Contested Terrains at Tate Modern

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Excerpt from a review of Contested Terrians at Tate Modern in London from African Art in London:

Contested Terrains is the first annual project arising from Guaranty Trust Bank’snew partnership with Tate, and it sets the bar extremely high. The show features a foursome of talented artists working in Africa in variety of media: Kader Attia (slide show installation), Sammy Baloji (photomontage), Michael MacGarry (sculpture) and Adolphus Opara (photography). Jointly curated by Kerryn Greenberg (Tate) and Jude Anogwih (Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos), this is an African group show with a difference – exactly the sort of thing that you’d hope for from Tate Modern. There’s no questionable attempt to edify the audience, no over-excited claim to be introducing us to anything, and, perhaps most importantly, no curatorial waffle about ‘African creativity’ – the intelligent, subtle and challenging works on show here speak for themselves...

The final room presents the photomontages of Sammy Baloji, together with two final small pieces from MacGarry, whose work runs like a twisted thread through the whole show. Baloji’s subject here is the history of resource exploitation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in particular the decline of the Gécamines mining company, whose presence has shaped his home region of Katanga since 1906. Mémoire (2006) unflinchingly reveals the catastrophic recent fortunes of the company, through a series of desolate panoramas of industrial decline, upon which the artist has superimposed archival images of officials and labourers from more prosperous times. The colonial officials appear oblivious to the state of their new surroundings, blithely peering at dilapidated old sheds and piles of rusty metal, but the Congolese labourers stare straight out at the viewer, photographic ghosts issuing a warning which comes too late.

images via bbc news

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