Spectral Lines

Dineo Seshee Bopape | Lunga Kama | Jessica Lajard

6 november >18 december 2010

In a sense, the exhibition Spectral Lines is based on a simple ‘double entendre’, speaking of lines belonging to the colour spectrum, but also the lines of spectres, or ghosts. On the one hand, Dineo Seshee Bopape, Lunga Kama and Jessica Lajard share a considered interest in colour that sets them apart from other artists in their generation whose work relies primarily on conceptual elements. At the recent exhibition ‘Lights Camera Action’ at the Marshall Haus in Berlin, Bopape’s installation ‘Anthrophobia’ looked a little like a spaceship from the planet Colour, stranded in a desert of monochrome gravitas. Lajard’s ‘Stick’, similarly looks like an object from outer space, perhaps a brightly coloured counterpart to the ominous black bar central to the opening scene of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Oddesey. In Kama’s large colour self-portraits, the stylized poses and carefully placed dots belie their dark, brooding content. In the photographs, Kama has adorned himself with the medication he needs for his mental health, but has included vitamin C tablets to make the image more balanced, colourful and, ultimately, beautiful.

On the other hand, these three artists all invoke ghosts. When Kama removes colour from his images, as he has done in the new untitled series of pinhole photographs, their intrinsic darkness becomes more readily apparent. A ghostlike figure in an indeterminate landscape navigates the thin line between form and formlessness. Lajard’s stick, too, has a certain eerie quality to it. It could be a shrine to an unknown deity, or a component of an unknown ritual. In Bopape’s three videos, traces of self-portraiture are distorted digitally, leaving a spectral presence amidst the bright, deceptively simple (non-)narrative. The video Bird’s Milk specifically relies on absence: Bopape edited out all appearances of a former lover after an unpleasant break-up. As a result, the lover becomes a ghost that hovers over the video.

The above two connotations of the title, however, are secondary to the potential as a metaphor of its more precise, scientific meaning. It is no coincidence that Bopape, Kama and Lanard have performed the role of the outsider at various stages of their lives, variously through their gender, cultural heritage, sexuality or national origin. Their biographies invoke the notion of ‘être un espion’ as posited by Felix Gonzalez-Torres: the outsider who notices subtleties that others may not. In chemistry, a spectral line is a dark or bright line in an otherwise continuous spectrum of light, resulting from a single photon’s interaction with a quantum system. If one sees artists as these single photons, artworks become the lines that make the interaction with their environment visible. At the most fundamental level, this exhibition proposes that Bopape, Kama and Lajard produce the lines that appear in, and as a result determine, the spectrum of their generation.

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