Fantastic published by Michaelis Galleries

“Magic becomes art when it has nothing to hide.”

“The magician and the politician have much in common: they both have to draw our attention away from what they are really doing.”

Ben Okri (Tales of Freedom)

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Michaelis Galleries and the Centre for Curating the Archive are proud to present Fantastic, an exhibition and an inter-disciplinary colloquium that seek to re-ignite critical thought about the fantastic in contemporary art and visual culture. Drawing inspiration from writers such as Ben Okri, this exhibition brings together video art and photographs that engage with the fantastic.

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This exhibition includes international artists such as Jelili Atiku (Nigeria), Dineo Bopape (South Africa), Kudzanai Chiurai (Zimbabwe), Andrew Esiebo (Nigeria), Milumbe Haimbe (Zambia), Aida Muluneh (Ethiopia), Terence Nance (USA), Tracey Rose (South Africa), Zina Saro-Wiwa (Nigeria) and Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum (Botswana) for whom the “image, the imagined, the imaginary… direct us to something critical and new in global cultural processes, the imagination as social practice” (Appadurai 1996). The exercise of power is related to the control of visibility/ invisibility, deception and silencing which begins, often, with the manipulation of images and of the imaginary. Works exploring the fantastic in photography and video art have been selected precisely because of the complex relations these technologies have in the construction of fantasies about ‘Africa’. This exhibition celebrates popular technologies such as video-film that have created novel ways of seeing and reading the real/ imaginary dialectic. The works show how the ‘real world’ and the ‘spiritual world’ collide but at the same time they remind us of the ideological machinations that construct these worlds.

Conflating superstition and naivety with Africans on one hand and with its proletariat and ‘traditions’ on the other, makes it hard for some to embrace the fantastic as a mode of reading or of seeing. As Birgit Meyer (2003) suggests, “colonial discourse constructed those beliefs (indigenous) as superstitions to be left behind with the gradual increase of education.” It is no wonder that anything related to magic, superstition and the fantastic in the context of Africa would be rejected.

This exhibition, curated by Nomusa Makhubu and Nkule Mabaso, invites us to see ‘the fantastic’ as a tool for engaging with distortions of our histories and as a conceptual framework for our debates about biopower and biopolitics

“Fantastic” 8 September – 9 October 2015
Curators: Nomusa Makhubu and Nkule Mabaso