Made Routes: Mapping and Making review

Art
3 out of 5 stars
Made Routes: Mapping and Making review
Berni Searle 'Untitled (red)'. From the ‘Colour Me’ series (1998) © The Artist

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Walking into the gallery is like stumbling on a hoard of lost treasures. Old maps, browning and aged, line the walls, the heady scent of pungent spice fills your nostrils.

This duo show of South African artists Vivienne Koorland and Berni Searle drags you into a world of closed borders, dark hinterlands and the ever-present shadow of colonial history.

Koorland’s big map shows the flora and fauna of Africa, over-printed with the names of distant towns and cities: Lagos, Kinshasa, Abidjan. They’re covered in European architecture and monuments, illegible Germanic script and exotic plants. There’s a knowing sense of displacement to the work, of boundaries and borders, of black and white, of colonialism and oppression; whatever these are maps of, it’s nothing good. They’re simple, effective meditations on colonial history in a world divided by it.

Searle’s works dig in the same thematic mine. A pentagonal shape on the floor is based on the earliest colonial building in South Africa, the Castle of Good Hope. Its red pigment is paprika, its nasty, sharp angles are a defence against invaders. It stinks, it’s fragile, and it brilliantly alludes to a whole history of trade war and imperialism. The associated video is less good: a little dull, a little ugly.

But taken together, Koorland and Searle’s work feels like an important, good thing: we should be considering our borders, our maps, our identity. That’s one of the things art is for, and we should be damn glad Koorland and Searle are doing it.

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