South African artist Penny Siopis discusses her Peltz Gallery commission Shadow Shame Again and her wider practice with Professor Annie E. Coombes (Birkbeck), followed by a Q&A.
During the event Siopis will present extracts and images from previous works. Shadow Shame Again can be viewed now on the Peltz Gallery website.
Shadow Shame Again (2021)
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many people in South Africa have protested ‘the other pandemic’, referring to the proliferation of gender-based violence under the conditions of lockdown. Material published by UN Women shows that gender-based violence has increased globally during this time. Penny Siopis’ video artwork responds to this situation by speaking to the visceral emotion of shame. Using footage from her collection of found 8mm home movies (acquired from flea markets and charity shops), Siopis sets fragments of image sequences to words and sound. The work is a poetic evocation of ‘shadow shame’ as something that both embodies the loss of dignity and integrity, and offers fertile ground for empathy.
Penny Siopis is a South African artist who is also honorary professor at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, UCT. Working across media, all her explorations, whether with body-politics, memory, migration and grief or the relations between the human and the non-human, are characterized by what she calls the ‘poetics of vulnerability’ – embodied in the play between materiality and reference. Amongst her many international exhibitions are her work Obscure White Messenger (2010) exhibited at Tate Britain in 2018, and her exhibition Three Essays on Shame at the Freud Museum in 2005.
Annie E. Coombes is Professor of Material and Visual Culture in the Department of History of Art and Founding Director of the Peltz Gallery at Birkbeck.
Coombes’ research focuses on colonial histories, their legacies in the present and the tensions involved in memorialising such violent histories in the public domain (in Britain, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria). Consequently, she has also always written on the work of contemporary artists whose practice expands our understanding of the affect, epistemic and actual violence of colonialism (Carrie Mae Weems (2010); Joy Gregory (1998); Sonia Boyce (1994); Syowia Kyambi (2014); Berni Searle (2008, 2003, 2001); Senzeni Marasela (2003); Penny Siopis (2019, 2003, 1996); Tracey Rose (2003); Lisa Reihana and Brook Andrew (2006)).
Her award-winning books include: Reinventing Africa: Museums, Material Culture and Popular Imagination in Late Victorian and Edwardian England (Yale 1994) and History After Apartheid: Visual Culture and Public Memory in a Democratic South Africa (Duke 2003).
Penny Siopis in conversation with Professor Annie E. Coombes
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Image: Shadow Shame Again (2021) by Penny Siopis