Bare skin and bare bone of contention
SHORTLY before his death in June, paleoanthropologist Phillip Tobias was shown some fine-art portraits of postgraduate students posing in the nude with the scientific remains of prehistory.
Apparently Tobias gave it the thumbs up but remarked that the work should be "better conceptualised". Whether Tobias would still approve of Resuscitãre, a photographic exhibition by Brett Eloff at Resolution Gallery in Rosebank, is anyone’s guess.
In fact, the finished work, now comprehensively conceptualised and carefully captioned, might even have received a more emphatic nod.
It’s a pity the same can’t be said for some other academic luminaries. Resolution’s curator, Ricardo Fornoni, is baffled by the rumblings from academia. "Some of these people have been told they will never work in this country."
Resistance to Resuscitãre, though, came as no surprise. Eloff recalls that Aurore Val, "one of the project’s main protagonists", first shared her idea of a nude calendar with him "over a bottle of wine". At that stage, natural science students "weren’t even part of it", says Eloff.
Together with the group Val intended for the series of photographs, Eloff and his subjects managed to "conceptualise a set of portraits which would aim to represent each subject’s field of study".
The result is something truly unique — 12 stripped scientists getting up close and personal with exhibits from their fields.
In one of the pictures, Juliet McClymont, an evolutionary biomechanist researching "the relationship between endurance running and morphological adaptations in fossil and modern humans", can be seen jogging alongside a skeleton.
Suspending her running partner by using gut took some doing, as did schlepping out to the Kamberg region in the Drakensberg to shoot a portrait of Azizo da Fonseca, a cultural heritage student posing shaman-like with the "Rosetta Stone of rock art in South Africa".
In another instance, Eloff and Pia Viglietti, who specialises in the End-Permian mass extinction of 251-million years ago, went to the lakes district near Chrissiesmeer in Mpumalanga. In inclement conditions he froze her fragile pose, capturing some incidental "tear" detail that adds a spark of spontaneity to the severity of current climate change, emphasising Viglietti’s argument that we’re heading for the same weather cataclysm that caused the Permian extinction.
Resuscitãre makes for an arresting intersection between art and academia — a compelling aesthetic reduction of arcane knowledge down to its barest essence. Prehistory has never been prettier.
• Resuscitãre is on at Resolution until September 5.
More in this section
- Guptagate report shows manipulation, collusion and illegal blue lights
- SABC presenter Mbuli hailed as patriot and ‘zealous newshound’
- Eskom was ‘on the brink of a power shutdown’
- Karabus lawyer says South African nurse behind bars in UAE
- Iran ‘behind US cyber blitz’
- THICK END OF THE WEDGE: We can already write the NDP off