Traces from Memory

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Johannesburg-based artist Marcus Neustetter explores the potential for communication and exchange across a variety of mediums, including digital photography, video and installation, giving particular consideration to how the limits or irregularities of a given medium can constitute new conceptual, aesthetic, and even social territory. This investigation finds its most formal treatment in Disruption (2007), a series of photographs taken with a damaged camera, and Afterimages (2005), in which Neustetter used sensitized paper and an ammonia fume development process to generate analog "scans" of light and space. On the social end of the spectrum is UrbaNET: Hillbrow/Dakar/Hillbrow (2006-7), an ambitious project conceived by Neustetter and frequent collaborator Stephen Hobbs endeavoring to produce a "comparative analysis" of Hillbrow, a depressed neighborhood of Johannesburg with a large population of Senegalese immigrants, and Senegal capital Dakar. In 2006, while preparing for a two-week residency in Dakar and their participation in the Dak'Art Biennale 'Off' Program, the artists asked Hillbrow-based Senegalese immigrants to draw memory maps of their home city, which they would use to navigate the capital during their stay. Over the course of the residency, the artists documented their journey in photographs and video and even visited friends and relatives of the mapmakers. For the 2007 exhibition of their project at University of Johannesburg, Neustetter and Hobbs conducted a twenty-person walk from the campus, in Auckland Park, to a Congolese nightclub in Hillbrow, where the project was discussed by art-goers, neighborhood residents and the mapmakers. Neustetter and Hobbs' project thus does not profess to establish any authoritative study of the respective cities it maps, but rather overlays remembrance, map-making, navigation and the documentary image to tell the specific tales of a group of immigrants and a broader story about home, migration and place. - Tyler Coburn

Image Credit: Ali Jaiteh, Memory Map of Goree Island, 2006

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