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Lindsey Raymond

August 27 / 2021

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Lindsey Raymond recently curated ‘Not Angels or Algorithms, Only Human Error’, a group video exhibition at WHATIFTHEWORLD contemporary art gallery in Cape Town. Divided into three parts, the show begins with an evaluation of our political world and ends with how we respond to and heal from the injustice that has come to signify our present. Humanity, history, ‘evil’, and error are located within the seemingly abstract — ‘cultural criticism’, ‘neoliberalism’, ‘the internet’.

 

Q >How did your new exhibition ‘Not Angels or Algorithms, Only Human Error’ come about — what inspired you to curate it, and what are some of the underlying themes you seek to explore?

A >During lockdown, videos were really the only way to access art in its intended form. OVR just seemed like an anti-climatic, flatter-than-flat mimicry of ‘art in space’. Whereas, YouTube offered the works of Howardena Pindell, Hito Steyerl, and Adrian Piper… Artists who I admire, but whose works I’d never seen. Viewing rooms, for me, epitomise the contemporary human fault: our denial of reality. Algorithms, for instance, aren’t considered gross manipulation tactics and marketing tools for power advancement — as real things with real consequences. They’re conceived as abstract and intangible, almost extra-terrestrial mishaps, rather than human-born and power aiding. This is what the exhibition explores: the human, our failures, our ill wills, our goodwills turned ugly, our obsession with power, how we cope, how we heal etc. And what better way to do that than through video: the failed art object.

Q >How did you go about choosing which artists and works to feature? Tell us about some of them.

A >I’ve worked with Cameron Platter, Lungiswa Gqunta, Lakin Ogunbanwo, and Athi-Patra Ruga for over three years, through WHATIFTHEWORLD. Other videos I had only seen on a laptop screen or read about, and felt that their effect was largely dependent on being screened in an immersive, darkened, dedicated space. Warrick Sony’s found footage and engineered sound tracks; Dineo Seshee Bopape’s abstracted mass of sound and colour; and Tabita Rezaire’s mystical graphics and inspiringly informative videos, are some of these. I saw Dynasty Handbag’s work at the New Museum, New York, in 2019, and it left an impact. Angel Ho is a contemporary of mine, whose music, performances, costume and knowledge of pop, gay, and trans culture is just a huge resource for South African audiences. 

All of these artists hold alternative perspectives that, rather than damn or dictate, subtly engage with politics through satire, collage, sound, abstraction, animation, and tropes of tutorials, music videos, fables, or morality tales.

Q >Which artists, writers, academics, curators, and other creative thinkers have influenced your curatorial practice?

A >Queer, lesbian, trans and feminist theorists are the reason why I am here. Jack Halberstam; bell hooks; Judith Butler; Lee Edelman; Paul B Preciado; Maggie Nelson; Chris Kraus; Heather Davis; and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak to name a few. Artists include Hito Steyerl, Joan Jonas, Juliana Huxtable, Sarah Lucas, Zanele Muholi, Julie Mehretu, and Thania Petersen. And there are still so many others.

Q >Describe your curatorial approach, and the underlying ethos that guides your process.

A >The core of my practice will always be highlighting queer artists and stories. Queerness is a mode of thinking (or rather, questioning, questioning, questioning and never getting an answer). I focus on the political; on renegades and avant-garde thinkers. 

Q >What is an art exhibition? A space of negotiation for artists, curators and market? An educational and discussion space? Or simply an opportunity to sell art? Tell us your thoughts.

A >An ‘art exhibition’ holds many roles, depending on who seeks to define it. For me, an exhibition is a ritual. It’s an edited process made public. An access point into a conversation. But, cynical me, also wants to say that’s dreamy nonsense and it is actually a sales opportunity; a social parade; an Instagram post; a sponsored event. It’s all of these things!

Q >Can you tell us a bit about how you seek out creative talent and nurture relationships with artists?

A >Most recently, I’ve looked to artist-led exhibitions; residencies and project spaces; fundraising auctions; online fairs; open studios; panel discussions; and digital forums. Social media is also a huge resource. Many artists use it both as a branding platform and a personal archive. So, you get the CV breakdown and the studio visit. 

I am also an art writer, and I write for many artists (including, from this show, Cameron Platter, Lakin Ogunbanwo and Athi-Patra Ruga). For me, once this exchange takes place, you both make a commitment to nurture engagement. It’s the age-old obsession and symbiosis between curator, critic, and artist.

Q >In parallel with social shifts, the role of the curator is continuously evolving. What does it mean to be a curator today?

A >For me, a curator’s role is to use the power and platforms they have to reinstate criticality, and broaden education and research. And to do this creatively. I think curators should rid “accessibility” from their vocabularies and intentions. For something to be “accessible”, there must be someone at the top declaring a base-line intelligence. And it increases the possibility of homogeneity, easy consumption, and mis-appropriation. Again, this would be my ethos but it’s not definitive. I’m still working out what it means to curate.

 

Lindsey Raymond is the current gallery manager at Southern Guild, Cape Town. Previously, she was gallery manager at WHATIFTHEWORLD. She also works as an independent editor, researcher, and arts and culture writer, having written on and for artists such as Cameron Platter, Lakin Ogunbanwo, Tabita Rezaire, Athi-Patra Ruga, Thania Petersen, Oluseye, and others based in South Africa, Nigeria, Canada, and London. She has edited pieces for institutions such as the Smithsonian (Washington), the Hayward Gallery (London) and the Norval Foundation (Cape Town). 

Since graduating cum laude from the University of Cape Town’s Michaelis School of Fine Art in 2018, where she specialised in sculpture and art history, she has hosted workshops in making and theorising bio-plastics from an ecological feminist perspective; performed with Belinda Blignaut at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art, Cape Town; and worked with non-profit organisations such as PASSOP (People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression, and Poverty), the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, and HAICU (HIV/AIDS, Inclusivity & Change Unit).

 

Images courtesy of the artists and WHATIFTHEWORLD

Lindsey Raymond, curator of: Not Angels or Algorithms, Only Human Error (2021). Photo by Akshar Maganbeharie

Dineo Seshee Bopape — is i am sky, 2013 (single-channel digital video, sound). Installation view from: Not Angels or Algorithms, Only Human Error, at WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town. Photo by Hayden Phipps

Angel Ho — Garden of Diva, 2021 (single-channel digital video, sound). Installation view from Not Angels or Algorithms, Only Human Error, at WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town Photo by Hayden Phipps

Dynasty Handbag — Fascist Dictatorship Make Up Tutorial, 2016 (single-channel digital video, sound). Installation view from Not Angels or Algorithms, Only Human Error, at WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town Photo by Hayden Phipps