Interdisciplinary artist Wezile Harmans is set to open his solo exhibition DO NOT TRUST THE BORDERS at the UJ Art Gallery on the 16 March 2023.

Developed from his original exhibition at the Bag Factory in 2022, DO NOT TRUST THE BORDERS focuses on the challenges of migration and its dehumanising impact on migrants. In a body of work that ranges from installation to video and mixed media works, Harmans explores the gatekeepers or boundaries that continue reinstating invisible othering by acknowledging only those who ‘belong’ and isolating others. Turning to batting material, bandages and paper, tea and coffee, Harman interrogates the migration policies that have resulted in the dehumanization of certain bodies through the colonial visa application processes.

Using his interdisciplinary approach as a tool for social change Harmans’ work confronts prejudices and advocates against social inequality, creating a platform for critical self-reflexivity within unwelcoming spaces. DO NOT TRUST THE BORDERS investigates the concept of displacement and dispossession. These very terms seem to be experiences of those who have been kept out due to physical and psychological borders which surround them. Harmans explores how the creation of a ‘border’ reproduces and strengthens the negative narratives that exist amongst people and their geographical borders.

“The immigration processes strip all corners of one’s humanity, identity and dignity. There is a constant reminder that reinforces the idea that home is not where you are currently at if at all, home is nowhere,” he states.

His practice is influenced by research-based subjects that reveal human behaviour and the impact of knowledge transmission towards our surroundings. He creates works that engage with memory, reality, displacement, and landscape, using the term “defamiliarization” to describe his artistic practice, putting his work in an unfamiliar way that creates further conversation and transports the work in unfamiliar spaces. He focuses more on the process of creating the work and that process becomes the body of art on its own. The complexity, rawness and imperfection add layers to the work and plays a role in “trusting the process”. In this way the art is viewed from a different angle, becoming a tool for consent, and giving the public enough possibilities to think for themselves.

The body of work grew from Harman’s residency in Essen, Germany where he researched the topic of displacement and has been supported by the African Artists Foundation. “The development of this exhibition was inspired by my interest with borders and how the Visa application process can be so dehumanising. The process of development included a lot of dialogues with people I have met who have had first-hand experience with crossing the borders,” says Harman.

Harman, who personally had an experience of border difficulties at the time of researching the work explains further:

“When you talk about borders one need to realise that, that concept applies to everyone. Restrictions are part of our lives, we are constantly performing and negotiating our lives, that is how I look at it. Imagine how those negotiations are in a foreign country or space, how taxing and draining for an individual. Dressing and undressing themselves, embarrassment, financial and emotional exhaustion. They go through that daily and they are in a state of urgency.”

DO NOT TRUST THE BORDERS runs from 16 March – 6 April 2023

Walkabouts: 22 and 31 March 2023, at 10:30

Gallery hours: Mon–Fri: 09:00 – 15:00
Closed weekends and public holidays

Location: APK Campus, Cor. Kingsway/University Rd, Auckland Park
Contact:  011 559 2099

About UJ Arts & Culture

UJ Arts & Culture, a division of the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture (FADA) produces and presents world-class student and professional arts programmes aligned to the UJ vision of an international university of choice, anchored in Africa, dynamically shaping the future. A robust range of arts platforms are offered on all four UJ campuses for students, staff, alumni and the general public to experience and engage with emerging and established Pan-African and international artists drawn from the full spectrum of the arts.

In addition to UJ Arts & Culture, FADA (www.uj.ac.za/fada) offers programmes in eight creative disciplines, in Art, Design and Architecture, as well as playing home to the NRF SARChI Chair in South African Art & Visual Culture, and the Visual Identities in Art & Design Research Centre. The Faculty has a strong focus on sustainability and relevance, and engages actively with the dynamism, creativity and diversity of Johannesburg in imagining new approaches to art and design education.