Zanele Muholi Shortlisted for Deutche Börse Photography Prize

Article by Lerato Dumse

Tick Tock for Deutsche Börse 2015 Prize

Exhibtion view, Zanele Muholi at The Photographers' GalleryWith less than a week remaining before we are introduced to the winner of the renowned Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2015. Predictions are still pouring in and opinions are shared from far and wide. Everyone wants to see their favourite photographer win and the shortlist has kept art circles and media talking since the announcement was made late last year.

South Africa is home to two of the nominees, Zanele Muholi for her photobook Faces and Phases 2006-14 and Mikhael Subotzky who collaborated with UK’s Patrick Waterhouse on a book that focuses on Ponte City in Johannesburg. The shortlist also features Viviane Sassen who is nominated for an exhibition titled Umbra, held at the Nederlands Fotomuseum, as well as Nikolay Bakharev, a photographer in his 60s, who captured Russian bathers in the 80s.

In the 18 years of the competition’s existence, this is the first time that an African and a South African female is shortlisted. Muholi emphasises that this nomination is a game changer and will open doors for other photographers and artists who are members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex community. The prize was established by The Photographers’ Gallery with the aim of promoting contemporary photography and was first known as Citigroup, while Deutsche Börse has sponsored the £30,000 competition since 2005.

Zanele MuholiBorn in Durban KwaZulu Natal, Muholi is a visual activist, advocating for the lives, rights and safety of the LGBTI community in South Africa; with a specific focus on black lesbians. Having embarked on a journey of archiving and documenting the lives of LGBTI people in her surroundings, she was able to produce a publication from her lifetime project of black and white portraits of African lesbians and transgender individuals.

Faces and Phases participants have fast gained a reputation for their ability to confront the camera. Muholi has also become the second black female (from four female nominees) after Lorna Simpson from the USA, to be a shortlisted recipient of the prize. 2010 was the first and last year to be dominated by females, and the only year won by a female since DB took over the prize.

On May 26, two days before the DBPP ceremony, Muholi will host her much anticipated conversation with Bidisha, from the BBC Arts. This multi award winning South African has received many astonished reactions from London based artists, especially those with Caribbean and African roots about her exhibition, talk and nomination at the Photographers Gallery.

Exhibition View: photos by Zanele MuholiMuholi’s work focuses on Post-Apartheid politics of the LGBTI community. She stresses the fact that her work is concerned about creating a historical document that makes this community visible. Identifying as a black lesbian herself, Muholi’s work shines a light on both the love and tribulations experienced by members of her community.

Maintaining her cool composure, she insists the nomination is not for her alone, but includes participants featured in her work. Muholi returns to London after opening her solo exhibition titled, Isibonelo/Evidence at Brooklyn Museum in New York City and is open until November 1 2015. She is also involved with Look3, a summer photo festival opening on June 10 2015 in the US.

Illustrations above: Exhibition view of works by Zanele Muholi at The Photographers’ Gallery, London; Self-portrait, courtesy of Zanele Muholi; Exhibition view of works by Zanele Muholi at Brooklyn Museum, New York.

Ester Fleckner – How to spell a sound that is physical

A work by Ester Fleckner
A woodcut print by Ester Fleckner.


Ester Fleckner – How to spell a sound that is physical

10 April – 9 May 2015 at Avlskarl Gallery, Bredgade 28, Copenhagen, Denmark
Opening hours: Wednesday-Friday 1 pm – 6 pm. Saturday 12 pm – 3 pm.

The exhibition How to spell a sound that is physical shows a new series of woodcut prints by Ester Fleckner. With carvings based on different attempts to depict sheets of paper, screens and racks, the prints vary in intensity, delineating the intersection of traces and layers. At close range you can read handwritten notes, which, in their fragmented form and content, go into dialogue with the prints. The works reflect Fleckner’s processual approach to language, images and physicality exploring the chaotic and insufficient links between them.

The woodcut print is a recurring media for Ester Fleckner. The technique is simple and immediate and the physical resistance of the wood, as well as the printing process allows for differences, errors and a loss of control. As organic and natural material, wood creates a physical dimension of Ester’s exploration into collisions between the body and various cultural norms and ideas.

The exhibition How to spell a sound that is physical is a continuation of Fleckner’s on-going investigation of experiences of displacement, the unfinished and failure in relation to queer navigation and the fluidity of the body.

About Ester Fleckner

Ester Fleckner (b. 1983) is educated from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen and Goldsmiths University of London.

Heart of Art Gallery

Mission statement by Kenia Gutierrez

Heart of Art Gallery

Heart of Art Gallery

Women and Queer Art Gallery and Animal Rescue

Heart of Art Gallery promotes and provides an unfiltered raw space for works of art made by women and members of the lgbt community. Heart of Art was founded by Kenia and Bell April 1st, 2012. We are an all women and queer art and music venue in south central la near USC [in Los Angeles, California]. We are dedicated to the principles of show casing talents made by women and queer artist providing them a safe creative platform for their work.

Heart of Art is also dedicated and passionate to the rescuing of injured, abused and stray animals. We provide them a home to rehabilitate, take care of expense to include medical and training to find them a second chance for a forever home. We pair each animal with a family who is ready for a new member that will provide the love and affection they desire.

Our goal is to build a friendly safe community supporting trans, women and queers in arts. Providing an alternative space for freedom expression we continue to navigate through the underground world of arts.

Heart of Art Gallery
Photo courtesy of Heart of Art Gallery

Heart of Art Gallery
Photo courtesy of Heart of Art Gallery

Rebellous Beauty
Rebellous Beauty, Heart of Art Gallery, 2014

Intermedia Artist Aja Rose Bond

Artist statement by Aja Rose Bond

Aja Rose Bond: Triangle Fort
Triangle Fort by Aja Rose Bond in collaboration with Caroline Ballhorn, Alicia Cha and Heather Dawn Jones. Photo courtesy of Aja Rose Bond.


Artist Statement by Aja Rose Bond

I am an intermedia artist with background in music, craft and fashion respectively, drawing from the deep influence of D.I.Y. punk, feminisms and magick. I identify as a witch, among other things, and this part of my life has been coming more to the surface of my creative practices in the last couple years. My spirituality is deeply connected to my work, which strives to engage mystery, create beauty, inspire and deepen meaning and connection – both to each other as people and to the web of life that includes all beings and the land, the air, the water and spirit. I help organize public and private rituals in my community, and work as a kind of advocate for ‘coming out of the broom closet’ as we call it. There are a lot of parallels and overlap between queerness and witchiness and I am totally blessed to have many amazing queer witches in my life to practice with.

I explore the interplay of the public and the private through collaborations, collective organizing, solo-projects and a variety of mediums including sound, performance, installation, textile sculpture, drawing, collage and social practice. These mediums are increasingly merging into one another in ways that are really exciting for me. As I get more opportunities as an emerging artist, I am seeing just how immersive and multi-sensory my visions truly are. My intention is to be able to combine collaborative social practices, with performance/ritual, costume, installation and sound components into one piece rather than keeping them somewhat separate, as has necessarily been the case up till now.

My intimate relationship with certain mystical traditions – specifically Reclaiming, a Feminist tradition of witchcraft, and Radical Faerie Tradition which emerged as part of the Gay Liberation Movement – has informed my process which often includes the use of ritual, divination, symbols and geometry to align and reveal the more hidden elemental and energetic aspects of the work. As I come more into my power, publicly, I feel more at liberty to speak to what the works are truly about and what was involved in making them. Again, as a parallel to queerness, there are heaps of stigma, stereotypes and misunderstandings about witchiness that sometimes make it safer to stay in the shadows, but despite this, I’m coming out (again) and it’s so amazing to see what’s happening as a result… this show coming up in NY is the first I’ve ever been in that has magick and ritual and a holy-day celebration as a central theme. It’s so wonderful and I’m really grateful to be part of it. I’m also doing a project with Gina Badger in Toronto right after this, as part of a group show called TBD at the MoCCA that also involves ritual, magick, medicine and how it can connect us to our ancestors, our complicity in settler-colonialism and deepen the process of unsettling. This intersection of art, magick, and radical politics is really where my heart is and it’s so liberating to have a voice to express this and an audience that’s excited to engage it!

While at once being a political statement and an economic necessity, the use of found and reclaimed materials is instrumental to my understanding of the subtle life within objects. Truly, I think of my materials more as subjects than objects, and I use my senses to engage them as fully as possible in the creative process. I am especially fascinated by reclaimed textiles, leather and fur (the latter two always rescued from thrift stores or free bins) and how they hold stories and information about their former lives. I feel a kind of empathy for them which compels me to find a new usefulness for these things which were so often created only to be discarded. I come from a line of “master-thrifters” and the ritual of digging through piles of old things brings me great joy and satisfaction.

My work is as much about service to my community (and perhaps less directly to the greater world) as it is a way to nourish my own being and heal myself. I have been trying lately to find ways to embody these two things simultaneously, rather than oscillating back and forth between extremes. By attempting to balance service and self-care within my practice as a whole, and by ritualizing both the process and the presentation, I try to create spaces where their boundaries may overlap or dissolve altogether. I am very invested in the power of creative process to transform our understanding of who we are in relation to the world. I feel that magick works in a very similar way, and I am so excited to be discovering ways for them to work together to be more powerful and effective.

There are so many desires, ideas and feelings behind my work, and yet it I come at it with an intentionally intuitive approach. Right now I am thinking so much about settler-colonialism, whiteness, who I am and how I got here. What it means to be engaging a land-based spiritual-practice on stolen land. What the mass extinction and environmental crisis of climate change and resource extraction mean in terms of what I will do with my “one wild and precious life”. How to break the spell of disconnection and weave a web of wholeness that can heal us and help us survive what is to come… it’s heavy in my heart and I know also that engaging with all the things that make this life so beautiful and wondrous to behold – humour, play, colour, beauty – is what I need to keep going forward. So I try to have it all.

Much of my work in the last year has been an enquiry into the nature and concept of time and an effort to expand its inherent possibilities. We can move past a simplistic representation of time as linear into one that can hold paradox, mystery and multi-dimensional realms where we may plant seeds of change that will grow and heal the past, present and future at once. The large-scale textile sculptures I will have installed at le Petit Versailles in the Lower Eastside in NY for this upcoming show are about this.

I am self-taught with the exception of some formal training in fashion arts and contemporary music. My other projects and collaborations include; The Witches* Union Hall, The STAG (Strathcona Art Gallery) Library, Craft Pride Procession, Her Jazz Noise Collective, WOEVAN (Witches of East Van), Seamrippers Craft Collective, Diadem (w/partner Gabriel Saloman), In Flux (w/members of Shearing Pinx), DJ Tapes and the Women’s Studies 10 part performance series co-produced w/VIVO Media Arts Center. I live in Vancouver [Canada] on unceded Coast Salish Territories. See more work at

Upcoming exhibitions:

Turning Into Night, at le Petit Versailles, 346 East Houston St. @ Ave C, NY – Performances 8pm Fri, Sept 19, Artist talk/potluck 6pm Sat, Sept 20, Films 8pm Sat, Sept 20. [Curated by Yvette Choy, Troy La Biche Davis and Coral Short]

Brew Pub #3 and Brewtality of Fact Beer Club, with Gina Badger, Cheyenne Turions, Eric Emery and the STAG Library (artists Aja Rose Bond and Gabriel Saloman) TBD at the MoCCA, Toronto, opens Friday September 5, 2014.

Aja Rose Bond: Zero/One
Zero/One by Aja Rose Bond. Photo courtesy of Aja Rose Bond

Aja Rose Bond: Unity Braid
Unity Braid by Aja Rose Bond. Photo by Kenneth Yuen.

Dolly Wilde’s Picture-Show

Artist statement by Rebecca Nesvet

And still they come and go: and this is all I know–
That from the gloom I watch an endless picture-show…

Siegfried Sassoon, “Picture-Show” (1920)

Playwrite Rebecca Nesvet about her Dolly Wilde’s Picture-Show

Dolly WildeWhen I read Sassoon’s ‘Picture-Show’, the poem doesn’t call up only the ghosts of the fallen ‘men’ eulogized in the second verse. It also recalls other veterans of the First World Wars, who afterwards felt as haunted as did Sassoon: the women who served as nurses, telegraph-operators, and ‘motor-drivers’, including drivers of Red Cross and privately-operated ambulances. Among those women was Dorothea Ierne (‘Dolly’) Wilde (1895-1941), niece of Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) [see vintage photo]. Dolly’s story intrigued me. What brought her to the front? What had she experienced there? How might it have shaped her later life, and perhaps her youthful death?

While investigating these questions, I encountered SPIR Conceptual Photography (Jill Casid and María DeGuzmán)’s 1994 photo series Oscaria/Oscar (see photo below), which in a kind of modern, color spirit-photography imagines interactions between Dolly and her uncle, Oscar Wilde [see vintage photo] — or perhaps Dolly and herself, posing as her uncle — or even Oscar and his double on (pace Dorian Gray) the other side of a frame.
Oscar WildeIt’s a haunting tribute to a Lost Generation — Dolly’s, perhaps, but certainly the Lost Generation of the 1980s-90s: the earliest victims of the HIV-AIDS epidemic; the generation to which Dolly’s uncle might have belonged, had he been born a century later than he was. How, Casid and deGuzmán have asked, can we ‘love our dead back to life?’ In Oscaria/Oscar, they show Dolly trying to do this, and maybe Oscar loving (albeit perhaps in a self-regarding way) his niece to a fully-realized life as an early-twentieth-century lesbian. Like Sassoon’s cinema of post-combat nightmare, Oscaria/Oscar is a dynamically paranormal ‘Picture-Show’.

I decided that its pictures ought to move and change, like Dorian’s picture, and to interact with the three-dimensional, living Dolly. Which means that Oscar/Oscaria had to be adapted as theatre.
Oscaria / Oscar by SPIRMy first attempt at that adaptation, Dolly Wilde’s Picture-Show, will be presented as a workshop production, with projections from Oscaria/Oscar, as part of the Process Series at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in August 2014. [Further details about the performance below.]

Why must Dolly’s life be told as a living ‘Picture-Show’? Because Sassoon’s poem presents an unusually accurate approximation of her memory; of her imaginative life; and of the way that those acquaintances, friends, and lovers who survived her remembered her, because for many of them, Dolly wasn’t just a First World War private ambulance driver. She was also a prominent member of a lesbian (mainly), feminist (unanimously) literary-artistic circle based at the home of her American lover Natalie Clifford Barney, at 21 Rue Jacob, Paris. So when she died, frustratingly young, she was mourned by very expressive women.

Also, she was both apparitional and clairvoyant. She was often seen as her uncle’s double, ‘ghosting’ him: Barney called her ‘Oscaria’ (posthumously, at least) and H. G. Wells, perhaps seeing her as a time-traveller rather than an apparition, called her a ‘feminine [Oscar] Wilde’. That was a persona she not only owned, fiercely, but radically reinvented. No doubt to Barney’s delight, Dolly attended a 1930 costume ball posing ‘as Oscar’. But she was no mirror image. A surviving, undated photograph shows Dolly dressed appropriately, in the ‘aesthetic’ collar shirt, puffy, loose bow-tied silk cravat, and fur-lapelled coat in which Oscar posed for the New York society photographer in 1882, and which became his indelible public image to this day. It’s an image associated with independence and freedom and cultural authority, for it was his costume when he crossed North America by rail, lecturing on the Aesthetic movement, European artists, and interior decorating as part of an engagement by Robert d’Oyly-Carte’s opera company, which was satirizing Aestheticism in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience. So, at the costume ball, Dolly poses as an authority on art and artists (such as the Renaissance Women of the Rue Jacob?) and an intrepid traveler, which she also was, though her mode of travel was the motor-car. But she also differentiates herself from her uncle. She wears makeup, highlighting not necessarily her femininity, but the theatricality of femininity itself. She self-consciously fashions herself both ‘feminine’ and ‘Wilde’.

Moreover, Dolly’s very act of ‘posing’ as her uncle but not emulating him to the point of self-disappearance (as did her Wilde-forger cousin Arthur Cravan) is a paradoxical kind of ghosting, and a gift to her ancestor. Oscar Wilde’s troubles with British law began in 1985 when John Sholto Douglas, Marquess of Queensberry, put into circulation a calling card addressed to Wilde ‘posing as a somdomite [sic]’. Queensberry did this to interfere with his son, Lord Alfred Douglas’s, three-year-long relationship with Wilde, of which parts of the public were aware. Apparently not wishing to ‘out’ his son in an era when sodomy was dangerously criminalized, Queensberry claimed that Wilde was only ‘posing’ as a man who has same-sex relations. By combining theatrical womanhood with a Wildean persona, Dolly gives her uncle’s ghost a chance to affirm his truth, by affirming hers, for she was not just ‘posing’ as a lesbian: she was owning this truth. In most ghost stories, when the living help the ghost to live up to their abandoned responsibilities, the ghost is allowed to rest in peace. Perhaps that was the gift she gave her uncle, in exchange for the gift of family precedent that he gave her, to equip her for her messy but revolutionary life.


Script by Rebecca Nesvet
Featuring Marie Garelick and Paula Nance
Directed by Joseph Megel
Design by Kevin Spellman
Incorporating images from Oscaria/Oscar (1994), © SPIR Conceptual Photography (María DeGuzmán and Jill Casid)

Thursday, August 21 at 8:00 pm
Friday, August 22 at 8:00 pm

Swain Hall, Studio 6
University of North Carolina (UNC-Chapel Hill), USA

FREE and open to the public

[Photo Above :  Dolly Wilde, vintage photo. Oscar Wilde, vintage photo. “Oscaria / Oscar” Photo: #3 in a sequence of 6 with the collaboration of Camille Norton and Jane Picard. Copyright © 1994 by Jill Casid & María DeGuzmán]

About Rebecca Nesvet

Rebecca Nesvet (PhD, English, UNC-Chapel Hill, 2014; MFA, Dramatic Writing, New York University, 2008) is a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. She has won the 2002 Arch and Bruce Brown Playwriting Award for LGBT history plays, a 2007 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Writing Grant, and the International Conference on Romanticism’s 2012 Lore Metzger Prize. Her research is published in WOMEN’S WRITING, THE KEATS-SHELLEY JOURNAL, and PRISM(S): ESSAYS IN ROMANTICISM, and she is editing Mary Russell Mitford’s banned play CHARLES THE FIRST (1824) for the Digital Mitford.