Apart/ A Part
ArtB, Bellville Art Association, Bellville, Cape Town : 11 November - 3 December 2020
The five digital works which I exhibited on Apart/A Part, are images of witnessing transient life and speak of our incredible ability of finding beauty in the moment, even during profound trauma.
When completely at a loss for words, intense observation becomes a meditation. I quietly started to document medical fluid containers. I focussed on the way light transformed things into subliminal abstractions. On contemplating familiar drips and dialysis bags, three individual works, titled Reservoir I-III (2019 – 2020) cristallised. These cropped images capture life-providing tools, not as medical ovjects but as lenses becoming agents of transformation. Both metaphorically and visually, reality was altered.
The abstraction within works becomes an attempt to think through gradually unfolding meaning of our finite existence in a time of trauma. I find gravity in the questions raised by the author Yuval Harari (2018) about the relationship between new technologies and the ailing body. How do we ethically find meaning in a time when personal loss and worldwide anxiety overlaps, when a reading from a monitor dictates the medical carer's decision and our finite existence is concluded connected to plastic tubes, in absence of loved ones. In the three artworks, the word Reservoir, connects ideas of storage and of fluid being released; of containing a reserve for a time when there will be a dire need. The images contains references to measurement but the data visually dissolves through the liquid bodies and stacked cellulose acetate.
The knot that cannot be untangled (2020) developed from an end-of-life experience. Moving between the edges of known and unknown, the artist explores the folds in a hospital bed sheet, and the sense of returning to a universe of energy. This work vitalises absence in the present moment, as quiet compassion in an act of release. In this image luminous tubes curve as if they have a life of their own, free from the body, contemplating peaceful renunciation. The nature of memories is enfolded into our being - in the minute complexity of our synapses, but trauma engraves its own lexicon onto our cells, which changes our bodies (Van der Kolk 1991) into unfamiliar entities. This sublime aesthetic is both spiritual and real in its surrendering to lost connections in a dimly revealed world of an unpresentable interface between life and death. The perspective finds an eccho in Rosi Braidotti's (2019) writing of the "embrainment of the body " and "embodiment of the brain", acknowledging the entanglement of life and the systems we create.
In the work Black tears and the sea, a photograph of an unusually quiet sea on a hazy, grey day, is digitally overlaid with glass drops. The title recalls the idea of dark tears, a murky bodily fluid, as if quoting a line from a text of the theory of the abject. In the context of the landscape the drops references rain, possibly running down a window pane, evoking a sense of cold air. Motion seems frozen and like a frame from a film, it captures seconds in silence - a world coming to a total stand-still at the moment when a tragic event takes place.