The group exhibition, Wounds and relics, focuses on art which has been made at either personal or social points of friction, fragmentation or pain and which cuts through the smooth, but also comforting surface of conventional culture. In equal measure poetic and political, the artists that form part of the show explore the paradox of simultaneously forgetting and remembering the social scars of violent conflicts, and how we carry these with us, whether as traces or wounds, or objects surviving from an earlier time.
Wounds are a rather thorny subject that has taken root in Western art, from classical depictions of vengeful gods, to the pious suffering of Christian saints, to modern art that grapples with more recent wars and injustices. The contemporary artists assembled for Wounds and relics are intended to show just how compelling the subject continues to be, even among artists who deliberately avoid its more traditional motifs.
According to political theorist Fredric Jameson, “History is not something we can know directly; it is available to the scholar only as a combination of traces or wounds. It can be apprehended only through its effects.” Within the modern era—defined by industrialization, colonization and decolonization, world wars and genocide, destruction and rebuilding, democracy and dictatorships, excessive prosperity and excessive poverty—it is in part through the work of these artists that we can begin to understand Jameson’s “traces and wounds,” the traumatic results, both physical and psychological, of sociopolitical events.
Physical wounds manifest on our skin, advertising the past, its depravities and corruption. A physical scar/wound is a meeting place between inside and outside, a locus of memory, of bodily change. Like skin, a scar mediates between the outside and the inside, but it also materially produces, changes, and overwrites its site. However, a scar can also manifest itself as a psychological or emotional wound.
A scar is a paradox; an index of survival, it also marks the site of a deep-seated trauma. At once an emblem of violence and healing, fragility and strength, it says a lot while also saying very little. It may even be invisible, ghosting the psyche with its contradictions, at once a bottomless pit of sorrow and a potential wellspring of action.
AD – Reflex