Making Art in the Light and Shadow of Historical Trauma
Tamar Garb (Durning Lawrence Professor of History of art and Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London)
Abstract: My paper explores the role of selected artworks in addressing the historical trauma of ‘race’. Focussing on three works by South African artists Santu Mofokeng, Zaneli Muholi and Berni Searle, I explore the ways in which their art complicates identitarian politics by staging ‘selves’ that are formally and psychically inflected by posited ‘others’. By placing themselves in a relationship of ‘sympathy’ with strangers, these artists dislodge the sage boundaries and secure separations that legislated difference entails. They offer neither therapeutic redress nor reparation for past injury but instead provide a poetic space for working through and questioning ongoing separation and suffering.
Bio: Tamar Garb is Durning Lawrence Professor in the History of Art and Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies at University College London. Her research interests have focused on questions of gender and sexuality, the woman artist and the body in nineteenth and early twentieth century French art and she has published extensively in this field. Key books in this area include Sisters of the Brush (1994), Bodies of Modernity (1998) and The Painted Face (2007). Her interests have turned recently to post-apartheid culture and art in South Africa as well as the history of photographic and lens-based practices in Africa and she has curated a number of international exhibitions including Figures and Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography (Victoria & Albert Museum, London 2011), Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive (Walther Collection: New York, Ulm and Berlin. 2014-2015) and William Kentridge and Vivienne Koorland: A Conversation in Letters and Lines (Fruitmarket Gallery Edinburgh, 2016). She is an art critic who has written on many contemporary artists including Mona Hatoum, Nancy Spero, Marlene Dumas, Zanele Muholi, Sabelo Mlangeni and Santu Mofokeng.