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Tag "Exhibition Reviews"

Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life

International Center of Photography, New York City, 14. 9. 2012 – 6. 1. 2013


In anticipation of the publication of my review of Huis Marseille’s exhibition Apartheid & After – to be published in Camera Austria International No. 126 (June 2014) – I’m finally publishing here my review of Okwui Enwezor’s ambitious show at ICP in the fall of 2012.


Two important concepts in present-day anthropology are agency and voice, designating oppressed or marginalised people’s own views and understanding of their lives, rather than authorities speaking for them. While these concepts usually imply the written or spoken word, it is interesting to ask to what extent the mere act of being photographed is capable of giving subjects their own voice and agency. Ariella Azoulay, today’s foremost theorist of intricacies of photography in contexts of extreme political repression, wrote in The Civil Contract of Photography (2008) that people in disaster zones can make “emergency claims” by cooperating in the act of photography, thereby joining “the citizenry of photography” (where ultimately no sovereign power exists), simply by consciously staring back at the photographer. Yet much of the interpretation and reading of photographs showing people in conflict zones is guided by how these images are framed, captioned, and published—events these subjects usually have no say in.

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Re: view – Center for Historical Reenactments: After-after Tears

Museum as Hub – New Museum, New York City, 22.5. – 7.7.2013

The South African artist collective Center for Historical Reenactments (CHR) went back to being an entity they never were. After “staging” an “institutional suicide” in December 2012, they were able to hauntingly reconsider their previous two years of existence and venture into an unknown future as well. “Death” was not an end but an afterlife that quickly resulted in a reincarnation in the shape of an exhibition in New York City. “After-after Tears”, in reference to after-funeral gatherings in South Africa’s post-apartheid townships, is modelled after these events in an open sense. By going beyond the after-after, the post-event constitutes a repetition for a potential next kamikaze. Then there is the twofold meaning of the hyphenated afters: being late (in time) and as (free) adaptation from an original form, or modelling after. CHR spirals like a double helix into open pasts, while their actions and performances are like rehearsals for future historical events. Its attitude is one of re-questioning questions that, in Gabi Ngcobo’s words, “perhaps have been asked before, but we repose them to see if the current situation produces new answers, or new ways to pose [these] questions”.

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