark individuality, Lakin’s figures seem to shy away from the camera – never fully revealed, they draw the viewer into a more emotionally charged and ambiguous relationship with the image.
Uncertain Terms is showing at the Whatiftheworld in Argyle Street, Cape Town until Saturday 24 January 2015. Visit the gallery website for details of current and upcoming exhibitions and more information: www.whatiftheworld.com