Art in Liverpool Magazine, issue #18: September 2019 editorial

Real Work Exhibition

From 9th April to 7th June next year, Candice Breitz brings Love Story, an international story of migration and displacement to Tate Liverpool. The exhibition asks ‘if a refugee’s story was told by a celebrity, would you pay more attention?’, and opens with Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore performing fragments of stories borrowed from people who have fled their countries.

The subjects are Sarah Ezzat Mardini, who escaped Syria; José Maria João, a former child soldier from Angola; Mamy Maloba Langa, a survivor from the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Shabeena Saveri, an Indian transgender activist; Luis Nava Molero, a political dissident from Venezuela; and Farah Abdi Mohamed, a young atheist from Somalia.

In news and documentary films around the world, stories such as these are told through dubbed voices, or a filter of darkness and voice distortion. In Love Story, these interviews are aired in full, with introductions by two Hollywood celebrities.

I wanted to open this issue of Art in Liverpool with this for two reasons; one: the exhibition evidences a very necessary shift in this nation’s major galleries to challenge the way we view our neighbours; and two: this will be Candice Breitz’ second exhibition in under a year in Liverpool, following Real Work at FACT.

Real Work is open until 6th October, and presents such a different part of Breitz’ practice that it’s not easy to see how they both came from the same place. An interview with Liz Magic Laser her counterpart for that exhibition follows later in the paper.

Sweat, Breitz’ installation for Real Work, is a journalistic collaboration with ten members of a community of Cape Town-based sex workers. There are similarities, in that both of her visiting installations are built on a series of films, curating interviews into storytelling, and providing a platform for underrepresented groups to tell a story. But


With Sweat, the ten parallel films are told by their subjects. Interviews are hosted, and then used to build script. The scripts are read, and we listen to them. The real words of men and women facing gender, race and social hatred on a daily basis. In each film their individuality is clear. Their struggles with their conscience vividly apparent through rationalisations and the softening of difficult truths.

By no means an easy film to watch, it is a peak of her career to date, sticking to a plan and presenting something unique which uses her voice and status to share the most under-heard stories.

Love Story, coming to Tate in 2020, promises much of this, but with more of the artist’s hand in its production. I’ve yet to see the films, or read most of the stories of Sarah, José, Mamy, Shabeena, Luis or Farah, but I don’t doubt that their experience will resonate with many residents of the city, and hopefully provide a more direct window to find parallels with themselves, or their histories, in a gallery space.