Sunday, 23 May 2010

Distance, Diaspora and Aesthetics in Africa and Caribbean Art - Sydney Biennial - THE BEAUTY OF DISTANCE: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age

Distance, Diaspora, Aesthetics in Africa and Caribbean Art
43/51 Cowper Wharf Rd
NSW 2011

13th May 2010

“Distance, Diaspora and Aesthetics in Africa and Caribbean Art” organized in collaboration with puma.creative.

ICF is a Public Program Partner of the 17th Biennale of Sydney, Opening Week Forum. Framed within a lens that acknowledges and consults the field of Comparative Aesthetics, the Forum will bring together a cross-disciplinary community of practitioners and theorists to critically consider within panel discussions, roundtable events and presentations the external forces and hierarchies that affect and structure our perceptions of art.

As part of the programming for the Biennale, a puma.creative sponsored forum on Afro-Caribbean contemporary art and culture took place on Thursday May 13th at Artspace in Woolloomooloo. In keeping with the overall theme of this years Biennale, the panel discussion entitled “Distance, Diaspora and Aesthetics in African and Caribbean Art”, will focused on art and curatorship in and around these regions. Notable artists including Roger Ballen, Conrad Botes, Joy Gregory, Amal Kenawy, Nandipha Mntambo, Penny Siopis and Barthélémy Toguo, will engaged in the panel discussion and examined issues under this context including diapora, displacement, poverty and cultural production. Panel speakers were comprised of leading critical thinkers in this field including David A. Bailey MBE, David Elliott (Artistic Director, 17th Biennale of Sydney), Leah Gordon, Colin Richards, Teka Selman and Allison Thompson.

David A. Bailey MBE is the founding Director of the International Curators Forum and Acting Director of the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. Bailey has established an international reputation, commitment and investment in a variety of issues on the themes of history, race and representation over the past twenty years. Past exhibitions and projects include: The Critical Decade: Black British Photography, MIRAGE: Enigmas, On Race, Difference & Desire, Rhapsodies In Black: Art From the Harlem Renaissance, Back To Black, Shades Of Black, Veil, Remember Saro-Wiwa: The Living Memorial, Black Moving Cube, and in development The Red Shoes.

Roger Ballen is an artist who lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa. Since the late 1990s Ballen has been working at intensifying this core of his practice. For instance, his often curiously unique subjects now perform with and for him to create images that are in all ways true theatrical partnerships. He has also worked on the environments themselves, responding to drawings on the wall and clusters of objects that become antic sculptural formations as we find an unfathomable blurring of fact and fiction.

Conrad Botes is an artist who lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa. "With the comics, we're dealing very specifically with a South African audience who know what we're referring to. Originally we wrote them in Afrikaans, so many of the references are to things in Afrikaans culture. The paintings I make are much more personal. I can explain them if I have to - but I'd much rather not. It is difficult to explain something that you are meant to feel. People can formulate their own ideas about the work, the viewers reaction is more important than my own explanation".

Joy Gregory, is an artist who lives and works in London, UK. As a photographer she makes full use of the media from video, digital and analogue photography to Victorian print processes. In 2002, Gregory received the NESTA Fellowship, which enabled her time to research for a major piece around language endangerment. She has exhibited all over the world and shown in many biennales and festivals and is also the recipient of numerous awards. Her work included in many collections including the UK Arts Council Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia, and Yale British Art Collection

Isaac Julien, is an artist who lives and works in London, UK. Isaac Julien was visiting lecturer at Harvard University's Schools of Afro-American and Visual Environmental Studies and is currently a visiting professor at the Whitney Museum of American Arts. He was also a research fellow at Goldsmiths College, University of London and is a Trustee of the Serpentine Gallery. Julien was the recipient of both the prestigious MIT Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts (2001) and the Frameline Lifetime Achievement Award (2002). Most recently, he has had solo shows at the Pompidou Centre in Paris (2005), MoCA Miami (2005) and the Kerstner Gesellschaft, Hanover (2006). Julien is represented in the Tate Modern, Centre Pompidou, Guggenheim and Hirshhorn Collections.

Amal Kenawy, is an artist who lives and works in Cairo, Egypt. She has taken part in several group exhibitions, including “Africa Remix - Contemporary Art of a Continent” (2004-2007), “Home Works: Forum on Cultural Practices” (2004 and 2005), and “Some Stories” (2005). She has also participated in a number of international theatre festivals, which include La Rose des Vent in Lillie, France (2004) and the Kunsten Festival des Arts in Brussels, Belgium (2004) as well as a variety of international film festivals like FIPA in Paris (2007).

Nandipha Mntambo, Artist Lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa.'The ambiguous space that exists within this (my "present/absence") is really intriguing me... I also enjoy the thought that anyone can occupy that space - viewers of my work can "step into" the shapes that are left empty and occupy the space I once did.'-'Just realising that there's more than just African connotations to the material [of cowhide] allows me the freedom to continue. Experiencing my work in different context, helped me with how I'd like my work to be read. Where I'm functioning from there's a very specific perception about the work. But I have learnt to channel these perceptions more and more.'

Penelope Siopis
is an artist who lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is professor at the University of the Witwatersrand; Was the winner of the Volkskas Atelier prize to live and work at the Cite Internationale des Arts, Paris, France in 1986.; In 2005 Penny was made the subject of a monograph published by the Goodman Gallery.

Barthélémy Toguo, is an artist who lives and works in Paris, France; New York, USA and Bandjoun, Cameroon. In an era of global exchange, Barthélémy Toguo’s work reveals the absurdity of borders, whether psychological, familial, or territorial. He uses drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, performance, and video to reflect upon the places and people he encounters through his numerous travels. He is always both the subject and the narrator of these works, and considers them to be an interactive platform for information and communication.

Allison Thompson is currently director of the Division of Visual and Performing Art, and coordinator for the Bachelor of Fine Arts Programme in Studio Art at the Barbados Community College where she has been teaching art history and critical theory since 1986. Thompson has written numerous articles and catalogue essays on Caribbean art and is the co-author, along with Alissandra Cummins and Nick Whittle, of the book, Art in Barbados: What kind of mirror image. Current research projects include contributions to books on Agostino Brunias, Popular Art in the Caribbean, and the work of Barbadian artist Ras Ishi Butcher.

Teka Selman is Exhibition and Program Coordinator, DocXArts at Duke University, an interdisciplinary MFA program incorporating film, video, documentary and experimental artistic practices. She was previously Partner at Branch Gallery, an art space that received national attention for its focus on the work of emerging artists. Prior to relocating to Durham, North Carolina, she was Director at Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York City. Her writing on artists such as Mark Bradford, Coco Fusco and Kara Walker has been featured in publications including The Black Moving Cube (The Green Box Kunstedition, 2006), Freestyle (Studio Museum in Harlem, 2001), and OneWorld Magazine. She is a 2010 Fellow of the International Curators Forum.

Leah Gordon works as a photographer, filmmaker and curator. She visited Haiti for the first time in 1991, and continues to have a personal and professional relationship with the country. In 2006 she commissioned the Grand Rue Sculptors from Haiti to make 'Freedom Sculpture', a permanent exhibit for the International Museum of Slavery in Liverpool. Continuing her relationship with the Grand Rue artists, Gordon organized and co-curated the Ghetto Biennale in December 2009. She has also been involved in a range of projects as both creator and curator, including documenting experiences of homophobia in London, crossing-dressing in Vodou, links between the Slave Trade and the Thames and exhibitions of Haitian art. Her book 'Kanaval: Vodou, Politics and Revolution on the Streets of Haiti' will be published in June 2010.