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Photography exhibition direct from Venice Biennale

Photography exhibition direct from Venice Biennale
Viviane Sassen: Lexicon
22 Mar – 15 Jun 2014

Direct from the 2013 Venice Biennale, City Gallery presents Lexicon, an exhibition by acclaimed Dutch art and fashion photographer, Viviane Sassen. All photographs in Lexicon were shot in Africa.

Sassen spent three years of her early childhood in a remote village in Kenya, before moving back to the Netherlands with her family when she was five. She says that her childhood in Africa was a formative experience for her.

"To me, Africa is vivid colours and strong contrasts of light and dark", says Sassen. “Working in Africa opens the doors of my subconscious more widely. My dreams are very vivid when I am there.”

Africa is a loaded subject for Western artists. Sassen says, “I'm aware of the whole debate about my depicting black people in Africa as a white European woman, and of me being in control because I'm carrying the camera. But I'm not really interested in that debate, because for me the work comes from a very personal, private place. When I'm in Africa, I feel like I'm coming home, yet I also feel like I'm not one of them."

City Gallery’s chief curator, Robert Leonard saw Sassen’s Lexicon at last year’s Venice Biennale.

He says, “At first I was completely baffled. I didn’t know how to read it: as staged or as documentary, as fact or fiction. The work was haunted by politics, but I couldn’t tell whether they were the photographer’s or my own. Then I realised that Sassen was deliberately provoking the confusion. Ambiguity, as much as Africa, is her subject. It’s great work."

Lexicon will be accompanied by two films that also address how the exotic other is viewed: Pieter Hugo's music clip for South African rapper Spoek Mathambo's cover of Joy Division's She's Lost Control; and Alain Resnais and Chris Marker's 1953 anit-colonial tract Statues Also Die.

About Viviane Sassen
Sassen is a leading fashion and art photographer. She studied fashion at the Royal Academy in Arnhemin, the Netherlands, and modelled for Viktor & Rolf, before doing a photography degree in 1992. The Scottish National Gallery recently presented her exhibition In and Out of Fashion. She is represented by Stevenson, Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Viviane Sassen: Lexicon
22 March – 15 June
City Gallery Wellington | Free Entry


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