PRESENTED BY THE NATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL
Curated by Storm Janse van Rensburg
Gallery in the Round, 1820 Monument, Grahamstown, South Africa, 3 – 13 July 2013
Bridget Baker’s work is situated at the intersection of documentary and myth making, forming a series of complex visual fragments realized through film making, installation and documented restagings. The artist interweaves personal histories and narratives with larger historic moments, with an interest in the blind-spots created by official narrations of the past. Her practice is infused with humour, labour and frailty.
For the exhibition a large artefact is freighted by ship from London to the Port Elizabeth harbour. Its arrival mimics its original function, that of human transporter or lift, landing passengers between settler ships and smaller boats out at sea before the development of harbours on the coast of the Indian Ocean.
As part of the installation a new film documents this “retour”. Jetty SCOUR is projected alongside the object, a strange relic from another time, whose function and purpose is not immediately evident. At the end of the exhibition, it returns to London, as it’s import conditions stipulate: “temporary admission”.
Principle Funding: National Arts Festival. Further support by the Arts & Culture Trust, Clearwater Films and Transnet.
Jetty SCOUR (2014), duration 20min, 4K format presented as HD video installation. Shot on location at Transnet Port Authority, Port Elizabeth Harbour.
Wrecking at Private Siding 661 (2010-11). Installation materials: bricks, cane woven human transporter, 38 page blueprint document, led lighitng, glass bottle, broken ceiling, fluorescent lighting, knitted weights with raw wool linings, ropes and pulleys. Size of cane woven basket 1.8 x 1.3 metres.
Excerpt from ‘Memory Work/Post-Colonial Lives’ by Clifton Crais in the reader A temporary admission:
This reproducing of a nineteenth-century journey is much more than a re-staging, […] and more than an offer to recall the ways people were literally transported to South Africa’s shores. The transporter stands for a past and for memory itself. The very idea of a transporter unfolds as the doubled work of memory. Memory, after all, is a kind of time travel. Memory transports us to the past, but one that is slightly foreign precisely in its present-ness, that sense of distance and proximity, that confusion of tenses. It feels here, but is gone. Memory, then, is a kind of frontier zone, the un-administered part of our minds, a place both of boundary crossing where pasts have not yet disappeared, and around which we make our lives.
The human transporter, a kind of aesthetic nomad, travelled halfway around the world empty, freighted alongside a plague of goods traversing the globalising world. The age of settler colonialism it represents is over, though that history persists. But I wonder if a spectral past now fills the transporter? In its ostensible emptiness, has it become a container for memory’s relics, for memory itself? Has the wicker become a weir through which time and memory flows and, somehow, gets snagged?
A temporary admission does not allow us to forget. It reopens a book that in fact was never closed. Here is a work of the haunting past, an inhabiting of a time ‘out of joint’. And perhaps also a labor of memory and mourning, the pasts that live within us even as the dead are long gone, but which inexplicably determine who we are*.
*See Crais, C. (2014) History Lessons: A Memoir of Madness, Memory, and the Brain, New York: Overlook Press.
TITLE: A temporary admission
EDITORS: Bridget Baker, Storm Janse van Rensburg
DESIGN & LAYOUT: Serge Rompza, NODE Berlin Oslo
PRINTING: Europrint, BERLIN
CONTRIBUTORS: Bridget Baker, Clifton Crais, Storm Janse van Rensburg, Linda Stupart, Andrew van der Vlies