Salles Jean-Hélion, Issoire. 5 July – 28 September 2008
Curated by Estienne Blécon, the exhibition profiles a projection by Gavin Younge (Curating the Waves) and installations by French artists Sagot+Becquimin (La Cellule), Sylvander, Fend and Everaert.
Curating the Waves is a meditation on African wars and the persistence of memory. Four distinct sites are evoked: the private swimming pool as a cypher of colonial space. It is here that the first ‘drowning’ takes place—the enamel mug, ubiquitous drinking vessel of Africa, is first seen floating as after a shipwreck. Beneath the friendly waters of the family pool, chlorine blue and full of old sounds of children playing, we see the drowned mugs mount up in shoals. Swimming pool voices have been replaced by the steady, but ineffectual heart beat of the pool cleaner. Disaster is imminent and no amount of cleansing will avert it.
The second site is the seabed—the cypher of colonial exploration. The enamel mugs sway lifelessly in the current. Images from the road between Cuito Cuanavale and Menongue in southern Angola, course through the capillaries and arteries of the littoral zone. This is the first break point in the sequence and serves as a prelude to the disaster to come. The bombed and strafed trucks litter the sides of the road, reminders of when South African troops invaded Angola in the 1980s.
The third site is literature—the cypher of colonial expansion. As in the image of ‘swimming pool voices’ (voices heard over a wall), these books offer only snippets of information. Together with the drowned computer, they stand for all that is lost. The enamel mugs are a metaphor for thirst in the arid landscape of South Africa—in their sunken state they realize their function to excess. In the final sequence the viewer is returned to the surface and the solitude of a Cape beach on an ordinary weekday.