Genoveva Fernandez | We, the people
Opening Thursday 14th January, 6-8pm
Exhibition continues until 31st January
In principio erat Mandela.
As many newcomers to South Africa, I arrived at this country with Mandela in my mind.
A young European idealist in the 80´s and having followed the struggle against Apartheid, I dreamt of meeting the great man, but I could only pay my respects in the Union Buildings with his passing.
For me it was very special to share with the South African people such a defining moment in which the father of the Nation led the way to another South Africa; one without him.
I joined the mourning/celebration of Madiba´s life by creating two pieces of work, two screens (Life Screened 1 and 2) with some of the information that the local newspapers published then in his honour. It is Mandela´s life screened. The curtains invite you to pass through or to see through to another space. They symbolize change and the call for transformation and understanding of what might be at the other side.
One year, to the day, after Mandela died, I searched newspapers of all the countries I had lived in (Algeria, El Salvador, Brazil, the United States, Russia, South Africa and Spain) looking for a mention of the man that had become sort of the universal answer to the problems of our times. The work December 5th shows a slice of what international media would publish, or rather not publish, in his first anniversary.
After Mandela and South Africa, I chose to move to my own country: Spain. King Juan Carlos had abdicated after 40 years in the throne opening the way to his son King Felipe. Juan Carlos I had also been a key figure in recent Spanish history and had led my country to democracy. Abdicatio 1 and 2, disposed as blinds, are also composed of what the newspapers published on that ceremony.
But having paid tribute to the South African “miracle” and the all admired Spanish transition through the great men that embodied them, who led and inspired, where were we, the people?
Yes, we owe to our leaders, to their visions, but democracy can only work if we, the people own it. Although democracy encompasses many things, I chose the right to vote to represent it. Sol omnibus lucet is a large screen that shows people queuing to vote and A capite is a set of newspaper made heads that portrays the principle “one man, one vote”.
Voting is the fundamental act of democratic ownership, the freedom to choose our leaders, the reminder that we hold them accountable, a right that we sometimes might take for granted. But voting brings also the question of what happens after we vote. Were our choices respected? Did our lives improve?
Long walk (back to Mandela) is the last piece of the exhibition, a wooden carpet that reproduces a snake shaped voting queue, and wants to convey the message that democracy will only fulfil its promise if it translates into justice, equality and a better life for all; if we, the people truly own our future.
Newspapers are omnipresent in this body of work. Newspapers have been for a very long time one of the main ways for the people to get information on public affairs. It is true that nowadays screens of all sorts have basically taken over.
But while under threat and trying to adapt to these new times, newspapers remain a fundamental source to access political information. One that would give both the writer and the reader the necessary time to reflect on what they want to say and learn.
Is this kind of a nostalgic tribute to printed media?
Why do you use curtains, blinds, screens, panels?
All of them allow the passage between two spaces, two realities. All of them have two sides to the same story. They do not stop us. They invite us to walk through. We can go back and forth and reflect about both. They have become a symbol in my work of the possibility of change.
Genoveva Fernandez (b. Madrid, 1964) is an artist living and working in Pretoria. She is part of Kim Lieberman’s open studio in Arts on Main and her last work was shown in the exhibition Thinking in a space at Nirox Projects, Johannesburg, in January 2014.
Genoveva holds a MA in History of Art from Madrid’s Universidad Autonoma. Her artistic education draws both from the creative freedom of the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington DC (2002-2005) where she received the Faculty Award for Excellence, and the academic orthodoxy of the Institute of Fine Arts Surikov in Moscow (2005-2006).
Her solo exhibitions include Between the lines, in the Eduardo Urculo Center for the Arts (Madrid 2012),As morning shows the day at Larra Gallery (Madrid 2010), Glances at Artplay Center for Design and Architecture (Moscow 2008), Three-Legged and Primarily Colors at Gala Hispanic Theatre Gallery (Washington DC, 2008, 2005).
Genoveva leads a project in Lesotho to bring the arts to the schools through workshops for children, young adults and teachers, with the support of her own students of her studio in Pretoria, where she has taught painting and drawing since 2013.
Sol omnibus lucet (The sun shines on us all)
Aluminium bars, laminated photo paper and hose pipes. 2015
380 x 100 cm