HD video (3 Variations), 16:9, color, sound, Ed. 25 + 2AP
Price: 15000 €
Featuring Igshaan Adams, Roger Ballen, Steven Cohen, Gabrielle Goliath, Dean Hutton, Banele Khoza, Gerald Machona, Buhlebezwe Siwani, Chuma Sopotela and Sue Williamson
Who speaks in the name of whom? In 2017, Candice Breitz will represent her country of birth at the 57th Venice Biennale – South Africa, a country in which the question of who may (or may not) legitimately occupy the space of representation, is particularly fraught. Recently, debates around the extent to which white South Africans can engage, portray or stand in alliance with black South Africans, have been amplified against the backdrop of a global right-wing backlash that seeks to reverse social justice gains. Can would-be allies whose very being is defined by socio-historical privilege, avoid simply entrenching such privilege as they endeavour to align themselves with communities who have been denied this privilege? Such questions lie both at the heart of Breitz’s Love Story, and at the core of Profile, a new work that responds to Breitz’s nomination as one of two artists who will represent South Africa in Venice this year (her work will appear alongside that of compatriot Mohau Modisakeng).
In Profile, a work that was conceived and shot in Cape Town in early 2017, Breitz absents herself from visibility before the camera, instead platforming ten prominent South African artists who might equally have been nominated to represent the country. As their collective appearance usurps Breitz’s presence, the implied self-portrait gives way to a polyphonic riff, imploding the very assumptions that conventionally guarantee the genre of portraiture. “My name is Candice Breitz,” the cast of voices insists intermittently, punctuating descriptions of who those before the camera are (or might be): man or woman, white or black, working or middle class…. Veering erratically between descriptors of race, class and gender, occupation and national belonging, the verbal palate of attributes and markers delivered by the artists varies wildly in credibility. Who is here as a self and who is here as an other?
“I’m Candice Breitz, and I approve this message,” the multi-voiced litany concludes, parodying the sentence that American presidential candidates are legally obliged to use as rhetorical authentication of their campaign ads during an electoral cycle. In the context of Profile, however, the sentence subverts the proof of authenticity it is supposed to furnish. Blurring the genre of self-portraiture with the formal language of electoral politicking and self-promotional branding, Profile re-distributes the heightened attention typically garnered by an artist due to a Venice appearance, to a range of fellow artists who – much like Breitz – appear intent on consciously disrupting any fixed notion of subjectivity. Dodging objectification, the artists featured in Profile confront the placatory ‘rainbow nation’ metaphor that is too readily applied to post-apartheid South Africa, with the country’s lived reality. In so doing, they extricate the question of who may legitimately speak for their nation in Venice from the regime of representation to prompt a debate around who should be able to speak in a discussion of the many who may not actually be the subjects when they are being spoken for and about in Venice.
Profile was commissioned by the South African Pavilion on the occasion of the 57th edition of the Venice Biennale, with the support of the South African Department of Arts and Culture and Connect Channel.