Tracey Rose’s Legacy
Today we would like to introduce you South-African contemporary artist: Tracey Rose. Since more than a decade her art work really captures our attention. It started in 2001 when at Venice Biennale she presented a video projection: “Ciao Bella”, a feminist video parody of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” in which she plays 12 female “apostles” including Lolita, Josephine Baker and the water spirit, Mami Wata.
Tracey Rose is born in 1974 in Durban, during apartheid and currently lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa. She received her B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in 1996, and earned a Masters of Fine Arts from Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK, in 2007.
In 2006, she was named one of the 50 greatest cultural figures coming out of Africa by The Independent newspaper in London, UK. Rose has had solo presentations in South Africa, as well as in Europe and the Americas, has been featured in major international events such as the Venice Biennale in 2001 and her work has been included in seminal exhibitions such as Snap Judgments: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography and Africa Remix. Tracey Rose: Waiting for God, the artist’s mid-career retrospective, was held at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in 2011. The exhibition was co-produced with Bildmuseet, Umeå University, Sweden, where it traveled to in September 2011.
With a practice that centers on performance but includes photography, video, and installation, Tracey Rose explores cultural stereotypes imposed on Africans, women, and African women. Rose’s body is usually at the center of her art, which often recalls the work of Cindy Sherman in format and content. “Ciao Bella” (2001), the piece with which she represented South Africa at the 2001 Venice Biennale, combines photographs of Rose disguised as various feminine archetypes (including Lolita and a nun) with a video of similarly feminine characters (including a mermaid and Marie Antoinette) playing out an absurd, chaotic narrative. Other works make biting statements about sexuality and femininity—for the 1998 work Ongetiteld (Untitled), she shaved her entire body and recorded the act using surveillance cameras.
Her early work offers subversive reinterpretations of masterpieces of the western tradition to explore the politics of identity. Monochrome photographs show black figures in the pose of Rodin’s “The Kiss” and “The Thinker”, for example. Primarily a performance artist, Rose combines photography and video in multimodal works that are neither comfortable nor decorative.
“People say my art is shocking,” she says. “But what’s happening in the global context is much more shocking than art.” When I gratuated postcolonial theory and issues of gender, race and identity were super-important”.
Rose has been transformed by the birth of her son five years ago. She has moved from Johannesburg back to her roots in Durban, surrounded by her family.
“I turned 40 and I kind of abolished anger. I describe it as being more militant, less aggressive,” she says. “Militancy comes from being a mother. You have a lot more responsibility toward the planet than you did before.”
She is focused on leaving a legacy.
“You don’t make art for the present,” she says. “You make it for the future. You are working for a history that is centuries beyond you, for multiple generations ahead of you.”
Did you know her work? Let us know what you think?
Photos: courtesy of Goodman Gallery in Johannesbourg
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