Nue Contre Le Racisme

Olivier Bergeron, Mars 2014

 

We demain : vous recomposez des images d’archives en posant nue, mais vous ne les qualifiez pas d’autoportraits ? ayana v. Jackson : Je ne suis pas victime, contrairement aux modèles des images historiques, du regard partial d’un photographe. et il m’aurait été impossible d’utiliser un modèle que j’aurais finalement exploité à mon tour. Je déclenche moi-même l’obturateur à distance. c’est une première rupture. J’ai utilisé le corps nu de la femme noire comme une métaphore de la violence. l’esthétique du nu crée une tension recherchée. la soif d’images de corps en souffrance est presque la même que celle d’images de corps nus.

 

 

STRANGE FRUIT
Shashi Cullinan Cook, December 2013

Many artists and designers have recently been fossicking in Southern Africa’s colonial photographic archives because they provide abundant possibilities for reflecting on History and identity. In Archival Impulse, Ayana V. Jackson restages colonial-era photographs of black men, women and children in a series of digitally-collaged images in which she assumes the positions of the original sitters. Jackson (2013) describes this process as ‘identifying reoccurring motifs in the original images, interrogating them, performing them, and last, reconstructing them’. Jackson tints the photographs, imbuing them with a clearly artificial aura that references the hand- colourisation and faded sepia of her sources.

Ayana V Jackson, Sarah Baartman and the gaze on black bodies

Stefanie Jason, September 6, 2013

For her exhibition "Archival Impulse & Poverty Pornography", Ayana V Jackson turns to the archives to touch on the representation of black bodies.

 

The flyers pasted around the cobbled streets of London beckoned passers-by to witness the "greatest phenomenon ever exhibited in this country". Intrigued by the invitation and the word on the streets, curious Londoners flocked to the show to see what had just arrived in town. With bated breath and the two-shilling entry fee in hand, they arrived at Number 225 Piccadilly, to cast their eyes on the "Hottentot Venus".It was on such a day in 1810 that Sarah "Saartjie" Baartman – dressed in skin-tight clothes to best exhibit her posterior and genitalia – was put on display like a captured animal. And it is this memory of the black body as a source of spectacle and “othering” from the days of colonial expansion that gave birth to artist Ayana V Jackson’s latest body of work, Archival Impulse & Poverty Pornography.

PROJECTION SURFACE

Mpho Matsipa, November, 2011

Ayana Jackson’s exhibition  "Projection Surface"  presents a number of recurring stereotypes and representations of black bodies and black/African sexuality that range from the grotesque, the crudely sexual, uncivilised, boundless and, finally, sacred. Jackson explores some of these projections and attempts to unsettle them through a series of re‐enactments of familiar tropes associated with black/African bodies and what the artist refers to as the global south. One such re‐enactment, "Povporn: Death", presents an idyllic pastoral scene against which hangs a serene and lithesome female body. She appears to be in repose, her bronzed, naked form and face turned slightly away from the camera, as if caught mid turn. Her right breast and dark brown aureole face outwards towards the camera while her left breast and nipple turn inwards, forming an elegant silhouette against the bucolic backdrop. The noose around her neck is partially obscured by her coiffed hair. It could be a snare or a hangman’s knot. There are no signs of struggle here. She could be sleeping, or dreaming, except of course that the image is reminiscent of the lynchings in the American South. She is an exquisite corpse.

Review of 9th Bamako African Photography Biennial
Photo Essay, 2010

COMMUTER VANS AND NO MAN’S LAND: NAIROBI CITYSCAPE The function of a nation-state and by extension the purpose of its borders is to delineate a community united by political and cultural exclusivity. Globalisation has challenged the significance of these borders by encouraging alliances along the lines of trade networks and cultural solidarity rather than national identity. In response, frontiers are traversed by citizens, migrants, refugees, and tourists who at times find themselves occupying common territory without the requirement of allegiance to the state. In this reality, public space becomes a no man’s land whose occupants are transient and incongruous. Accountable only to its own logic, the commuter van and the city centre it services transforms into an ambiguous space between border posts and the driver becomes a smuggler of passengers between virtual perimeters. For brief moments individuals who otherwise would never find themselves in tandem achieve solidarity in the pursuit of mobility. In a 2008 opinion piece, theorist Achille Mbembe remarks, »In a world of rapidly expanding exploitation of a nomadic labour force, mobility is the precondition for securing livelihood ... Africa needs to free itself from the curse of the nation-state by learning to do without borders«. The commuter van, as native of no man’s land, is pregnant with this knowledge. Their potential as equalizer democratises access, encourages mobility and – perhaps – makes the borders of the modern nation-state more porous.

Essay for LightWork Residency Catalog
Bisi Silva, Spring 2011

In a trip in 2009 to Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Lima, I gained insight into an area of interest that I had sporadically delved into in the past—the presence, or more appropriately, the lack of presence of people of African descent in the Americas. While Brazil has a more visible connection with many countries across Africa—as a result of varying degrees of economic and cultural exchange—in the rest of the Americas, the silence of the African presence is as resounding as the spectre of invisibility. Ayana Jackson’s photographs foreground some of the issues and themes which highlight this historical disconnection. Influenced by the discourse of Double Consciousness that promotes the idea of Black emancipation and self-articulation espoused by W.E.B. Du Bois, Jackson is also conversant with the notion of the Black Atlantic, put forth by British theo- rist Paul Gilroy, as a transnational concept which goes beyond specific ethnicities or geographical locations. Her documentary practice is part of a growing inter- est in exploring African identity beyond a centralized dialog that has, up to now, positioned African-Amer- ican and Black British life as indicative of all African Diasporic experience. Through her images, Jackson not only asks questions about the social, economic, and political role Africans in the Americas play in their communities, in their society, and in the global African/ Diaspora, but also the platforms available for engage- ment with their cultural heritage.

Commuter Vans and No Man's Land Photo Essay
Forum section, Fall 2009

COMMUTER VANS AND NO MAN’S LAND: NAIROBI CITYSCAPE The function of a nation-state and by extension the purpose of its borders is to delineate a community united by political and cultural exclusivity. Globalisation has challenged the significance of these borders by encouraging alliances along the lines of trade networks and cultural solidarity rather than national identity. In response, frontiers are traversed by citizens, migrants, refugees, and tourists who at times find themselves occupying common territory without the requirement of allegiance to the state. In this reality, public space becomes a no man’s land whose occupants are transient and incongruous. Accountable only to its own logic, the commuter van and the city centre it services transforms into an ambiguous space between border posts and the driver becomes a smuggler of passengers between virtual perimeters. For brief moments individuals who otherwise would never find themselves in tandem achieve solidarity in the pursuit of mobility. In a 2008 opinion piece, theorist Achille Mbembe remarks, »In a world of rapidly expanding exploitation of a nomadic labour force, mobility is the precondition for securing livelihood ... Africa needs to free itself from the curse of the nation-state by learning to do without borders«. The commuter van, as native of no man’s land, is pregnant with this knowledge. Their potential as equalizer democratises access, encourages mobility and – perhaps – makes the borders of the modern nation-state more porous.

Corpo a corpo

 Julho 2014

 

Ayana V Jackson é uma norte-americana com o olhar voltado para os registros fotográficos desenvolvidos na África pré-colonial. Nascida em uma família de descendentes de escravos, Ayana divide sua vida entre Joanesburgo, Nova York e Paris, onde expõe trabalhos que refletem sua herança cultural e o lugar da população negra na sociedade contemporânea. São imagens que possibilitam uma reflexão sobre a história e a identidade não só do povo africano, mas de toda a civilização ocidental. Reconhecer padrões, questioná-los de forma performática e reconstruí-los com seu próprio corpo é a base do seu trabalho.

 

R e v i e w s / E s s a y s

Featured Artist

Spring 2014

Commentary by Hannah Freiser

 

 

 ...  Ayana V. Jackson does not wait for [the] future [she] restages the past instead. The emotionally complex work in her series Leap Frog (a bit of the other) Grand Matron Army, features a young black woman who is sitting in a crouching position. The woman, enacted by the photographer herself, sits on the ground in an open-legged squat, while her hands slightly push off from the ground ahead of her. While the woman’s pose is consistent throughout the series, her clothing references different eras and female typecasts. The unusual pose distinguishes the photographs from conventional studio portraits thereby obstructing a traditional interpretation. Though the pose has sexual connotations, the woman never appears submissive and looks into the camera defiantly. There is something unexpectedly confronting about the woman's direct gaze. Nothing will hold this determined woman back, who has claimed control of her mind and body.

The Look Out

Art in America

December  2014

 

 

Postmodernism meets racial history in these staged images by American-born photographer Ayana Jackson, who currently divides her time between Johannesburg, Paris and New York. Using her own body—clothed, semi-clothed or nude—the artist reconstructs colonial-era African documentation (itself often highly staged, with or without the willing compliance of the "native" subjects) in both single- and multiple-figure vignettes. Included are scenes of the artist (in all the roles) as a missionary with village girls, solitary odalisque, young woman fixing another's hair, proper schoolmarm and lynching victim. A final image shows Jackson with her back turned to the viewer, implicitly leaving behind all of the archival narratives she has enacted in order to begin a new, unforeseeable story.

© Ayana V  Jackson, 2014   

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