View video and digital film works by five contemporary artists with deep connections to Africa— Yto Barrada, Cláudia Cristóvão, Alfredo Jaar, Georgia Papageorge and Berni Searle—shown in Los Angeles for the first time. Each offers a visually seductive exploration of geology, geography, botany, memory, exile, or loss, especially as these areas of inquiry relate to a world that is simultaneously globalizing and fragmenting. In these compelling works the medium is itself a bearer of meaning. Through the moving image and its ability to create relationships between past and present, space and place, memory and absence, each artist addresses lives in transition and rifts of experience.
Continental Rifts explores time-based media—video, film, and related photography—and considers ways in which new media lend themselves to the representation of complex identity negotiations resulting from transnational movement, shifting notions of “home” and “abroad,” and deep emotional attachments and divides. The works raise the question “Whose Africa?” by considering issues of geology, geography, botany, war, memory, exile, and loss. In the process, national and continental boundaries become blurred as lived experience and remembered pasts defy such arbitrary divides.
The featured artists have deeply individual relationships to the continent. Most have multiple heritages but consider themselves to be African, some reside elsewhere but have powerful memories of the continent, some move back and forth between continents, and some are from other parts of the world but find themselves compelled to produce films about Africa.
The works in Continental Rifts are all being shown in Los Angeles for the first time and include Africa Rifting: Lines of Fire: Namibia/Brazil, 2001 by Georgia Papageorge of South Africa; Home and Away, 2003 by Berni Searle of South Africa; The Botanist, 2007 and eight photographs from the Iris tingitana series by Yto Barrada, who was born in Paris, grew up in Morocco and now lives in Tangier; Fata Morgana and Le voyage imaginaire (The Imaginary Journey), 2008 by Cláudia Cristóvão, who was born in Angola of Portuguese parents; and Muxima, 2005 by Alfredo Jaar, who was born in Chile and in recent years has worked in Rwanda and Angola. Several of these works have been exhibited in international contemporary art venues such as the Venice Biennale, Documenta, and the Dakar Biennale.
As described in a recent preview article published by the College Art Association about the exhibition, “Papageorge’s video uses the ancient splitting of Gondwanaland into Africa and South America as a metaphor for social, cultural, and political ruptures, while also offering a chance for redemption and healing. Likewise, Searle’s video places images of Spain and Morocco on opposite screens, emphasizing not only the body of water but also the physical, emotional, and legal distances between the two continents. Barrada’s work also focuses on Morocco, exploring identity, migration, and dislocation in that country through a video that emphasizes an endangered, native wildflower, and through photographs of Moroccan youths and urban development and entropy. The African-born people in Cristóvão’s videos describe their memories and projections of the continent, which they left as children. And a work by Jaar uses music, landscape, and lived realities as launching points for aesthetic meditation.” (Howard, 2008).
Chris Abani on Continental Rifts: Contemporary Time-Based Works of Africa
Panel: Whose Africa?
Continental Rifts is curated by Mary (Polly) Nooter Roberts. Major support is provided by the CAA College Art Association, FLAX Foundation (France Los Angeles Exchange) in collaboration with French Cultural Services, and the Joy and Jerry Monkarsh Family Foundation. Additional support is generously provided by the Directorate-General for the Arts/Ministry of Culture, and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
The accompanying programs are made possible through the Yvonne Lenart Public Programs Fund, the Jerome L. Joss Fund, the UCLA Department of French and Francophone Studies and Manus, the support group for the Fowler Museum. This exhibition was selected as the CAA College Art Association 2009 Annual Exhibition.