Mikhael Subotzky / WYE / 2017

About

Goodman Gallery Johannesburg

2 March – 1 April 2017

In WYE, an immersive three-screen film installation, Mikhael Subotzky treads the tumultuous terrain of the “white male psyche”.

When three fictional protagonists travel between England, South Africa and Australia, their projections onto these landscapes mirror colonial mindsets in the historicised past, the vexed present, and an imagined post-corporeal future.

According to Subotzky: “The white South African man carries the mark of the colonial explorer whose ‘superior’ relationship to ‘foreign’ lands sticks stubbornly to their projected and internalised positioning in the contemporary body politic.”

An unsettling and beautiful piece, WYE tackles white guilt with demanding complexity. While, on one screen, we inhabit the intrinsically arrogant mindset of a 19th-century British settler on his arrival to the Eastern Cape, on another we follow a 21st-century South African man who walks a Port Elizabeth beach seeking a ‘blank canvas’ free of crime and ‘politics’ before emigrating to Australia. on the third screen we enter the white male body itself, which has become ‘colonised’ in the name of a futuristic form of psycho-anthropology.

According to curator and writer Nina Miall: “At the heart of WYE is an artist attempting to convey the evolving political nuances of his own position in relation to his subject, and […] to ‘scratch at the surface’ of the vexed terrain of post-apartheid South Africa, to mine its […] historical scars, contemporary anxieties and future disaffinities.”

The title WYE alludes to the 19th-century Romantic idealisation of the River Wye – the spiritual home of the English picturesque at a time when European imperialists swept inland in Australia and Southern Africa. The title also invokes the ‘wye’ structure of the letter ‘Y’, which is used in engineering and railroad parlance (two of the building blocks of the British colonial project), and a shape that echoes the triangular narrative structure of the three interconnected films.

This exhibition marks _WYE_’s debut in South Africa, after it was commissioned and exhibited by the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (Sydney) in 2016. WYE was produced by Laurence Hamburger (goodcop) and filmed by the legendary German cinematographer Jörg Schmidt-Reitwein (Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre and Woyzeck).

As an artist working mainly in film and photography, as well as collage and drawing, Subotzky engages critically with contemporary politics of mis/representation. For this show, he flips the lens inwards to channel the colonial perspective, collapsing it from within rather than criticising it from the objective distance that often characterises historical documentary forms.

Further works exhibited contextualise WYE within the artist’s broader practice include his colloquially named Sticky Tape Transfers, which peel apart depictions of past and present South Africa to interrupt the surface of images and complicate their function.

“At the heart of my work is a fixation with revealing the gap between what is presented (and idealised) and what is hidden, coupled with a desire to pull apart and reassemble the schizophrenia of contemporary existence,” says Subotzky.

Mikhael Subotzky’s work was included in the Liverpool (2012) and Lubumbashi (2013) Biennials, and Pixel Interface, a multi-component video installation, was included in All The World’s Futures, curated by Okwui Enwezor at the 56th Venice Biennale.

Subotzky’s work is exhibited and collected widely in South Africa and abroad. A large installation of his work was recently acquired by the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris) and he is represented in public collections worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Collection (New York), The National Gallery of Art (Washington), the Tate collection (London), The South African National Gallery (Cape Town) and the Johannesburg Art Gallery.

Recent awards include the Deutsche Borse Photography Prize (with Patrick Waterhouse, 2015) as well as the Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Art award (2012) and the Discovery Award at Rencontres de la Photographie Arles (2011).

Subotzky was born in 1981 in Cape Town, South Africa, and is currently based in Johannesburg.

  • Sticky-tape Transfer 19 - #feesmustfall (or Protecting the Architecture of Reason)

    Mikhael Subotzky

    Sticky-tape Transfer 19 - #feesmustfall (or Protecting the Architecture of Reason), 2016

    Spray paint, pigment inks and J-lar on cotton pa...

  • Sticky-tape Transfer 23 - Like Ostriches from the Other Side

    Mikhael Subotzky

    Sticky-tape Transfer 23 - Like Ostriches from the Other Side, 2016

    Pigment inks, fineliner, Micropore dressing tape and J-Lar tape on cot...

  • Sticky-tape Transfer 24 - Troglodyte (Immortal)

    Mikhael Subotzky

    Sticky-tape Transfer 24 - Troglodyte (Immortal), 2016

    Acrylic, pigment inks, fineliner and J-Lar tape on cotton paper

    85 x 112 cm ...

  • Sticky-tape Transfer 25 - The Fault, Black Man...

    Mikhael Subotzky

    Sticky-tape Transfer 25 - The Fault, Black Man..., 2016

    Pigment inks, Micropore dressing tape and J-Lar tape on cotton paper

    69 x ...

  • Sticky-tape Transfer 26 - Lethbridge, Hermanus and Feio (with Hare)

    Mikhael Subotzky

    Sticky-tape Transfer 26 - Lethbridge, Hermanus and Feio (with Hare), 2016

    Pigment inks and J-Lar tape on cotton paper

    59 x 50 cm <...

  • Sticky-tape Transfer 27 - Anger (or No Public Thoroughfare after a gas explosion at the Port Elizabeth train station)

    Mikhael Subotzky

    Sticky-tape Transfer 27 - Anger (or No Public Thoroughfare after a gas explosion at the Port Elizabeth train station), 2016

    Pigment inks ...

  • WYE Study 10

    Mikhael Subotzky

    WYE Study 10, 2016

    Graphite and J-Lar tape on paper

    20,6 x 14 cm

  • WYE Study 11

    Mikhael Subotzky

    WYE Study 11, 2016

    Pen and J-Lar tape on paper

    20,6 x 14 cm

  • WYE Study 7

    Mikhael Subotzky

    WYE Study 7, 2016

    Graphite and J-Lar tape on paper

    20,6 x 14,1 cm

  • WYE Study 8

    Mikhael Subotzky

    WYE Study 8, 2016

    Pen and J-Lar tape on paper

    20,6 x 13,8 cm

  • Sticky-tape Transfer 18 - Halcyon Days (or a Boeing 747, pride of the South African Airways)

    Mikhael Subotzky

    Sticky-tape Transfer 18 - Halcyon Days (or a Boeing 747, pride of the South African Airways), 2017

    Pigment inks, fineliner and J-Lar tape...

  • Sticky-tape Transfer 20 - R. Wye (or The British Isles - political)

    Mikhael Subotzky

    Sticky-tape Transfer 20 - R. Wye (or The British Isles - political), 2017

    Pigment inks, correction tape and J-Lar tape on cotton paper

  • Sticky-tape Transfer 21 - Unexplored (or Australia)

    Mikhael Subotzky

    Sticky-tape Transfer 21 - Unexplored (or Australia), 2017

    Pigment inks, correction tape and J-Lar tape on cotton paper

    170 x 176 c...

  • Sticky-tape Transfer 22 - South (or Africa-Political and Sea Routes)

    Mikhael Subotzky

    Sticky-tape Transfer 22 - South (or Africa-Political and Sea Routes), 2017

    Pigment inks, correction tape and J-Lar tape on cotton paper

  • WYE, Film Still 1

    Mikhael Subotzky

    WYE, Film Still 1 , 2016

    inkjet print on cotton rag paper

    Image size 22,5 x 30 cm, Paper Size 34,5 x 40cm

    Edition of 5

    ...
  • Sticky-tape Transfer 28 - The Diviners (or Pretending My Rock is a Camera So That I Can Be Like Uncle Gid)

    Mikhael Subotzky

    Sticky-tape Transfer 28 - The Diviners (or Pretending My Rock is a Camera So That I Can Be Like Uncle Gid), 2017

    Pigment inks and J-Lar t...

  • Sticky-tape Transfer 29 - Zeno's WYE

    Mikhael Subotzky

    Sticky-tape Transfer 29 - Zeno's WYE, 2017

    Pigment inks and J-Lar tape on cotton paper

    240 x 174 cm

  • Sticky-tape Transfer 34 - Lethbridge

    Mikhael Subotzky

    Sticky-tape Transfer 34 - Lethbridge, 2017

    Pigment inks and J-Lar tape on cotton paper

    74 x 88 cm

  • Sticky-tape Transfer 35 - Hermanus

    Mikhael Subotzky

    Sticky-tape Transfer 35 - Hermanus, 2017

    Pigment inks and J-Lar tape on cotton paper

    76 x 94 cm

  • Sticky-tape Transfer 36 - Hare

    Mikhael Subotzky

    Sticky-tape Transfer 36 - Hare, 2017

    Pigment inks and J-Lar tape on cotton paper

    70 x 86 cm

  • Sticky-tape Transfer 37 - Feio (or looking at Blue)

    Mikhael Subotzky

    Sticky-tape Transfer 37 - Feio (or looking at Blue), 2017

    Pigment inks and J-Lar tape on cotton paper

    60 x 57 cm

  • Sticky-tape Transfer 31 - Port Elizabeth Beach 1820 or 1970 (After Baines or Photographer Unknown)

    Mikhael Subotzky

    Sticky-tape Transfer 31 - Port Elizabeth Beach 1820 or 1970 (After Baines or Photographer Unknown), 2017

    Pigment inks and J-Lar tape on c...

  • Sticky-tape Transfer 30, One and Three Hares

    Mikhael Subotzky

    Sticky-tape Transfer 30, One and Three Hares, 2016

    Pigment inks, oil stick and J-Lar tape on cotton paper

    270 x 270 cm

  • WYE Study 18

    Mikhael Subotzky

    WYE Study 18, 2016

    Pigment inks and J-Lar tape on cotton paper

    23,5 x 17,7 cm

  • WYE Study 19

    Mikhael Subotzky

    WYE Study 19, 2016

    Pigment inks and J-Lar tape on cotton paper

    33,5 x 25,5 cm

  • WYE Study 20

    Mikhael Subotzky

    WYE Study 20, 2016

    Pigment inks and J-Lar tape on cotton paper

    28,5 x 35,4 cm

  • WYE Study 21

    Mikhael Subotzky

    WYE Study 21, 2016

    Pigment inks and J-Lar tape on cotton paper

    25,5 x 37,6 cm

  • WYE Study 17

    Mikhael Subotzky

    WYE Study 17, 2016

    Pen and J-Lar tape on paper

    14,2 x 20,6 cm

  • WYE

    Mikhael Subotzky

    WYE, 2016

    Three-channel video installation

    48 minutes 30 seconds

    Edition of 5

  • Installation picture [Mikhael Subotzky / WYE / 2017]
  • Installation picture [Mikhael Subotzky / WYE / 2017]
  • Installation picture [Mikhael Subotzky / WYE / 2017]
  • Installation picture [Mikhael Subotzky / WYE / 2017]
  • Installation picture [Mikhael Subotzky / WYE / 2017]
  • Installation picture [Mikhael Subotzky / WYE / 2017]
  • Installation picture [Mikhael Subotzky / WYE / 2017]
  • Installation picture [Mikhael Subotzky / WYE / 2017]
  • Installation picture [Mikhael Subotzky / WYE / 2017]
  • Installation picture [Mikhael Subotzky / WYE / 2017]