Alberta Whittle, Farieda Nazier and UJ Arts & Culture, a division of the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture (FADA), will present Right of Admission Retrospective (RoAR) at the UJ Art Gallery. Premised on the archival record and shared experiences and resonances of the various iterations of the duo’s collaborative performative intervention Right of Admission (ROA), RoAR will feature performances 15 and 20 August, a virtual walkabout on 19 August and workshops on 21 August 2021.
The walkabout will be an opportunity for audiences to hear directly from both Alberta and Farieda about the intricacies of this long term collaborative research practice. The artists have been developing this work since 2014 with many iterations across borders in Venice and throughout Johannesburg – each iteration has raised different questions about exclusion, safety, respectability politics, vaccine-apartheid and rising technocracy.
More about Right of Admission Retrospective
Originally performed at ROOM Gallery in Braamfontein in 2014, Right of Admission (RoAR) was a collaborative performative intervention choreographed and performed by Whittle and Nazier. The performance comprised of two major components: The Office and A Journey of Aspiration. The aim of the visual inquiry project was to explore the negotiated presence of blackness within racially stratified spaces, located in post-colonial and neo-colonial-apartheid contexts. The performance was followed by reiterations at 56th Venice Biennale 2015, Between Democracies 1989-2014: Commemoration and Memory, the FNB Art Fair, September 2015 and the Apartheid Museum, September 2017.
“Key to our ROA interventions is the staging of a variety of scenarios for conversation and reflection, including areas for grooming, classification and appraisal. Underlining these scenarios is the administrative labor of appraisal and judgement and the experience of being appraised and judged. We were interested in the critical and generative possibilities that arise from performative provocations such as these,” say the creators.
These interventions invite audiences to engage in critical dialogues around fixations on bodily appearance, appraisal and classification creating restrictions in access to education, employment, mobility, access to public services and even acceptance in social interactions. Adjacent to these scenarios of grooming is an inevitable process of classification, whereby both Nazier and Whittle performed the roles of glamorous officials supervising the Classification. Audience members were invited to have their appearance manipulated with different props as well as be measured in minute detail using Vernier calipers, pencils, a weighing scale, paint chart samples and tape measures.
Throughout these processes of measurement, audiences were interviewed and invited to define their racial and cultural identity through a series of prompts which were then transcribed into an elaborate form. An extension of this classification is the public administration of the collected data. Audience members were expected to wait for their data to be processed. Each participant had a numbered slip which was called, and a judgement or classification made public. “Over the years, the themes of race, gender, the body, coloniality and neo-coloniality have become more urgent within both our individual and collaborative practices. Often working at a distance (in Scotland/Caribbean and South Africa respectively), these concerns have intersected and inspired new and generative approaches to our individual practices,” explain Whittle and Nazier.
As with so much post-Covid restrictions have seen Whittle and Nazier have relied on the online space to collaborate, perform and present their work. The performance The (Remote) Office, walkabout and workshop will all be online and this space considered in the context of the work stating: “RoAR is an experimental space, within which we can perform and activate aspects of shared experiences during the run of the project. These remain pertinent in the current global context where the pandemic has deepened existing disparities. Amidst Black Lives Matters, the raging vaccine-apartheid and an ever-deepening technocracy. We want to use this space to articulate the rife race-based inequalities that persist and in many instances are magnified.”
They will perform The (Remote) Office, on 12 and 20 August a derivative version of the original office from the ‘safe’ uncontaminated confines of the UJ Art Gallery, via screen, where cyber interactions blur an already vexed reality. Notions of private and social acceptability are unpacked in the backdrop of the highly policed ‘New Normal’. How do we maintain a connection with our humxnity when the fear of contagion from the Other is often racialized and classified by difference? A walkabout will take place on 15 August. Due to the restrictions of the SARS Covid-19 pandemic, it is impossible for the artists to present together in the UJ Art Gallery, therefore the Walkabout will be pre-recorded. This will be an opportunity for audiences to hear directly from both Whittle and Nazier about the intricacies of this long-term collaborative research practice.
The artists have been developing this work since 2014 with many iterations across borders in Venice and throughout Johannesburg – each iteration has raised different questions about exclusion, safety, respectability politics, vaccine-apartheid and rising technocracy.
Nazier and Whittle both have active collaborative practices rooted in social engagement and education. Over the many iterations of the performance, RoAR has become a valuable resource for their individual work in terms of approach and content. To extend the reach of their research, they will be working with students, in a workshop on 20 and 21 August to excavate their ROA video archive and consider how participants’ own individual personal archives can be considered valuable contributions to research and discourse to students interested in their methods and findings. Working with a variety of methods, including critical writing, these workshops will be supportive environments to both analyze and contest institutional exclusion, contested histories and actions of refusal.