Archive: Issue No. 74, October 2003

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Mara Verna at Tate Modern

Mara Verna, a Canadian artist who works in France and South Africa, was recently a speaker at an international symposium at Tate Modern, London. The Fieldworks Conference aimed to trace recent shifts in art and anthropology, and the apparent overlap between the concerns and practices of those working in each field.

The symposium brief elaborated: "The increasing use of 'fieldwork' by many artists and the 'ethnographic turn' described by art theorists, invite comparisons with anthropology. In anthropology, critiques of ethnography and fieldwork have raised fundamental questions about the nature of representation - questions which have implications for art. Can developments in each field illuminate the principles and practices of the other? What similarities and differences exist in how artists and anthropologists engage with and represent events, experiences, and others?"

Mara, who came to this country as a Public Eye intern, and rapidly got involved in her own performance work, participating in the last Joubert Park Project, has for the past two years been working on a project inspired by Sarah Baartman, an indigenous South African dubbed 'The Hottentot Venus' who was exhibited as a curiosity to European audiences in circuses, bars and universities. She became a source of stereotypes about race and African sexuality.

Mara Verna's exhibition 'Rien n'a �t� perdu' at La Centrale in Montreal (Feb-Mar 2003), incorporates video, drawings, collages, and prints, but no images of the Hottentot Venus, in order to underscore her ultimate humanity and refrain from recapitulating caricatured images of Baartman produced during her lifetime.