Scars of cancer surgery on a woman’s chest. Dreadlocks twisted into the shape of an African mask. Ritualistic cuttings that a black man makes on a white man’s back. A woman’s torso slathered with mud from the floor of a drought-dried lake in Africa. The body is both metaphor and medium in “Constant Triumph” at the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, the first American survey of the work of IngridMwangiRobertHutter, an art collaborative from Germany. It runs through May 14.
Ingrid Mwangi, who is part Kenyan and part German, lived in Nairobi until she moved to Germany at age 16. Robert Hutter is a German native. They are partners in marriage and in a body of video performances and photographs that explore issues of race, conflict, identity and, in the title piece, about Mwangi’s sister coping with cancer, the will to embrace life. (Above, a still from “Creep Creature,” Mwangi’s video performance in a drought-dried African lake bed.)
The couple’s art, which is distinctive in its careful attention to the aesthetic presentation of their videos, is especially provocative because it involves physical extremes, including mutilation. “Conscious of the Wall” (below) is an image of Hutter’s mark-covered back.
“One can talk about the metaphorical suggestion of psychic scars, or reference to torture and dehumanization. One can talk about the African scarification, rites of passage as tests of endurance, and tattoos as trophies. One can talk about treading the line between sanity and insanity, and the fluid meaning of ‘sanity.’ One can talk about sensationalism and seriousness. But one will definitely want to talk about this show.” For the full review, which ran in the AJC, click here.