South African multimedia artist Gabrielle Goliath deals with unprocessed traumas of slavery, colonialism and apartheid, and the consequent violence of patriarchy and rape culture that makes precarious black, brown, feminine and queer lives – not only in South Africa but globally.
Her work This song is for … from 2019 is a sound, video and text installation that foregrounds the lived experiences of survivors of rape, and their everyday claims to life, hope, faith and joy. Goliath’s artistic practice consists of extensive projects spanning many years, in which she establishes close relationships with collaborators. This song is for … is a collection of video works, each based on a song dedicated to a survivor of rape. As collaborators on the project, each survivor was invited by Goliath to share with her a song of deep personal significance – one that evokes for them a sensory world of memory and feeling – as well as a colour of their choosing and a written reflection. Goliath then approached a number of women and gender-queer led musical ensembles asking them to interpret and perform these dedication songs. Leading South African musicians present new versions of familiar songs, including Bohemian Rhapsody, Ave Maria, and others. In the exhibition we present five songs in a series of thirteen recorded lyrics.
In the course of each song, a sonic interference is performed; a recurring musical rupture recalling the effect of a scratched LP record. This repetitive ‘glitch’ invites participants to immerse themselves within a sonic space of traumatic recall. Here, the violence of rape and the psychological after-lives that emerge in its wake become painfully entangled with the personal and political struggles of the survivors themselves, to life and dignity. Instead of conventional therapy, Goliath allows art to facilitate forms of empathic encounter, in which the differences that mark our experiences of the world form the basis for mutual recognition and consideration.
Courtesy of the artist and the Goodman Gallery.