Jo Ractliffe


As Terras do Fim do Mundo

21 October - 27 November 2010

Michael Stevenson is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new work by Jo Ractliffe.

Over the past two years Ractliffe has been tracing the routes of the Border War fought by South Africa in Angola through the 1970s and 80s, travelling alongside ex-soldiers returning to the places where they fought for the first time since the SADF's withdrawal from the region.

Her new body of work follows Terreno Ocupado (2007), in which she explored the social and spatial demographics of Angola's capital city of Luanda five years after the country's civil war had ended. She writes: 'During my time in Luanda, a second project began to suggest itself, one in which my attention would shift away from the urban manifestation of aftermath to the "space" of war itself.'

In the black and white photographs of As Terras do Fim do Mundo (The Lands of the End of the World), Ractliffe captures the eerie silence of the traces of war. Her haunting images explore the idea of landscape as pathology; how past violence manifests in the landscape of the present, both forensically and symbolically. Quoting Jill Bennett's A Concept of Prepossession (2005), the artist notes that we live in a present space, but one that 'bears the marks (indelible and ephemeral, visible and invisible) of its history. And as much as we occupy places, they have the capacity to pre-occupy us.'

Ractliffe was born in 1961 in Cape Town and lives in Johannesburg. She obtained her MFA degree from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, in 1988 and has exhibited extensively in South Africa and internationally since then. Her Luanda series, Terreno Ocupado, was exhibited at the Warren Siebrits Gallery, Johannesburg, in 2008; selected images were also shown at the seventh Gwangju Biennale, Korea (2008). Other group exhibitions include Events of the Self: Portraiture and Social Identity, Walther Collection, Neu-Ulm/Burlafingen, Southern Germany (2010); This is Our Time, Brodie/Stevenson, Johannesburg (2010); Snap Judgements: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography, International Centre for Photography, New York (2006), and The Unhomely: Phantom Scenes in Global Society, Second International Biennial of Contemporary Art (Biacs 2), Seville, Spain (2006). She is currently a Writing Fellow at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (Wiser), Johannesburg. This is her first solo exhibition at Michael Stevenson.

Ractliffe will exhibit concurrently with Simon Gush and, as part of the gallery's FOREX series, Eija-Liisa Ahtila.

The show will open on 21 October from 6 to 8pm.

Ractliffe will give a walkabout of her exhibition in support of the Friends of the South African National Gallery on Friday 22 October at 11am; cost is R20 members and non-members.