For Your Eyes Only

For Your Eyes Only – African contemporary art in Den Hvide Kødby/White Meat City. From dusk till dawn, the exhibition For Your Eyes Only shows video works by African contemporary artists at various sites in the old meat market district of Den Hvide Kødby/White Meat City – choreographed as a tour of the various meat merchants, galleries, and creative businesses of this vibrant neighbourhood. The exhibition is open from 4 to 29 March 2009, Den Hvide Kødby/White Meat City, Copenhagen, Denmark.

The team behind the exhibition comprises: Charlotte Bagger Brandt, curator; curator Charlotte Sprogøe in the role of co-ordinator and communicator; video artist Jakob Tækker, a graduate from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, in charge of audio-visual affairs; and installation technician Emil Krøyer taking care of production matters.

View NETWORK page for the exhibit here.
View PRESS page for the exhibit here.

The exhibition For Your Eyes Only narrates the world from Africa’s point of view in the form of poetic, political, or documentary fragments. The 10 video pieces evoke images of African culture today, ranging from the poetry of everyday life to personal accounts of political realities.

For Your Eyes Only is curated by Charlotte Bagger Brandt in co-operation with Dak’art – the internationally acclaimed and most widely recognised contemporary art biennial of Africa; an event based in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. The theme for the most recent ‘Dak’art’, held in 2008, was ‘Mirror’. Mirror addressed the projections imposed on Africa today. The exhibition asked what images the West has formed of the continent, and what self-image and identity the Africans has formed themselves?

In For Your Eyes Only, artists reflect the West’s projections back onto ourselves. From behind the looking glass, as it were, we see the world through the eyes of others, and we also see our own gaze.

The works show how words shape the world, how concepts of black and white, nation and terrorist create images of reality that have wide-ranging consequences. They also, more generally, show how developments in the West affect the cities of Africa. The Declaration of Human Rights becomes a harsh chant in Guy Woute’ piece, the logo of commercialism becomes a fatigued African in Samba Fall’s video, the coasts of Europe become a hostile landscape for travellers in Berni Searle’s film.

We meet no personified narrators in the works; rather, we see emblematic figures. The videos are peopled by persons who have been reduced to icons, mouths, masked faces, closed eyes, or blurred silhouettes. Or we hear only voices.

Today, African art is a very wide-ranging concept. The journey away from Africa’s negative, black-and-white image as a place characterised by hunger, war, and underdevelopment has been long and weary. Now we see the emergence of an international awareness of how Africa is more than just a victim. Art does not have to address the colonial era, it is not just traditional and ‘ethnic’, and it does not express a race mentality – a uniquely African soul.

The works at For Your Eyes Only show that contemporary reality in Africa is complex. The worlds presented in the exhibition span a wide range. They run the gamut from former South African president Verwoerd’s apartheid to Desmond Tutu’s and Nelson Mandela’s ‘Rainbow Nation’. None of these concepts fully encompass the world of today. Thus, For Your Eyes Only presents works that are not naïve, ethnic, tribal, or decorative, nor hateful or aggressive. Rather, the video pieces shape an image of Africa where dreams and everyday life, hope and violence co-exist.

Charlotte Sprogøe, February 2009

  • For Your Eyes Only – Press
  • For Your Eyes Only Network
  • For Your Eyes Only Press Coverage