Candice Breitz (Johannesburg, 1972) has been based in Berlin for the last twenty years. Her moving image installations have been shown internationally. Throughout her career, she has explored the dynamics by means of which an individual becomes him or herself in relation to a larger community, be that the immediate community that one encounters in family, or the real and imagined communities that are shaped not only by questions of national belonging, race, gender and religion, but also by the increasingly undeniable influence of mainstream media such as television, cinema and other popular culture. Most recently, Breitz’s work has focused on the conditions under which empathy is produced, reflecting on a media-saturated global culture in which strong identification with fictional characters and celebrity figures runs parallel to widespread indifference to the plight of those facing real world adversity. She is currently working on the third part of a video trilogy that focuses on the attention economy, following the first and second chapters of the trilogy—Love Story (2016) and TLDR (2017).
For this talk, Breitz will focus on TLDR, the multi-channel installation that is included in the current exhibition, ‘Modern Love.’ TLDR is a musical of sorts, but also a portrait of a community of sex workers who live and work in Cape Town. Growing out of a series of interviews with the featured sex workers, the piece features a 12-year-old narrator who tells a true story from the recent past, recalling an ideological battle that pitted feminists against feminists, and human rights organisation Amnesty International against an awkward coalition of prominent Hollywood actresses and sex work abolitionists. Delivered with the disarming frankness of a child, the dramatic tale underscores the life-and-death stakes motivating the international struggle of sex workers for basic human rights.
Picking up where Love Story left off, this portrait of a precarious community invites reflection on the relationship between whiteness, privilege and visibility; and on the shrinkage of attention spans within an information economy that fetishizes celebrity and thrives on entertainment. Addressing the oft-fraught relationship between art and activism, TLDR points a finger at itself to bluntly ask whether and how artists living privileged lives can succeed in amplifying calls for social justice and meaningfully representing marginalised communities.
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