South African multimedia artist, gender advocate and now 2019’s Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Visual Art, Gabrielle Goliath, brings her new work, This song is for… to Johannesburg. Following its successful run at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda, the work moves to the Standard Bank Gallery, where it will be presented as an immersive audio and visual installation.
On entering the This song is for… exhibition space, audiences are confronted by a unique collection of dedication songs – playing sequentially, and each one chosen by a survivor of rape. These are songs of personal significance to the survivors – songs that take them back to a particular time and place, evoking a sensory world of memory and feeling. As collaborators on the project, the survivors shared not only their songs, but also a colour of their choosing and a written reflection. The artist then worked in close collaboration with a group of women and gender-queer led musical ensembles to reinterpret and re-perform the songs.
Leading local musicians like Nonku Phiri, Desire Marea, Msaki, Gabi Motuba, Dope Saint Jude, BŪJIN and Jacobi de Villiers are featured – presenting new renditions of well-known songs like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘Save the Hero’, to name a few.
During the course of each song, a sonic disruption is introduced; a recurring musical rupture recalling the ‘broken record’ effect of a scratched vinyl LP. Presented in this performed disruption is an opportunity for listeners to imaginatively inhabit a contested space of traumatic recall – one in which the de-subjectifying violence of rape and its psychic afterlives become painfully entangled with personal and political claims to life, dignity, hope, faith, even joy.
Speaking to the work, Goliath reflects, ‘In a work like This song is for… I am seeking to resist the violence through which black, brown, feminine, queer and vulnerable bodies are routinely objectified, in the ways they are imaged, written about, spoken about… what I have in mind is a more empathic interaction.’
Goliath situates her practice within contexts marked by the traces, disparities and as-of-yet unreconciled traumas of colonialism and apartheid, as well as socially entrenched structures of patriarchal power and rape-culture.
This song is for… is on at the Standard Bank Gallery until 14 September 2019, and will include a live performance.
‘When language fails us, when conventional therapy fails us, art allows for a different kind of encounter, a more human encounter perhaps. One in which the differences that mark our experiences of the world become the grounds for our mutual acknowledgement and care,’ says Goliath.
As an artist, Goliath is deeply concerned with questions of violence, and the precarity of black, brown, feminine and queer bodies. She has exhibited her work across South Africa and internationally. Recent exhibitions include Kubatana – An Exhibition with Contemporary African Artists, Norway; The Future Generation Art Prize in Venice and Kiev; Conversations in Gondwana, São Paulo; the Palais de Tokyo’s Do Disturb Festival, Paris; and the Verbo Performance Art Festival in São Paulo. In addition to her Standard Bank Young Artist Award win, in 2019 was also granted a Special Award at the prestigious Future Generation Art Prize. Although based in Johannesburg, Goliath is currently a PhD candidate in Live, Interdisciplinary & Public Art at the Institute for Creative Arts (ICA), University of Cape Town (UCT). For more, visit www.gabriellegoliath.com
The Standard Bank Gallery – located on the corner of Simmonds and Frederick streets in central Johannesburg – offers free, safe undercover parking on the corner of Harrison and Frederick streets. Gallery hours: Mondays to Fridays from 08:00 to 16:30, and Saturdays from 09:00 to 13:00. Entrance to the exhibition is free.
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