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Mikhael Subotzky 10

Mikhael Subotzky (b. 1981, Cape Town) is the only alumnus in the history of the prestigious Michaelis School of Fine Art to achieve a mark of one-hundred percent for his final year. He has since become a world-renowned artist, currently represented by the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg. He is the youngest photographer to become an associate member at Magnum Photos, and the first South African artist to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. He openly declares the influence of David Goldblatt, which is likely one of the most important photographic oeuvres to capture South Africa’s colonialist history, evidenced through his characteristic depiction of the landscape and its people. Subotzky utilises the divide between the rural and the urban, emphasising the ambiguity that exists within social perceptions of inside and outside, accepted and rejected, enlightened and alienated, the diffuse and the concentrated. His investigations

are grounded by various culturally assumed socio-political norms and perceived ‘A priori givens’ within South Africa. He does so in the wake of Apartheid, but goes further to uproot the underlying opposition between oppression and emancipation, examining the somewhat bi-polar grasp that most South Africans have in their attempt to build a new identity in an often apathetic and infantile democracy; jaundiced and anchored by its unjust past marred by racial segregation and quasi-totalitarianism. In this way Subotzky reveals the historicoeconomic hierarchies and constructs of class, ethnicity and status that exist in PostColonial South Africa. More specifically, he finds his niche and artistic voice in the context of localised power structures, such as notorious prisons, famous gangs, iconic architecture – all signifiers of authority and control, products of containment and repudiation. His images document the broadly accepted politics of inhumanity,

degradation, prejudice, victimization and desperation to be found in many sectors of South African society, tracing the remnants of a recycled Apartheid infrastructure. The prison is an overarching archetype in relation to the city and its structures, be it in the form of power, architecture, institutions, or narratives placed in contrast to the land and its supposed catharsis. The prison is an analogy leading to the central point: the vast integration of typecast individuals - citizens, denizens, criminals into a dominant political system, segregated into castes, creeds and classes, adhering to a constructed system of discipline and punishment, which succeeds at the exploitation of human beings as opposed to liberating them: prison society. To compliment his anthropological inquiry, Subotzky introduced dystopian elements of Orwellian fiction, coupled with the poststructuralist discourse of Foucault – all elements that inform the core of his work to this day.

IJusi Portfolio #3  

A catalogue detailing the works and artists included in the third iJusi portfolio, curated by Pieter Hugo.

IJusi Portfolio #3  

A catalogue detailing the works and artists included in the third iJusi portfolio, curated by Pieter Hugo.

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