Hannah Brontë, Skawennati, Esther Ige, Lisa Reihana, Salote Tawale, Leafa Wilson & Olga Krause
24 February – 31 March 2017
ST PAULS St Gallery, Auckland Central
Curated by Abby Cunnane and Charlotte Huddleston
Leafa Wilson & Olga Krause will be present in Gallery One for the inaugural performance in a new series. All welcome; please feel free to arrive at any time during the performance.
There is an element of triumph in every gesture of defiance. “But still, like air, I’ll rise” wrote Maya Angelou in 1978. Writing of resilience under oppression, she is speaking for her race and gender in an address of historical and structural oppression of Black Americans. It’s an attitude of powerful dissent that the works in this exhibition have in common. The works in ‘Still, Like Air, I’ll Rise’ have no patience for generalising rhetoric around ‘making change’. Rather each attends to its specific social-political context, and the gestures are direct.
Representation is reclaimed in these works. Salote Tawale’s videos Sometimes you make me nervous (2012) and Pocari Sweat (2014) draw on essentialising stereotypes, reproducing them as self-portraits in direct confrontation with colonist representations. Her body is at the centre of both works, while they also exist in solidarity with numerous others whose self-representation has been taken out of their control.
Unprotected #1: This ain’t no disco (2016), by Leafa Wilson & Olga Krause,is the first in a series of built and inhabited structures that establish protection from the conventions Western art, holding ground in the gallery. Wilson & Krause’s work often takes place in institutional spaces, and in this sense is directly responsive to the structural inequities that often exist there, and to the need as artists and curators to find habitable positions ‘within’ such institutional systems. Reference to intellectual battle fatigue and grief is implicit and constant in the breadth of their work; they write, “Tired of everything. Tired of the white cube culture wars, tired of fighting for causes, tired of art.”6 The work’s title refers to Talking Heads’ lyrics, from Life During Wartime (1979) “this aint’ no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around. No time for dancing, or lovey dovey, I ain’t got time for that now.” As the artist asserts, “[We] are one person but the performative use of legal and married names extends this resistance: the black body of Leafa Wilson colonises the German name Olga Krause, always claiming her piece of ‘white space’.”7
Read the full text for ‘Still, Like Air, I’ll Rise’ here.
‘Still, Like Air, I’ll Rise’ is presented in association with Auckland Arts Festival 2017.
This exhibition opens alongside of Yuki Kihara: Der Papālagi (The White Man) in ST PAUL St Gallery Three.
Image: Leafa Wilson & Olga Krause, This ain’t no disco, 2016.
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