Liminal Identities in the Global South

29 June 2021 – 29 January 2022

Liminal Identities in the Global South forms part of JCAF’s first research theme: Female Identities in the Global South. The second of three exhibitions in this theme explores hybridity and resistance in the artistic practices of seminal women artists from Latin America, alongside artists from the MENA region, the African diaspora and South Africa. The exhibition considers heterogeneous forms of expression across art, architecture and music, from the 1960s to the present.

Introduction

Liminal Identities in the Global South explores hybridity and resistance in the artistic practices of seminal women artists from Latin America, alongside artists from the MENA region, the African diaspora and South Africa. The exhibition considers heterogeneous forms of expression across art, architecture and music, from the 1960s to the present.

Given the impact of Covid-19, the pandemic body is a second curatorial thread running through the exhibition. The pandemic has placed many of us in a state of limbo or liminality, so that we are caught between a pre-Covid-19 world and one in which we imagine a better future.

The exhibition is divided into five areas: Prelude, Requiem, Movements I, II and III, each consisting of a particular colour based on the coronavirus alert levels. Moreover, each area is conceptualised according to a musical tempo, either moderate, fast or slow, denoting a time-based experience of the exhibition.

Prelude

Andante (moderate)

The exhibition begins with a Prelude, an archive that includes the concept of anthropophagia (cultural ‘cannibalism’ or assimilation) developed by Oswald de Andrade in his Manifesto Antropófago (1928), and embodied in the painting Abaporu (1928) by the painter Tarsila do Amaral. In the 1970s, architect Lina Bo Bardi developed a quintessential Brazilian architectural language derived from indigenous vernacular expression. These concepts resonate with contemporary South African society, which is engaged in asserting itself against Western postcolonial cultural domination through various decolonising movements.

Requiem

Lacrimoso (tearfully)

Covid-19 has placed many of us in a state of limbo, so that we are caught between a pre-Covid world and one in which we imagine a better future. The pandemic can be understood as an ‘event’ – a rupture in the normal run of things. As such, it changes our perception of the world around us. Within this liminal state, the exhibition reflects on previous pandemics such as the Black Death (bubonic plague, 1346–1353) and the Spanish Flu (influenza, 1918–1920).

Movement I

Allegro (lively)

The pandemic body is a second curatorial thread running through the exhibition and is alluded to in the masks that appear in the works. The ubiquity of the mask in our time is at once ominous and comforting. Masks filter the air we breathe, helping to prevent infection and possibly death, since it is through breathing that we can be infected by the virus.

Movement II

Lento (slowly)

This section of the exhibition explores the precarious nature of life, suggested by images of the female body in the landscape, rituals performed by women, and bouquets of flowers that decay over time. The passage of time, which encompasses death, ritual and trace, points in turn to liminality.

Movement III

Grazioso (gracefully) + Crescendo

During afflictions and disasters such as the coronavirus pandemic we discover our ‘radical vulnerability’ and the need for grace. In this section eternity is represented by the colour gold and by luminescence and reflection.

Artist Biographies

Jane Alexander (1959–) was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She obtained an MAFA from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1988. Select exhibitions include: Venice Biennale (1995); ‘The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa 1945–1994’ (2001); ‘Africa Remix: Contemporary Art of a Continent’ (2004); Gwangju Biennale (2014).

Lina Bo Bardi (1914–92) was born in Rome, Italy. She obtained an architecture degree from the University of Rome in 1939 and shortly thereafter moved to Brazil, where she spent most of her life. Select exhibitions include: Venice Architecture Biennale (2009); ‘Lina Bo Bardi: Habitat’, MASP Museum, São Paulo (2019); ‘Lina Bo Bardi: Together’ organised by the British Council and the Lina Bo and P.M. Bardi Foundation, exhibited in London (2012), Chicago (2015) and São Paulo (2016); ‘Lina Bo Bardi Dibuja’ at Fundación Joan Miró, Barcelona (2019).

Lygia Clark (1920–88) was born in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil. She studied with Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, and then with Isaac Dobrinsky, Fernand Léger and Árpád Szenes in Paris from 1950 to 1952. Select exhibitions include: São Paulo Biennale (1959); Venice Biennale (1960); Documenta (1997); ‘Tropicália: a Revolution in Brazilian Culture’, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2005); ‘Lygia Clark: the Abandonment of Art 1948–1988’, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014).

Kamala Ibrahim Ishag (1939–) was born in Omdurman, Sudan. She graduated from the College of Fine Arts Khartoum (1963) and the Royal College of Art, London (1966). Select exhibitions include: Whitechapel Art Gallery (1995); National Museum of Women in Art, Washington DC (1994);  ‘Women in Crystal Cubes’, Sharjah Art Foundation Art Spaces (2016).

Kapwani Kiwanga (1978–) was born in Hamilton, Canada. She studied anthropology and comparative religion at McGill University. She was the winner of the Marcel Duchamp Prize (2020) and the inaugural winner of the Frieze Artist Award (2018). She has been on group exhibitions at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, as well as the Whitechapel and Serpentine Sackler galleries in London, and held a solo exhibition at the MIT List Visual Arts Center (2019).

Ana Mendieta (1948–85) was born in Havana, Cuba. When she was twelve she and her sister were sent to live in the USA as refugees. She obtained an MFA from the University of Iowa in 1977. Select exhibitions include: ‘Ana Mendieta: A Retrospective, New Museum, New York (1987); ‘Ana Mendieta: Earth, Body, Sculpture and Performance 1972–1985’, Hirshhorn Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC (2004); ‘Ana Mendieta’, Art Institute of Chicago (2011); ‘Ana Mendieta: Covered in Time and History’, Jeu de Paume, Paris (2018).

Lygia Pape (1927–2004) was born in Nova Friburgo, Brazil. She received informal training in fine arts and studied with Faye Ostrower at the Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro. Select exhibitions include: Venice Biennale (2003); Haus der Kunst, Munich (2004); ‘Lygia Pape: Magnetized Space’, Serpentine Galleries, London (2011); ‘Lygia Pape: A Multitude of Forms’, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2017).

Berni Searle (1964–) was born in Cape Town, South Africa. She received her MFA from the University of Cape Town (1995). Select exhibitions include: ‘Approach’, Krannert Museum, Champaign, Illinois, Johannesburg Art Gallery and USF Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa, Florida (2006–7); Dak’Art (2012); Havana Biennale (2012); Venice Biennale (2001, 2005); Cairo Biennale (1998); Johannesburg Biennale (1997).

Sumayya Vally/Counterspace (2015–) is an interdisciplinary architectural studio led by Sumayya Vally. Through her design, research and pedagogical practice, Vally is committed to finding expression for hybrid identities and contested territories. Johannesburg serves as her laboratory for finding speculative histories, futures, archaeologies and design languages, and for revealing the invisible. Her work is often forensic, and draws on performance, the supernatural, the wayward and the overlooked as generative places of history and work. She is based between Johannesburg and London and is the lead designer for the Serpentine Pavilion.