Aboleleng & Hema
20 September - 20 October 2007
The side gallery at Michael Stevenson presents two new works by Lerato Shadi, a young performance and video artist based in Johannesburg.
In Aboleleng we see a figure against a green background wearing an odd costume in a tone close to the woman's skin, suggesting full nudity. The figure in the video is Shadi herself. Shadi starts to pull a knitted string, hidden in the costume, from between her legs. An image of vulnerability and strength, Aboleleng considers the moment where our innermost ideas are set up for public scrutiny, like an artist first exhibiting new work. The woollen string itself is displayed on a plinth across from the video projection. The bright green background of the video soaks the room in an eerie glow; for those familiar with television production it is recognisable as the green screen used for adding images in postproduction. It suggests a space for projection of ideas onto the work, moving it from a deeply personal realm into a more public place.
Hema (or Six hours of out-breath captured in 792 balloons) takes a public space as its starting point. The work is based on footage of a performance staged by Shadi at the offices of the advertising agency Ogilvy in Cape Town. She relates the choice of context to the nature of the modern working environment, where our primary needs of proper breathing and physical posture are too easily forgotten. For the performance, the artist spent exactly six hours seated on the staircase in the centre of the building, exhaling every single breath into balloons. This feat was possible because of her experience with meditation and breathing techniques, but it left her physically and mentally exhausted. On top of this, her fingers developed bloody blisters from tying the balloons. By the end of the performance, a colourful collection of nearly 800 balloons had formed on and around the staircase, physically encapsulating six hours of Shadi's breath. For the video, Shadi has played with the editing process to capture the essence of the performance, rather than document it in its entirety. Like the green screen in Aboleleng, Hema's method of production indicates an awareness of and concern with the medium of video.
Shadi graduated from Johannesburg University in 2006 with a B-Tech honours degree. She lives and works in Johannesburg.
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