2014–2015 Venice Architecture Biennale

When Nobody is Watching

What it is when nobody is watching.
Who it is when nobody is watching.
– Self-determination


This work is one of Counterspace’s formative engagements with the subjectivities of the archive and the power dynamics embedded in its very nature. In uncovering the alternatives to the accepted documentation, the exhibition sought to show the side-by-side nature of a developing modernism over the 20th century – that of the European modernism on that continent and in the annexed metropolitan spaces of South Africa, and that of Black modernism. The latter, seen in the cultural movements borne in alternative spaces [SV1]; music and performance, writing and intellectual currents, grown around kitchen tables, in back rooms, sung on trains.

Projecting on 4 inward-facing walls were 35 interviews. The interviewees were South African creatives under 35 who were born at the fall of Apartheid, many forming their practice in the first phase of our democracy. Repeatedly the themes of movement surfaced in the conversations centring the foundational premise of their practices – movement against, movement beyond, movement through, movement in spite of inherited constructs and constrictions of whiteness of systematic oppression and institutional exclusion.

These interviews ran alongside the recordings of some of the physical space [SV2] that were spoken of in the interviews. Charged physical spaces that were intentioned to accelerate the movement of few while curtailing the movement of most.