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FNB JoburgArtFair Featured Artist: Candice Breitz | A strong work of art asks the right questions

The featured artist for this year’s FNB JoburgArtFair perfectly embodies the film and performance focus of this year’s Fair. Over a career that spans almost two decades, Candice Breitz has used film and elements of performance as a means of engaging with dominant discourse and notions of identity in a global context. Using mass media as material, Candice imbues the banal with intricate and nuanced sub narrative that reflect on our behaviours, attitudes and values.

At the FNB JoburgArtFair Candice will be presenting two works, one of which is Him and Her, a two-part seven-channel video installation. Each installation comprises a stage of virtual encounters of an individual with a crowd of his or her other selves. In Him + Her, Breitz uses existing footage from Hollywood films to compose dense psychological vignettes. Within the imaginary space of Her (1978-2008), 28 Meryl Streeps, extracted from films made by the actress over a period of 30 years, meet to discuss their needs, fears and desires. In Him (1968 – 2008), 23 Jack Nicholsons, derived from films made over four decades, congregate to exchange dialogue that swings in tone from jocularity to paranoia within the space of seconds. Across the displays, numerous manifestations of the same actor (either Nicholson or Streep) jostle with each other for prominence, collectively suggesting, in their sameness and difference, strong metaphors for the schizophrenic internal dialogue that takes place within the mind of a single individual.


Please tell us about the work you’ll be showing at the Johannesburg ArtFair and how it relates to your wider practice? 

I’ll be showing a pair of seven-channel video installations titled Him + Her, and another project titled Portrait of an Artist. Both projects grew out of my interest in portraiture and a desire to reflect on what kinds of portraiture might be adequate to representing individuals in their relationship to the broader communities that shape them at this point in time.

What does it mean to you to be the featured artist at this year’s fair?

It’s always a pleasure to have the chance to bring my work back to Johannesburg. I am grateful for the opportunity and the generous support.

How has your work changed since you first started out? How have you grown as an artist? 

Every artist develops an interest in a particular set of questions, some of which one can easily define, while others remain intuitive. But artists are never the best analysts of their own work! I think your question is one that is best left to those who experience my work to answer.

Do you feel that artists have a responsibility to make work that ‘says something’?

There’s no such thing as a work of art that ‘says nothing.’ Every work of art ‘says something.’ The question is whether that something is compelling and relevant to the audience that one wishes to address as an artist.

Him 1968 - 2008

Him 1968 – 2008

What do you believe your work’s purpose is? 

My work looks closely at social experiences and modes of being that might at first seem banal, with the hope that by inviting people to look in new ways at these experiences that are broadly familiar, might produce new forms of literacy, new forms of understanding of those experiences and of the way in which we are positioned in those experiences.

Please tell us a little about your interest in popular and iconic media and how you incorporate this in your work.

Our relationship to popular culture is primarily one of consumerism, but the question is whether we consume popular culture or allow ourselves to be consumed by it. Popular culture seems to offer us opportunities for self-invention: this is what makes it so seductive. The problem, of course, is that the kinds of selves that it encourages us to invent are usually passive and predetermined, which means that rather than truly being offered a moment of self-invention, we are invited to shape our selves in moulds which have already been poured. I’m interested in the extent to which it might be possible to actively decode mainstream culture so as to access and better understand the vast reservoir of values and conventions that it transmits and perpetuates.

The everyday also features in your work and becomes spectacular on your screen. Can you tell us a bit about this too?

There is no greater theatre than the everyday. There is no greater education than the everyday. My practice exists at the point of intersection between the former and the latter. I’m interested both in the way that we create meaning as we perform our daily lives and in what we may be able to learn about ourselves and others by simply granting significance to the complex set of lived experiences that make up the everyday.

What appeals to you about creating video works and installations?

The potential to tap into and consider the unconscious of the universe of moving images, a universe that is increasingly becoming the primary backdrop against which we define ourselves as subjects.

How do your own experiences and personal history influence your art?

All the time, constantly, unpredictably, unavoidably, without a doubt.

What do you hope viewers take away from your art?

No viewer is the same as any other, and I am neither able to—nor have any desire to—control or predetermine what a particular work might come to mean for a particular viewer. I think that a strong work of art asks the right questions rather than insisting on being able to provide answers. There is a beauty in allowing the viewer to draw his or her own conclusions.

Candice Breitz - Her 1978 - 2008

Her 1978 – 2008

Images courtesy of Goodman Gallery 

Watch Him & Her at the FNB JoburgArtFair from 11 – 13 September at the Sandton Convention Centre.

Opening Times:

Friday 11 September from 11am – 8pm
Saturday 12 September from 10am – 6pm
Sunday 13 September from 10am – 5pm


R500 for Thursday night’s Opening Preview Party
R100 on Friday
R130 on Saturday / Sunday
R260 for a Weekend Pass

Buy tickets online or at the door.

Between 10 and 5