13 Works by Roberta Joy Rich

By | 1 February 2021

Roberta Joy Rich | ‘Ek is in ‘n Hoek Vasgekeur/I’m Cornered’, 2013. Multi-channel video installation with wooden table, perspex, identity documents and four chairs. HD video performance, duration 18’30” on 46″ HD screen, with four SD videos, duration 8’00” on four 12″ monitors with four wireless headphones. Installation view, Monash University, MADA Gallery, Melbourne. Final studio outcome of the MFA research project, ‘Oorspronklik’. Image courtesy of the artist.

My work is almost always personal, drawing heavily from my Southern African roots and my experiences as a diaspora woman living in the context of settler nation Australia. My art responds to constructions of race and gender identity; sometimes with satire and humour in the form of video, installation, print-media, textiles, performance and mixed media projects. I use archival, socio-political, media and pop culture materials to explore and engage with notions of authenticity – its relationship to constructions of identity, its forms of representation and in doing so, I hope to re-present histories as a reflexive strategy to draw upon the past and how it informs our present.

Many of my projects are sustained explorations of language and power, and how these forms influence the ways in which one can pass, fail or speak in various contexts. These 15 images of works created over the last 10 years begin with my MFA studio work Ek is ‘n a Hoek Vasgekuer (I’m Cornered) a homage and response to Adrian Piper’s 1988 I’m Cornered video installation, followed by works that focus on ontological questions of self and language that surrounds Brown and Black southern African identities.

These questions have evolved during my practice from introspective explorations towards locating where such language exists, intersecting with repressed histories such as Group Areas Act removals of Apartheid South Africa, Oral histories and Archival documentation of such histories.The Fairest Cape? An account of a Coloured is a series of works made in response to found framed publication covers of essays, pamphlets and catalogues produced by the South African Institute of Race Relations during their extensive occupation of Auden House, now a pending demolition site in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Such histories inform the complex battles of our ancestors and intergenerational radicalism that allows me to present both the problems of the oppressive systems that silence Bla(c)k people and their stories, but simultaneously speak to their power, strength and resilience.

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