18 May (19:00) – 9 July 2017
at Oliewenhuis Art Museum, 16 Harry Smith Street, Bloemfontein
Following its showing in 2016 at Boston University’s 808 Gallery in Massachusetts, USA, the expanded Remnants exhibition will be presented for the first time in South Africa at Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein.
Remnants could be viewed as the aftermath of the third phase of Emmanuel’s ongoing Lost Men project – a series of site-specific, temporary, outdoor installations engaging with loss, memory, memorialization and public grief. These unique, once-off Lost Men ‘counter-memorials’ have been installed at sites in South Africa, Mozambique and France.
In July 2014, The Lost Men France was temporarily installed adjacent to the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme in northern France. This arresting, thought-provoking installation encapsulated Emmanuel’s continuing investigation into ‘lost men’ – this time, the fallen of the battlefields of World War I. The remains (or remnants) of the silk banners comprising this counter-memorial now form part of the exhibition Remnants, presented in the Reservoir at Oliewenhuis Art Museum.
The Lost Men France (2014) was a counter-memorial installed on a farm road adjacent to the enormous Thiepval Memorial that commemorates the 72,246 missing British and South African servicemen who died in the Battles of the Somme of the World War I between 1915 and 1918, with no known grave. White South African servicemen are memorialized on Thiepval Memorial, while Black South African servicemen are not. Contrastingly, The Lost Men France counter-memorial comprised five large silk banners printed with images of the artist’s body. The images display the names of French, German, South African and Allied servicemen painfully impressed into his skin, without reference to rank, nationality or ethnicity.
Emmanuel used his own body as his canvas onto which he impressed randomly selected names of the fallen from all nations. This imprinting process left painful marks on his skin. The artist’s imprinted, naked body and inflamed skin was then photographed and the resulting images were transferred onto the fragile and ephemeral banners made from pure silk. These banners were then suspended in an installation on a specific site adjacent to the imposing brick and mortar Thiepval Memorial, to hang in a series along either side of a farm road. The banners, with the images of Emmanuel’s impressed and bruised skin, presented a counter-memorial to the traditional Thiepval Memorial that commemorates those lost in this terrible conflict often referred to as “The war to end all wars”.
These delicate silk banners were exposed to the harsh climate of northern France from July – October 2014 and were reduced to shreds by the wind and rain, leaving behind only the torn and faded remains of the original installation, resonating with the shattered relics still buried under the Somme fields of grain. Remains of the bones of servicemen who fell on this battlefield are still dug up today by farmers ploughing their fields.
For the exhibition opening on 25 May, the remnants of these banners are complemented by a series of new ethereal drawings, prints and video works by the artist.
“These ‘Remnants’ …” as Pamela Allara, researcher at the African Studies Center, Boston University, USA, states: “ … are powerful metaphors for physical and emotional suffering, a memorial to the sine qua non of war: the violation of the human body and the concomitant destruction of human decency”.
Paul Emmanuel is a renowned artist, living and working in Johannesburg. Currently he is working on The Lost Men USA and a new project titled Substance of Shadows. Remnants is presented courtesy of Boston University Art Galleries and project managed by Les Cohn of Art Source South Africa.
Walkabout: 10:00 on Friday, 19 May 2017
The visual poetry and politics of humanity is the focus of photographer Jodi Bieber. I In a country like South Africa – with its history of apartheid, ambivalent transition to democracy, and fraught position today – there is no greater opportunity to envision the effects of these three very different periods on the people that call this country home. Between Darkness and Light, Bieber’s mid-career retrospective, spans the years from 1993 to 2014. The exhibition includes photographs from pivotal projects, with works selected from both celebrated and rarely seen series.
Photographs made in the period 1993 to 2004 explore the country of her birth; later works reflect on the intangible character of identity politics; and the most recent images challenge contemporary media stereotypes. Her visual language is distinctive in its fluidity and defies the rigid delimitations of photojournalism, documentary photography, and visual art.
Bieber writes that: “Through my projects I face the harshness and the resilience of the human spirit. I’ve learnt that we all have two sides and – depending on changing circumstances – one side might overshadow the other.”
Jodi Bieber trained at the Market Photography Workshop and The Star newspaper. In addition to her national and international photojournalistic and documentary photography, she has worked on projects for non-profit organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières. Her work has been published in three artistic monographs. Bieber has received a number of the world’s leading awards. Her iconic photograph of Bibi Aisha, a young mutilated Afghan woman, featured on the cover of Time magazine in August 2010, and she was awarded the 54th annual World Press Photo of the Year Award for this image. (Bieber had previously won nine such awards.) In 2009 she was announced as winner of the Prix de le l’Union Européene at the Rencontres de Bamako Biennale Africaine de la Photographie. Her work has been shown internationally in numerous group exhibitions, and in about 20 solo exhibitions, and has been acquired by Iziko Museums, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Artur Walther Collection, Fondazione Fotografia, and the François Pinault Collection. Bieber has presented workshops in Finland, England, Nepal, Italy, Bangladesh, Chile, Spain, Turkey and Austria and has lectured and mentored photographers at the Market Photography Workshop in Johannesburg.
Between Darkness and Light will be opened by exhibition curator Brenton Maart, Head of the National Art Bank at 19:00 on Thursday, 6 April 2017, in the Main Building, Oliewenhuis Art Museum.
At 10:00 on Friday, 19 May 2017, Jodi Bieber will present an informative interactive walkabout.
For more information please contact Oliewenhuis Art Museum on 051 011 0525 (ext 200) or firstname.lastname@example.org.