Everard Read, Cape Town
05.05 - 28.05.2021
Coming to terms with the sheer volume of global injustice is as debilitating as it is overwhelmingly devastating for any given person. Moreover, focusing on the statistics, news reports and social clamouring serves only to desensitize oneself to the critical components of the information being shared. In and amongst the melee of viral content, there are human beings at risk, and it is the commodification of information already at the mercy of white supremacist ideology that serves only to add fuel to the fire. There, at the threshold between audiences and their empathy, lives instead a fear that nothing will come from this overstimulation and an aversion grows, altering the viewer’s connection to what is being viewed. Turning truth into ‘content’ and potential allies into consumers of violence and targeted misinformation, the digital age seems to be enunciating our very worst intentions, while convincing us that this amalgamated digital language is our native tongue. FAITH XLVII’s ‘CHANT’ is here to remind us all that it is most certainly not.
Initially struck by the variety of mediums included in the exhibition: painting, video installation, photography, sculpture, found materials and drawings, an idea emerges of FAITH’s approach to artmaking. A developmental process that serves to appreciate each medium in fullness while the collection portrays each ‘incident’ cited or its symbol, in order to articulate what connects these artworks under her hand, and what connects these seemingly isolated moments to a larger, more urgent and present sense of time. ‘CHANT’ is a call to arms as much as it is a referential undertaking highlighting the fact that what was made to divide us from one another is in fact our opportunity to be more connected, even if it is by way of mutual mourning. Among the matters permeating her latest solo show are colonialism, inequality, homelessness, police brutality, protesting, war, systemic oppression, violence, loss and grief. FAITH XLVII challenges herself and thus the audience to do more than outline societal ills, but to ask what power lies in and beyond our ‘collective reeling’ that could see us opening a new channel of communication and connection to one another, together.
They Say Blood Is Heavier Than Water is depicted from scenes of the ongoing gender-based-violence protests, inspired by photographs taken by Nicky Newman in Cape Town. The eye continuously returns to the three arms extended in unison in the center of the image. While two accusatory fingers aim in either direction, a fist is raised between them, reaching for the sky. It’s a simple task for the audiences to project themselves onto the painting, and to use these three symbols to remind themselves of how many accused freely roam communities the world over, while the quest for liberation continues for the most vulnerable among us. Here, the show’s title ‘CHANT’, reminds the audience of rallies and protests, of joining in number and in song to condemn violence of any kind. “We CHANT,” FAITH XLVII says in the show’s preface, “[it is] a ritualistic, meditative call…sacred attempts of setting a frequency for unlearning. Breaking open. Seeing. A mantra.”
Dulce Bellum Inexpertis, whose title translates loosely to ‘war is sweet to those who have not experienced it’, clearly articulates the violence of capitalist and colonial practices while prioritising the visual focus on the crux of the issue at hand: human beings who live in the wake of those choices. Empathy weaves through FAITH XLVII’s works as she collects and connects evidence spanning the globe, holding mirrors to moments that were previously only threaded together by pain. Using blackout ink, FAITH XLVII notes our shortfalls as a society without empathy in Blindspot I and II, as well as The Twilight of Liberty, The Defence and The Rationalist.
Another symbol of our shortfalls is that of The Human Cause III, a brass and wood flag sculpture. “This truly emblematic human creation speaks to inherent human struggles: our deep need for communion and our exhausting capacity for greed,” FAITH XLVII says of the piece. Investigating the symbol of the flag and its implied notions of ‘empire’ and nationhood FAITH also says, “The flag itself is naked. A blank object standing as a totem for our projections, mirroring the human race, in all of our honour and malfeasance.”
This body of work, both moving and maddening, illustrates that the system of tethers holding us in the peripheries of each other’s lives are in fact reasons to give one another our full attention. To really see one another, beyond the illusion of the digital and our ensuing delusions. To not thoughtlessly consume one another as distant trends or headlines, or offer our compliance out of a misplaced sense of familiarity and a fear of losing the semblance of self we’ve cultivated in order to survive our shared reality. “Each generation passes down their collective experience, a form of monophonic rhythm, gathering momentum as we scramble to gather ourselves,” FAITH XLVII explains. Knowing the social and historical cost of asynchrony, ‘CHANT’ asks the audience to consider what may happen if we used the same words, or rather the right words? What would happen when we chanted together as one?