Landscapes between Then and Now
Recent Histories in Southern African Photography, Performance and Video Art
In Landscapes Between Then and Now, Nicola Brandt examines the increasingly compelling and diverse cross-disciplinary work of photographers and artists made during the transition from apartheid to post-apartheid and into the contemporary era.
By examining specific artworks made in South Africa, Namibia and Angola, Brandt sheds light on established and emerging themes related to aftermath landscapes, embodied histories, (un)belonging, spirituality and memorialization. She shows how landscape and identity are mutually constituted, and profiles this process against the background of the legacy of the acutely racially divisive policies of the apartheid regime that are still reflected on the land. As a signpost throughout the book, Brandt draws on the work of the renowned South African photographer Santu Mofokeng and his critical thinking about landscape.
Landscapes Between Then and Now explores how practitioners who engage with identity and their physical environment as a social product might reveal something about the complex and fractured nature of postcolonial and contemporary societies. Through diverse strategies and aesthetics, they comment on inherent structures and epistemologies of power whilst also expressing new and radical forms of self-determinism. Brandt asks why these cross-disciplinary works ranging from social documentary to experimental performance and embodied practices are critical now, and what important possibilities for social and political reflection and engagement they suggest.
Table of Contents
Introduction 1. Beyond Bearing Witness 2. Santu Mofokeng’s Appropriated Landscapes 3. Picturing Stillness, Aura and Ambivalence 4. Namibia’s War of Independence: Power, Knowledge and Amnesia 5. Memorial Landscapes: Between Documentary Realism and the Imaginary 6. Histories and Landscapes Embodied 7. Imagined Geographies and New Practices of Self Epilogue
Nicola Brandt is an artist and lecturer on histories of photography and contemporary art. She was a visiting professor at the Institute of African Studies and Iwalewahaus (The University of Bayreuth, Germany) in 2019. Nicola has presented her work at The National Art Gallery of Namibia, the MAXXI Museum in Rome, Yale University and the Würth Museum in Germany.
'Landscapes between Then and Now highlights a fascinating multiplicity of new "practices of self", and how artists envision and, crucially, embody positions and landscapes. Their personal, sometimes collectively shared histories become powerful archives with which to imagine, map and represent new geographies, temporalities and identities.'
"This book is a highly important and timely contribution to the study of southern African artistic and photographic interventions in the very contested and scarred landscapes of the three post-colonial nation-states."
--Journal of Namibian Studies
‘This is an extraordinary book for those interested in a more prismatic consideration of the visualization of history at the interstices of violence, race and modernity in Africa; here the landscape itself is the primary archive. Focused on Southern Africa, Brandt reaches beyond the knowing silence photography can engender, to give voice to formerly unspeakable things that perhaps can no longer remain unspoken.’
--Erica Moiah James, art historian, curator
‘Landscapes between Then and Now brilliantly explores how artistic and critical practices of post-apartheid South Africa and Namibia chart a creative and critical path out of habituated ways of looking at the world with a Western, colonial and inherently unjust gaze. This lucid, innovative and deeply ethical study of a range of genres and artists will quickly become an enduring and indispensable book for anyone concerned with camera-based art practices in our globalized age.’
--Ulrich Baer, New York University, author of Spectral Evidence: The Photography of Trauma
‘Landscapes between Then and Now reminds us of the extraordinary enmeshment of histories in Southern Africa in spite of rigid man-made borders and the traumas that came with them. In tracing the work of key artists working in photography, performance and video art, it delves into the complex politics of land and reflects on nuanced tensions emanating from different places, spaces and time periods. In many ways it creates a context for important debates around collective memory and commemoration that are ongoing today.’
--Tandazani Dhlakama, Assistant Curator, Zeitz Mocca Museum, South Africa
‘In this moment of seismic shifting – of ideas, of power, and of the ways we construct and interpret knowledge – Brandt’s book is an insightful guide to readers attempting to navigate ‘landscapes’ – both as physical environments, and more so, as social and psychic spaces.’
--Nomvuyo Horwitz, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
‘Brandt writes insightfully about the individual bodies of work selected for in-depth consideration. Her underlying argument, that contemporary ‘landscape’ photography in the region should be understood in relation to the social documentary practices predominant during the apartheid years, is both valuable and convincing.’
--Darren Newbury, author of Defiant Images: Photography and Apartheid South Africa
‘The past can be owned, just like landscape. The temptation to assert meaning, rather than to make visible, is as ancient as the hills. The writer guides us deep into this overlapping terrain as she examines landscape, memorial, monument and our memory of what happened to us.’
--Guy Tillim, South African photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson Award winner, 2019