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Bettina Malcomess: Sentimental Agents Walkabout with Artist

When: Saturday, 06 April 2024
Where: Wits Art Museum
Start time:12:00

Tiisang Monatisa

Join the artist walkabout

Sentimental Agents is a series of moving image works embodying the entanglements of cinema within the nervous system of empire, an immersive information field of signals, light, sound and transmission. The film cycle was shot in various locations in varied formats, tracking the journey of the sentimental agent, a technician of minor histories trying to tell the story of cinema's place in the South African War, but who suffers from the neurological disorder of narcolepsy. We travel with the agent to battlefields, memorials, unmarked graves, museums and archives, as well as colonial cinema palaces from the 1930s in Johannesburg and in Accra, Ghana. The films continuously gesture to an absence that they cannot fully articulate: the spectral presence of those figures that haunt the South African War archive, such as Solomon T. Plaatje. The work does not recycle archival footage nor historical images of the War's biopolitical violence. The cinematic language instead embodies a specifically colonial operationalisation of the nervous system by empire, one which violently marks, damages and marginalises black, feminine, queer, animal and nervous bodies. A registering of the re-inscription of historical representation on the celluloid substrate. Gaps, omissions, partial shadows, leakages of light.
The films form part of a PhD in Film Studies at Kings College London, the result of 7 years of archival and field research. The exhibition at Wits Art Museum includes objects, drawings, prints and expanded cinema works. The show opens with a first iteration from 26 March, and slowly over the course of the 3-month run, the space develops and shifts, culminating in the addition of a final film in May. While the project's research extends back to 2016, showing this work in Johannesburg in 2024 has an unplanned resonance with the contemporary conflicts we see playing out in our own media in a field of violent and opposing geo-political and neo-colonial forces. Thus, the show will have an active public programme of interventions and conversations that respond to the resonances between this war history and our contemporary moment.
Courtesy of the artist and Gallerie Nagel Draxler, Berlin

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