Reason and Its Discontents Q&A with Sharlene Khan

Photo: Supplied

Reason and its Discontents is a group exhibition including performance, video, photography and sound installation.  The pieces look at the spaces we find ourselves in.

The exhibition is loud and discomforting. It forces attendees to question the constructs of society and how it impacts on our lives. We sat down with one of the artists, Dr. Sharlene Khan, a visual artist and writer teaching at the University Currently Known as Rhodes (UCKAR), to find out more about the exhibition.

Q: What is the inspiration behind the exhibition?

A: The exhibition is inspired by psychoanalyst Frantz Fanon and the notion that we are normal people living in an abnormal society. In the colonised racial spaces that we find ourselves in, nobody can form a proper identity because of external influences. So then we reenact that notion that none of us are actually normal in an abnormal society.

Q: You mentioned colonised racial spaces, can you expand on that?

A: Take the Grahamstown divide for instance, where we live in one town but on different ends of the spectrum. We are living in a post-apartheid society but looking at Grahamstown, you see how abnormal it is to have one side doing really well and the other side not so much.

Q: How does this exhibition different from others?

A: People only think of exhibitions in terms of commercial galleries where you show a piece and you sell your work and that become[s] stifling in the art scene. So now we do shows that are about critically engaging discourses, shows that promote ideas and also interrogate societal ideas.

Q: What critically engaging discourses are these?

A: The intersectionality of race, gender and class and the socio-political realities surrounding these issues. Sikhumbuzo Makandula, one of the artists, goes around and exorcises public spaces and in another performance he was handing out what looked like sacramental bread with the word rape written on. These performances deal with addressing issues of of space, society, gender and social identity in South Africa.

Q: The exhibition is rather unconventional and deals with issues people might be to afraid to address.  How was it received by the audience?

A: A lot of people were unsettled by the exhibition because its very noisy and it sounded like a madhouse, but they stayed for long and came back for repeat performances because it was more avant-garde that other exhibitions. They were particularly interested in what we were showing because it deals with societal issues in such a drastic manner. I thought it would be busier but there is less traffic on this side of town, but we hope to have the exhibition shown in Johannesburg because these are issues we have to discuss.


By Zanele Mukhari

Cue Student Reporter






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