Minnette Vári

 

Media Work

 

Curated by John Peffer

 

Introduction

Video clips

Work images

Texts

Essay: Mistaken Media

Minnette Vári biography

Media Work - Exhibition

Exhibition info

Contact details

 

Minnette Vári is a South African artist whose work since 1998 has involved an innovative use of digital video techniques, to map images of her own body into scenes from mainstream media sources. This exhibition presented two video installations by Vári shown during consecutive weeks: Alien (1998) and Oracle (1999). We chose the title Media Work to describe what is held in common by these two video pieces: They use the news media as the plastic material for the construction of art.


Vári's video works are critical of the relationship between the (female) body and the continuous stream of media images which surround and flood it in the contemporary world. By moving beyond straightforward ideas of identity, and the possibility of it being directly represented in art and visual culture, Vári's concerns are at once more poetic, and more monumental. In Alien (1998) she refashions televised images of South Africa as "foreign" to her. She attempts, awkwardly, to reinsert herself into the spectacularized and repetitive form media has made of everyday events surrounding South Africa's transition to democracy. In Oracle (1999), she recasts herself as Goya's Saturn Devouring his Children - by voraciously cramming all the conflicting and mediated histories of present-day Africa into her mouth, swallowing and gagging on them. For Vári the figure becomes a model for postcolonial identity, craving to assimilate every fragment of contradictory information into one hybrid body.


We have attempted to give a context to this media work via artist statements and essay. But ultimately the context for these pieces is a somewhat familiar one, at least on the surface, for the American viewer. The images are familiar because they are to a great extent those images gathered abroad and then re-disseminated by our own Western media conglomerates. What the artist does with this plastic stuff makes it another matter.


The exhibition, catalogue, and accompanying events were made possible through a grant from the Dorius/Spofford Fund for the Study of Civil Liberties and Freedom of Expression, and via financial and organizational support from the Kahn Liberal Arts Institute, Smith College. I would like to personally thank Rene Heavlow, Cyndee Button, Marjorie Senechal, John Davis, Becky Davis, Gary Niswonger, Gretchen Schneider, and Laurie Fenlason for their patience and dedication. Thanks to the Art Department for allowing us to exhibit in the Jannotta Gallery. My gratitude goes to Suzannah Fabing and the Smith College Museum of Art for encouraging me to follow through with this project, and for financial support. Thanks to Valley Communications Systems, Chicopee, for technical support.


Rebecca-Ellen Farrell, a student in my class on Art and Consumption, went to study with Minnette Vári in Johannesburg during the summer of 2002. Becca's enthusiasm inspired me to bring Minnette to Smith College. Susan Greenspan offered editorial and technical advice. Minnette herself assisted with all aspects of the exhibition design and planning. I am grateful for her commitment through the whole process. The presence of the two works on this exhibition and the images reproduced here are courtesy of the artist and the Serge Ziegler Galerie, Zürich.


John Peffer
Smith College, February 2003

 

 

 




Minnette Vári  .  Media Work


Curated by John Peffer


Smith College Brown Fine Arts Center



Jannotta Gallery


February 17 to March 5, 2003


Alien February 17 to 25, Oracle February 26 to March 5


Artist’s talk 4:30 pm Friday February 28 Graham Hall

 

 


Alien

see artist's statement

"How can one not be tempted to divine one's own destiny from the televisual tarot of global media? There were times when, told in the language of international news, the histories of my country would unfold in unrecognisable ways, and my place within these stories would become disjointed and unbearable. I wanted to speak of the discomfort of a thousand ill-fitting interpretations. Using television images relating to the transformative events between 1994 and 1998, I attempted to locate my own implicit presence in the narrative of these critical times. My project was about reclaiming these moments, re-inscribing them with the movements of my own body, the sound of my own heartbeat - a memory recounted in flesh and bones. Although my body is not a-political nor neutral and my access to it is not uncomplicated, I wanted to bring the extremes of fear, euphoria, desire, rage and loss into a language beyond democratic rhetoric.

When used as an instrument against the forgetfulness of history, the strategies of art become volatile and impatient. Through my work I tear at the fabric of different realities, severing images from their origin and cleaving apart the logic of their familiarity. The links I make in this process can be chilling and brutal, but often the things we can't bear to face are the most telling witnesses of our times. Considering the socio-political imprint that this place and time has left on me, I choose in my work to bring the peculiarities of a mutating subjectivity to bear on the specificities of its historical context. We need all the individual fragments we can find in order to anticipate the places our histories could take us."

 - Minnette Vári

more text

 

 


Oracle

see artist's statement

 

 
 

 

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Introduction

Video clips

Work images

Texts

Essay: Mistaken Media

Minnette Vári biography

Contact details

Exhibition info