The Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb

Program

Pieter Hugo — Verisimilar worlds, The West African works, 2005 -2010

MSU Gallery, Grand Opening ∙ 2017-09-06 20:00

Organ Vida Festival is pleased to present a solo exhibition of photographs by Pieter Hugo. This exhibition entitled “Verisimilar worlds, The West African works, 2005—2010” consist of three artist’s most known works: Nollywood, Permanent Error and ‘Gadawan Kura’ – The Hyena Men series I and II.

Much of Hugo’s work documents life on the peripheries of African societies, addressing the complex political realities of race and identity through the conventions of portraiture. The circumscribed scope of the genre forces an engagement on the level of the individual, an approach that skirts both sentimentality and the journalistic impulse to explain.

In the Nollywood series, Hugo explores the multilayered reality of the Nigerian film industry, the third largest film industry in the world, releasing between 500 and 1 000 movies each year. It produces movies on its own terms, telling stories that appeal to and reflect the lives of its public: it is a rare instance of self-representation on such a scale in Africa. The continent has a rich tradition of story-telling that has been expressed abundantly through oral and written fiction, but has never been conveyed through the popular media before. Stars are local actors; plots confront the public with familiar situations of romance, comedy, witchcraft, bribery, prostitution. The narrative is overdramatic, deprived of happy endings, tragic. The aesthetic is loud, violent, excessive; nothing is said, everything is shouted.

In his series Permanent Error, Hugo has been photographing the people and landscape of an expansive dump of obsolete technology in Ghana. The area, on the outskirts of a slum known as Agbogbloshie, is referred to by local inhabitants as Sodom and Gomorrah, a vivid acknowledgment of the profound inhumanity of the place. The inhabitants said that they don’t have a name for the place (the pit) where the burning takes place. This is a reminder of the alien circumstances that are imposed on marginal communities of the world by the West’s obsession with consumption and obsolescence. This wasteland, where people and cattle live on mountains of motherboards, monitors and discarded hard drives, is far removed from the benefits accorded by the unrelenting advances of technology.

In his two series ‘Gadawan Kura’ – The Hyena Men, Hugo presents portraits of a group of entertainers from Nigeria, who travel across the country with three hyenas, two pythons and four monkeys. With the help of friends in Nigeria, Hugo found the group in a shantytown outside of the capital, Abuja. They were not necessarily criminals, but rather what Hugo describes in an artist’s statement as “itinerant minstrels… a group of men, a little girl, three hyenas, four monkeys and a few rock pythons,” who subsist by staging performances and selling traditional medicine. Hugo traveled with the group for weeks at a time over the course of two years, taking a series of portraits of the men posing with their animals.

Pieter Hugo (born 1976 in Johannesburg) is a photographic artist living in Cape Town. Major museum solo exhibitions have taken place at The Hague Museum of Photography, Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne, Ludwig Museum in Budapest, Fotografiska in Stockholm, MAXXI in Rome and the Institute of Modern Art Brisbane, among others. Hugo has participated in numerous group exhibitions at institutions including Tate Modern, the Folkwang Museum, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, and the São Paulo Biennale. Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg is currently presenting a survey exhibition spanning 13 years of Pieter Hugo’s work, titled Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.

His work is represented in prominent public and private collections, among them Centre Pompidou, Rijksmuesum, the Museum of Modern Art, V&A Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, J Paul Getty Museum, Walther Collection, Deutsche Börse Group, Folkwang Museum and Huis Marseille. Hugo received the Discovery Award at the Rencontres d’Arles Festival and the KLM Paul Huf Award in 2008, the Seydou Keita Award at the Rencontres de Bamako African Photography Biennial in 2011, and was shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize in 2012. In 2015 he was shortlisted for the Prix Pictet and was chosen as the ‘In Focus’ artist for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

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