Untitled, 2017, copper shell casings, various sizes, exhibition view at Galerie Art & Essai, Rennes (FR), 2018
How is history reflected in landscape? How does an object give evidence of its own transformations, and how do these become visible? Sammy Baloji’s exhibition in Salzburg enquires how history is inscribed in artefacts and landscapes. The exhibition shows traces left by mining in the province of Katanga, rich in raw materials, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Starting from the exploitation of natural resources in this region, Baloji examines processes of abstraction and transformation. Geological maps become abstract compositions when separated from their legends. The habit of a mineral is no longer recognisable in its geometric form. Photographs of rugged landscapes give only an indirect suggestion of human bodies that have laboured there. Even copper shell casings can be unresistingly turned to decorative account as flower vases.
Thus the historical living conditions and work processes in the mining region are rendered invisible. The power exerted by global value-chains, operative here, is lost in perfectly alluring images and objects that negate their origin. The traces of mining in Salzburg are still clearly evident in the landscape and in the wealth of the town – though quite differently from those left in Katanga. Without suggesting direct parallels, the exhibition invites the viewer to take a close look at landscapes, and asks how images and objects operate as bearers of testimony.
Sammy Baloji will speak with Lotte Arndt in an Artist Talk on 31 July.
An exhibition by Sammy Baloji
curated by Lotte Arndt and Simone Rudolph
Sammy Baloji, born in 1978, was raised in Lubumbashi (CD), a centre of colonial, post-colonial and contemporary entanglements related to resources. Colliding reality and representation, his photography and multimedia installations expose tensions between past and present. He mines the archive, traces social history in architecture and landscape, and probes the body as a site of memory and witness to operations of power. He is co-founder of the Picha Encounters at the Biennale de Lubumbashi.
2018A blueprint for toads and snakes, Framer Framed, Amsterdam. 2016–18Sammy Baloji & Filip De Boeck – Urban Now: City Life in Congo, WIELS, Contemporary Art Center, Brussels; Open Society Foundation, New York, NY (US); The Power Plant, Toronto (CA); Galerias Municipais/EGEAC, Lisbon. 2014Hunting and Collecting: Sammy Baloji, Mu.Zee, Ostend (BE).
Group exhibitions 2018Congo Stars, Kunsthaus Graz, Graz (AT). 2017 documenta 14, Athens & Kassel (DE). 2016 11th Shanghai Biennale, Shanghai (CN). 2015/16La vie moderne, 13th Biennale de Lyon, Lyon (FR). 2015–17Senses of time: video and film-based works of Africa, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington D.C.; LACMA, Los Angeles (CA). 2015All the world’s futures, 56th Biennale di Venezia, Venice (IT).
Internationale Sommerakademie für Bildende Kunst Salzburg