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Bianca Baldi at Photoforum Pasquart

September 18–November 20, 2022

Public programme: November 5–6

In her research-based works, Bianca Baldi deals with hidden infrastructures and narratives as a way of producing knowledge. Her multi-layered, sensual works, which are interested in both fictitious and historical contexts, incorporate images from movies, artifacts, and literature. To show how supposedly scientific archives support hegemonic ideology, they frequently use photographic records from colonial contexts as the basis for their analyses.

The exhibition Patina is the most comprehensive overview of Baldi’s multifaceted oeuvre to date, presenting various works of the last decade. It finds inspiration in the idea of “patina”, a concept dating back to the middle of the eighteenth century, incorporating three different meanings: “a surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use”; “an appearance or aura that is derived from association, habit, or established character”; “a superficial covering or exterior.” Today most scholarly references to patina occur in art history and conservation, referring either to the buildup on old paintings or to surface effects on metal objects. Importantly, the fashion for patina in the Western art world of the eighteenth century was tied to social and political dynamics where the ‘look of age’ became a desirable sign of distinction for the West’s old and new elites. In his exhibition, Baldi challenges the creation of identity, authenticity, embodiment, and self-presentation by making reference to the political aesthetics of surface and appearance. The artist challenges the historical staging of race and class through the use of specialized photography techniques and material explorations into surface, such as staged studio photography or close-ups of skin and textures. In order to show how the idea of speciesism is connected to the history of scientific racism, her works relies on historical and zoomorphic research. As demonstrated in her most recent work on the notorious Swiss-born professor of zoology and geology Louis Agassiz, Baldi relates the history of South Africa Apartheid with European colonialism and Switzerland using personal tales and literary characters.

The exhibition is a component of “Seeing through Clouds,” Photoforum’s curatorial topic for 2022, which examines the function of image archives and their purported significance in the documentation of facts in the digital age. By manipulating and fusing biased film, the invited artists illustrate how photography controls how narratives are communicated and how power is produced. This creates a constructively critical access to photographic pictures.

Bianca Baldi (born 1985 in Johannesburg, South Africa) is based in Brussels. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts in 2007 from the Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town, South Africa and completed her studies at the Städelschule in Frankfurt. Her work has been featured in large international exhibitions such as the 11th African Biennial of Photography (Bamako), the 11th Shanghai Biennale, the 8th Berlin Biennale of Contemporary Art and group exhibitions at Kunsthalle Bern, Extra City Kunsthal Antwerp, Kunstverein Braunschweig and Kunstverein Frankfurt. Recent solo exhibitions include Cameo at Grazer Kunstverein (2021), Versipellis at Superdeals in Brussels (2018), Eyes in the Back of Your Head at Kunstverein Harburger Bahnhof (2017) and Pure Breaths at Swimming Pool in Sofia (2016).

Curated by Jana Johanna Haeckel, artistic and managing director at Photoforum Pasquart. With generous support by Flanders State of the Arts and Pro Helvetia.

The Patina public programme will include artist talks, lectures, screenings and performances on how to subvert colonial image archives.