The Circus and the Zoo

The Circus and the Zoo
  • 14/06/16 – 19/07/16
  • Time: 17h00 – 20h00
  • Venue: Michaelis Galleries, Hiddingh Campus, 31 Orange Street, Gardens, Cape Town
  • Contact: 0216507170 or nkule.mabaso@uct.ac.za

The invited works engage with subject positions that critically query differing forms of actual and perceived violence in discourse on the black body. Through allegory, the works evidence a concern with notions of both injurability, vulnerability, and reveal a concern of the relationship between corporeality and violence, particularly the instances of violence that are rendered invisible within certain economies of representation.

The concept of human dignity is meant to distinguish human beings from other creatures, notably animals. It underlines the uniqueness of human beings among all creatures, above all their free will, individual autonomy and capability of independent decision-making based on reason and free moral choice. When people are denied uniquely human traits, they are thought to be animal-like. These references to the animal may be tacit or explicit as in case with some of the works on this exhibition where human figures possess animal features in a way that reveals something hidden about the character or primal nature of the human. As opposed to the persistence of dehumanising stereotypes and images, actual or verbally construed, that equate ‘other’ people to animals and function obscurely as a method of representative humiliation in the service of group/ race based oppression. Animalistic dehumanization as a process is fully consistent with the mechanisms spelled out in Cudd’s theory of group-based oppression (Cudd, 2006).

Rather than inserting the artists and their artworks as illustrations of these discussions, the artworks here embody various forms of agency posing astute questions and observations. The subjects of representation and alterity have been well explored in several fields of study, however in the visual arts they seems to get tied down to the narrow confines of identity politics. This exhibition explores the actual and/or unresolved historical grievances persisting in SA, revealed through moments that constantly expose the impossibility to sustain the status quo ‘without restoring the dignity and humanity of the majority of its citizens, nor if it fails to address the economic inequalities which fuel social conflict’.

The artists in the exhibition engage with a multiplicity of perspectives that keep both tensions and contradictions between them in play. The exhibition offers a point to thus contend with allegory as an entirely legitimate method of not only literary but also visual investigation into the myriad forms that tacit violence can assume. There is no direct consensus or necessarily a similarity in theme between the artistic positions beyond that the works embrace the formal aesthetical challenges of contemporary art, rather the associations of the allegorical figures/symbols with other elements in the work occur in the mind of the viewer and convey a meaning beyond the literal representation.

[1] Bandura, A., Underwood, B., & Fromson, M. E. (1975). Disinhibition of aggression through diffusion of responsibility and dehumanization of victims. Journal of Research in Personality, 9(4), 253-269.

Haslam, N. (2006). Dehumanization: An integrative review. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10(3), 252- 264.

Redeker, R. (2007). The new face of humanity. Bethesda, Md.: Academica Press.

Freire, P. (1981). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Chapter one pages 27-37. NY: Continuum. Gil, D. G.