Strange and Bitter Fruit

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“Strange and Bitter fruit” is a selection of works from a larger body of work and is a continuation of my exploration of representation and sexualized otherness. The title “Strange and bitter fruit” is taken from Abel Meeropol’s  poem “Strange Fruit” performed, most famously, by Billie Holiday. The song speaks about racism in America and the lynching of black American slaves.

I have worked with found texts, interviews and found footage, synthetic fibers as well as hair salvaged from my brush over the past year to explore the myself as a subject of “popular” and “scientific understandings of embodied difference from the position of a “native” person from a tribe recently discovered of blue earth humanoids who were previously only believed to exist in space, untouched by western civilization.  The camera interrogates the historical mysticism and exoticism that continues around the discover of “new tribes” be in in central Africa or the Amazon and how their histories are told, constructed and controlled. The resulting images speak to the invasive desires of others to find and present the next new, uncontaminated “thing”.

 This work can be understood as an interpretative project exploring the suspicion that surrounds anthropological understanding of the self, its relationship between racial thought and the construction of visual information through writing, photography and film. The understanding of race that emerges from a history of anthropological information is as much about the instability of who it says it represents, and the unshakeable suspicion that represented are not what they appear to be, as it is about boxing the “native subject” as a particular and inescapable racial type.

 The anthropological writing of Dr. Paul Broca. 1880. “The Bust of a Young Zulu Woman” is a postmortem report in which he concluded the dead girl is in fact an orangutan. His text is rearranged and the salient points that lead him to his conclusion is magnified in a 2,7m x 5m wall text titled “death blackened the cadaver”. The work questions how some bodies came to “belong to science” and their implications. Similarly explored is James Cameron’s Avatar which romanticises colonisation. In the movie, “Earth” (the ‘West’) has depleted its resources and sends the usual suspects (scientists, the anthropologists, the missionaries and education and finally military force) to mine the minerals they covet on a remote planet. That the movies is set a mere 150 years from now and makes attractive a process from which the rest of the previously subjugated world is still reeling from, is unsavory even worse that it should go ideologically un-criticized.

These underpinnings suggest that when the process of colonisation occurs on other planets “continents” and the “humanoids” are blue it is quite alright. The proliferation of fictional blue people after 2009, the year in which Avatar was released, seems de-racialise otherness and forms a sense of erasure of actual history and poses limitations on self inquiry and the worlds ongoing, albeit sometimes subversive, engagement with ethnographic methods of description that follow a 19th century ideas of racism and racial classifications. 

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