Mohau Modisakeng: Movement and Stillness


Mohau Modisakeng, ‘Untitled’, 2010, C-print on Watercolour Paper.Courtesy Tyburn Gallery.

I am standing in front of a series of three photographic works (Untitled, 2010) by South African artist Mohau Modisakeng. It is he who performs through subtle shifts and props within the space of the work. He stands, facing the viewer, against a dense black background, feet firmly on the floor, and arms at either side. I am conscious of the scale of the photographs, which, in my imagination, simulate a real life encounter with the performing body. The performing figure/ artist wears an animal print vest and a dusty industrial apron that reaches to the floor. An upside-down black bowler hat with a red lining moves from one point to the next, from image to image. In the first it becomes ambiguously, and indeed surreally, the body’s head. In the second, the hat has migrated and the artist’s face is now visible. In the third, it appears to topple from the opposite side. The three photographs capture progressive movement as they invite us to reflect on the stillness of the photographic images themselves. No specific place or time is given. The opaqueness of the work invites me to reflect on its internal world, its exploration of the body, performance and choreography, and its study of the tensions between movement and stillness, the real and the imagined.

Extract from my review of the the exhibition ‘Broken English’ at the Tyburn Gallery, London. See


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