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posted on 28.02.2017, 00:39 by Rich, Roberta Joy
Oorspronklik, is the title of my research project, and is an Afrikaans word for authenticity. My research explores notions of authenticity in relation to constructed racial identities. The dichotomous language found within current social and institutional contexts, terms such as 'white' and 'black,' fails to recognise the complexities of identity, and yet forms the predominate mode through which we understand, speak about, and speak on behalf of racialised subjects. As self-determinacy is constrained by these deeply ingrained signifiers of identification, an examination of fixed representations that homogenise subjects is vital. My thesis is constructed around three positions: 'speaking as,' 'passing as,' and 'failing as'. These positions allowed me to assess the ways in which racial identity could 'pass,' 'fail' and 'speak' within social hegemonic frameworks. In my research colonial epistemologies of 'race' subjects are considered through the work of post-colonial theorists Edward Said, Frantz Fanon and Homi Bhabha. Further, the practices of artist's proppaNOW, Adrian Piper, and Gordon Bennett are discussed with regard to how subject positions can be performed as a means of subverting a fixed identity. Such radical enactments of selfhood are framed through Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's notion of 'speaking,' where an interrogation of one's agency and responsibility in relation to hegemonic power is necessary. I drew upon my autobiographical position as a primary source of research. I conducted research in Cape Town, South Africa, where I attempted to learn the Afrikaans language and explored the problematic processes of translation. This fieldwork attempted to test the possibility of performing inter-contextual identity positions with the aim of negating the seemingly fixed terms of self, thus either 'passing' or 'failing' to fit in with prevailing expectations. In doing so, I examined how my South African and Australian identity could pass, fail and speak utilising language and performance. My studio work involved video documentation of my performed social interactions, my performances of speaking Afrikaans and my learning of the language and culture within South Africa. Through these processes I re-staged Adrian Piper's video installation and performance Cornered, (1988) using English to Afrikaans language positions in order to attempt to address the problems and questions I encountered of how racial identity is understood, and whether I could responsibly use my agency to challenge dominant perspectives. The appropriation of Cornered reflects my conflicted positions of self-identification as well as the need to continue Piper's discourse of race homogenisation.


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Fine Art


Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture