Mpho Mokgadi’s first solo showing with ROOM Gallery & Projects is titled IN SITU and is currently showing until 30 July 2016.
IN SITU reflects on the contemporary state of several key architectural structures in Johannesburg’s inner city. The exhibition comprises views of some well-loved landmark structures and their stark interiors taken by Mpho Mokgadi.
The selection intentionally places emphasis on the literal absence of the figurative. Several of these buildings, like dormant vaults, carry the names of giant entities. The same entities that were directly responsible for or invested in their erection. Many were a direct result of the architectural boom that occurred at the height of the Apartheid era’s economic prosperity. Therefore built on the very backs of those it sought to exclude. One cannot ignore the troubling legacy that these structures denote.
For the artist, the personal and the political are inextricable in these images. Born in the North West and growing up in Tswane, Mokgadi identifies with the ‘outsider’ position in interacting with Johannesburg.
Describing this body of work, Mokgadi writes:
I’ve only been based in Johannesburg since 2013, when I arrived to study at the Market Photo Workshop. Photographing in the city, I didn’t really experience difficulties with access. I quickly understood that my experience might not be so different from that of the people I met and spoke to. Everyone comes to Johannesburg for all kinds of reasons. Of course, I was interested in the way people related to these buildings and to their environment. But I also feel like from afar, the city is pictured as this glamourous place. It’s only when you enter these spaces and see how many of them are locked up behind tight security, that you realise that there is a darkness and emptiness here too.
Upon dwelling on these images, the viewer may very well encounter their own personal connection to this challenging metropolis and its contested landscape.
This body of work consisting of medium-format architectural portraits was developed out of a collaborative research project. This between the young photographer and the Swiss collectives Kunstverein Zurich and Ortreport, which in turn culminated in the recently launched publication UP UP: Stories of Johannesburg Highrises (2016, HATJE CANTZ and Fourthwall Books).