Christine Dixie: To Be King
To be King is Christine Dixie’s recent video installation at the Sulger-Buel Lovell Gallery. The exhibition runs from February 27 to March 7 and is informed by the essay Las Meninas, which Michel Foucault published in 1966 as the first chapter to his book The Order of Things.
In describing the painting by Velàsquez, Foucault suggests that through language, the taxonomy of the day, things are ordered. This order, particular yet tenuous, is dependent on who is in control of the gaze, who is ‘king’.
According to the curators of the exhibition, To be King is a destabilizing narrative in which the king is ‘dethroned’ by positioning characters and spaces from the periphery where the dominant gaze originates. This results in the possibility of a different order of things while highlighting the fragility of the established and dominant order.
The sculptural component, the Black Infanta embodies everything the Spanish king, Philip IV is not, her pose imitating that of the 17th Century portrait paintings of royal children. An enlarged headrest is placed on her—an object associated with sleeping, dreaming and the unconscious. She also holds a stick made of Port Jackson willow instead of a sceptre, orb or sword. The Black Infanta’s position in front of the ‘painting’ places her in the role reserved for the king for whom Las Meninas was originally made, and who also stands outside the frame of the painting. Completing the circuit of gazes is the museum guard who role is witness to the viewer looking at the ‘painting’. In addition, she functions as an ironic indicator of status, an embodiment of the value placed by the cultural centre on a ‘masterpiece’.
Christine Dixie is an artist and senior lecturer in the Fine Art Department at Rhodes University, Grahamstown. Dixie completed her undergraduate degree at the University of the Witwatersrand and earned her MFA from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, Cape Town.
In her work, she employs contending narratives of the entwined relationship between space, history and the performance of gender, as well as what they reveal about underlying social and cultural dynamics.
Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Her exhibition, The Binding, along with other selected works was acquired by the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C. and will be exhibited there in 2015 as part of the travelling exhibition, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory –The Divine Comedy from the Perspective of Contemporary African Artists curated by Simon Njami. Her forthcoming exhibition, To be King premiered at the National Arts Festival in 2014.
Christie Dixie’s work is also part of several major collections including The New York Public Library, The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, The Standard Bank Gallery, The Johannesburg Art Gallery, The Durban Art Gallery and the Isiko Museum of Cape Town.
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