Gerhard Marx: Transparent Territories
From August 31 to October 4, 2017, Goodman Gallery Johannesburg will present Transparent Territories, a solo exhibition of work by South African artist Gerhard Marx. In this dizzying series of maps for groundlessness, the artist continues his investigations into the formal and fictive possibilities of perspective. Rupturing the flat surface of the map, he removes the illusion of solid ground and replaces it with a hovering, vertigo-inducing sense of uncertainty. The shape and notion of ‘the frame’ recur in several mise-en-abyme sequences across the works. Stacked in recurring configurations, its rectangular form has been bent into a series of optical riddles or Escherian landscapes.
When Marx cuts into the map it is a violation – an act of violence against the institutions and processes of global modernity through which the world was filtered to him. That violence is present in the energy of dispersion, ruination and collapse that ripples through the fragmented surfaces of these works. But the story does not end there. Deconstruction is offset by the meditative, embodied practice of reconstitution. In constructing his drawings from the ‘found lines’ of decommissioned and discarded maps, Marx displaces the scientific authority of cartography with the subjective impulse of calligraphy.
The work in this series are random amalgamations of fragments of Africa and Europe, and in piecing them together he conflates space and historical time into ‘migrant maps’. Directly referencing the makeshift, hybridised vessels we have witnessed people resorting to in the current migration crises of Europe, several works have a raft-like look about them – temporary, floating, and drifting between land and territories. Hovering against a plane of deep opaque blackness, Marx’s reconstructed rafts/crafts transmit a sense of disorientation that is simultaneously disquieting and liberating. There is that vertiginous sci-fi sense of being cut loose from the mother ship to float indefinitely through all space and time, but also an ecstatic sense of possibility in being released from the grip of inherited systems of knowledge, measurement, power and control.
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