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Thulile Gamedze


Black figures have appeared for almost as long as Black ‘figures’ have been. The speculative proposition of this piece is that
not all Black figures today are equal before the violence of the contemporary art marketplace. Numerous practices involving Black figuration go unrecognised commercially, remaining “in the dark,” less comprehensible, although potentially offering possibility beyond the static of this new aesthetic status-quo. I propose that marketable Black figures are those that visually (whether or not
rhetorically) adhere to sustained taxonomies of the neoliberal world; figures rooted in the mantra of representation ‘mattering.’ Engaging Garth Erasmus’ State of Emergency series (1985 - 1989), and Randolph Hartzenberg’s Map of the Neighbourhood series (1996 - 2004), the text studies less profitable practices of Black figuration, concerned with matter/s other than representation. Moved beyond the disturbing identity erotica of neoliberal post-apartheid South Africa, both practitioners, rejecting mainstreamed taxonomies, are continually invested in the body inasmuch as it operates as a vessel for forms of opened (and I argue Black Conscious) political, philosophical, spiritual, and social life. Their figures may be ‘furtive’ or on the move - they appear with ambivalence, opacity, and do not present themselves as knowable. If not free, they remain un-captured, unpredictable.

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