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Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture
William Kentridge

Atrium and Galleries 2-7

Opening August 24th 2019

Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture, will be on view at Norval Foundation and will present three-dimensional work of William Kentridge from the past 19 years. This will be the first exhibition internationally to address Kentridge’s output as a sculptor. Covering several bodies of work, and testifying to his longstanding and spontaneous improvisation when handling three-dimensional form, Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture sees the origins of these works in props from his operas and images from his animations stepping off the stage and out of the screen, confronting us directly at ground level. Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture will also premiere new works commissioned for the occasion of this special exhibition.

The show will be the largest Kentridge exhibition held in Africa in over a decade. The exhibition at Norval Foundation will be accompanied by a concurrent exhibition at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA), entitled: “Why Should I Hesitate? Putting Drawings to Work”.

OPENING EVENTS 

A series of member events and public programmes will be held across both venues over the opening weekend, Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 August 2019

 

Exhibition Curators:   Karel Nel, Owen Martin

Curatorial and Public Programme Coordinator: Vicky Lekone

Curatorial and Collections Assistant: Talia Naicker

Technical Assistant: Mervyn van Rooyen

Marketing and Communications Coordinator: Luke de Kock

Graphic Designer: Daniel Rautenbach

 

in Pursuit of Venus [infected]

Gallery 1

Opening August 3rd 2019

This exhibition features the immersive video artwork in Pursuit of Venus [infected] (2015-17) by Lisa Reihana (born Aotearoa New Zealand, 1964). Integrating hand-painted landscape with live action figures and a densely layered soundtrack, in Pursuit of Venus [infected] invites viewers to observe a series of restaged historical events, both real and imagined, of the first contact between British and Pacific peoples. Rather than replicating a European perspective, which dominates the majority of accounts of this moment, Reihana integrates Māori forms of knowledge and social practices into how the work is structured, offering a sophisticated counternarrative. Simultaneously, in Pursuit of Venus [infected] draws upon traditions of popular culture and theatre, including the moving panorama, a type of rotating panoramic history painting that was popular in the 1800s, and pantomime, a form of musical comedy.

 At 17 metres wide and 64 minutes in length, this is the Auckland-based Māori First Nation artist’s most ambitious project to date, and involved a decade of research, filming, production and post-production. This is reinforced with the use of cutting-edge digital technologies, including the work being shot in 15k resolution, to form an immersive multimedia experience for the viewer, placing Reihana’s practice within a lineage of video and installation-based artists such as Nam June Paik, Isaac Julien and Pipolotti Rist.

 A key reference for in Pursuit of Venus [infected] is a decorative wallpaper titled ‘Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique’ (1804-06), designed by French artist Jean-Gabriel Charvet and produced by Joseph Dufour et Cie, a French company that specialised in luxury wallpapers and textiles in the late 1700s and 1800s. Popular among affluent Europeans and Americans at the time, the wallpaper, formed of twenty separate sheets or ‘drops’, ostensibly depicts the different peoples that British explorer and cartographer Captain James Cook encountered on his three journeys across the Pacific from 1768 until his death in 1779.

 Behind the figures is an Arcadian landscape, amalgamations of Hawai’i, Tahiti, Aotearoa New Zealand and other locations in the vast Pacific region. This imaginary space is more reflective of how the British viewed the peoples they encountered, and therefore the British, rather than the peoples and cultures themselves. Indeed, when Reihana first encountered ‘Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique’ at the National Gallery of Australia (Sydney), she was struck by how the representations of Māori peoples in this work were removed from her own experience as a Māori person. In response she created a ‘counter archive’, as scholar Nikos Papastergiadis has characterised it, presenting a complex series of encounters and a nuanced understanding of Māori peoples.

 Cook’s three voyages to the Pacific, as historical events, also feature directly in Reihana’s work. In particular, the title refers to both the transit of Venus that Cook observed in 1769 in Tahiti, and the beginning of the British colonial project in the Pacific. The observation of this remarkable astronomical event was a milestone in astronomy, facilitating an accurate calculation of the Earth’s distance not only to the planet Venus, but also Earth’s distance to the sun. In a sequence of in Pursuit of Venus [infected], a British astronomer, presumably Cook, discusses the use of a telescope with a group of Māoris, and later on a telescope is again visible in the background. Yet, however remarkable this scientific achievement was, advancing our understanding of Earth’s place within the solar system, the arrival of the British in the Pacific marked the beginning of a devastating period of European colonialisation, the consequences of which are still being dealt with.

Exhibition Curator: Owen Martin

Curatorial and Public Programme Coordinator: Vicky Lekone

Curatorial and Collections Assistant: Talia Naicker

Technical Assistant: Mervyn van Rooyen

Marketing and Communications Coordinator: Luke de Kock

Graphic Designer: Daniel Rautenbach