Developed as part of FORMAT International Photography Festival 2015, Residual: Traces of the Black Body looks at the process of imaging the black presence in relation to memory and erasure. ‘Residual’ refers to the idea of what remains after the main visual or tangible part of something has been removed or has disappeared. The focus of this exhibition lies more precisely on traces and stories around the black body through the multidisciplinary approaches of a cross-generational and cross-cultural group of five international visual artists and photographers. Bringing together Larry Achiampong (UK), Cristiano Berti (Italy), George Hallett (South Africa), Zanele Muholi (South Africa), and Ingrid Pollard (UK), the project examines how each of those artists apprehends black corporeality, in such manner that both its materiality and embodied narratives are either visually or conceptually concealed, codified and complexified.
The works selected include Self Evident (1995) by Ingrid Pollard, a series of light boxes presenting colourful and picturesque full-length portraits taken in British landscapes, with each person holding a symbolic item that often evokes Britain’s colonial history. Larry Achiampong’s Glyth series (2013) consists of family photographs reworked with the faces being replaced by black circles with sharp red lips. Through the “mask”, the hidden and performed identities transpose on a personal photographic archive a symbol schematising the racial experience of figures perceived as alien. Zanele Muholi’s photographs She’ll, Umthombo and Dis-ease (2012) show a different aspect to her upfront visual activism. Trading her portraits and intimate scenes of the black South African LGBTI community, this series uses metaphors to depict the physiological patterns and aftermath of hate crimes committed against black lesbians. Each organic element evokes female and male private parts, and diseased cells.
Cristiano Berti challenges the voyeurism and spectacle that often characterise Western gaze on the black female body. His sound piece Happy (2004) invites the audience to an imaginary mapping of a body which scars are related in Edo, a Nigerian language. Likewise Iye Omoge (2005), an installation consisting of site photographs, polypropylene maps and sound, articulates a compelling relationship between location and morphology in a context of migration and marginalisation.
Finally the pictures taken by George Hallett in District Six and Bo-Kaap, Cape Town, in the late 1960s, mark the first traces of textual inscriptions in his work. These rare photographic inscriptions are tags mapping gang territories. They also contribute to convey the physicality of places that have been erased by the Apartheid regime. They are visual remnants of a lifestyle, culture and coding related to a marginalised existence then imposed on black bodies.
Curated by Christine Eyene, Residual: Traces of the Black Body responds to the theme of FORMAT FESTIVAL 2015: Evidence, and aims to take on a dialectical approach to the notion of photographic evidence through engaging with the dual positioning of discourse and counter-discourse in the field of black visual representation.
Alongside the exhibition is planned a public programme consisting of an artists and curator’s talk and a photography workshop.
Residual: Traces of the Black Body
13 March – 17 April 2015
This exhibition is organised in collaboration with Making Histories Visible, an interdisciplinary visual art research project based in the Centre for Contemporary Art (School of Art, Design and Performance) at the University of Central Lancashire.
FORMAT International Photography Festival is UK’s most significant biennale of photography. Curated around the theme of EVIDENCE, the seventh edition of FORMAT takes place between 13 March and 12 April 2015.