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Abri de swardt
Ridder Thirst
Experimental fiction | hdv | color and b&w | 13'38'' | South Africa | 2018
“Ridder Thirst” explores the restorative agency and limits of queer youth, facing white supremacist denialism with an inventory of its continued effects. De Swardt fantasises the First River, a primary marker of settler colonial inhabitation in South Africa, into disappearance, perceiving that “if the ocean is the space of coloniality, the river is that of settlement”. The work takes the span of the river as witness of extreme socio-political discrepancies: snaking from the mouth of the river at Macassar Beach - a former separate amenity for brown people - to Stellenbosch, the affluent university town central to the formulation of apartheid. Photographs of Afrikaner student couples captured at the river in the sixties and seventies by Alice Mertens, a Namibian-German ethnographic photographer who was the first tertiary tutor of the lens in South Africa, are reworked and called into question through a series of anti-monumental gestures, motion-tracked data on spatial and gender traumas, and dense voice-over narration that `unwrites` place. Here the vagaries of the archival gaze is met with the insatiability of eroticism as De Swardt occupies and inverts the “straight” canons of documentary photography and essay film, asking how we can unlearn historic images that seek to define us.
Abri de Swardt (b. 1988) is an artist and writer based in Johannesburg. He holds a MFA in Fine Art with distinction from Goldsmiths, University of London (2014), and was named one of the inaugural Young African Artists by Wanted Magazine. Recent exhibitions and screenings include “phula! phula!”, Africa Open Institute, Stellenbosch (2019); “The Difficulty of Saying I”, Rupert, Vilnius; “Coded Encounters”, Galeria Graça Brand?o, Lisbon; “writing for the eye, writing for the ear”, The Centre for the Less Good Idea, Johannesburg (all 2018); “These Rotten Words”, Chapter, Cardiff (2017); “Blend the Acclaim of Your Chant with the Timbrels”, Jerwood Space, London (2016); and “Men Gather, in Speech”, Cooper Gallery, Dundee (2015). De Swardt has held solo exhibitions at POOL, Johannesburg (2018); White Cubicle, London (2015); MOTInternational Projects, London (2013); and blank projects, Cape Town (2011). He has taught at Wits School of the Arts, and been published in Art Africa, How to Sleep Faster and Adjective. In 2019 he will contribute to “Radicalise Bauhaus - Perspectives from the Global South”, forthcoming from iwalewabooks, Bayreuth, and is a 2019/2020 artist-in-residence at Hordaland Kunstsenter, Bergen.