Gabrielle Goliath / Personal Accounts

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Vertical screens placed against the blue walls of a gallery. On each screen is a video still of a person.
‘Personal Accounts’, 2024, multi-cycle video & sound installation, installation view, ‘Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere’, La Biennale di Venezia (2024). Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Luc Meneghel

Personal Accounts is a transnational, decolonial, black feminist project of repair. In this immersive and deeply affecting series of video and sound cycles, artist Gabrielle Goliath addresses the global normativity of patriarchal violence, working in close collaboration with survivors and allies in Johannesburg, Tunisia, Oslo, Milan, Stellenbosch and now Edinburgh. To experience an artwork by Gabrielle Goliath is to step into an emotionally, ethically and relationally involving encounter. In works such as Personal Accounts, she asks for something more than the passive remove of witness, as participants reckon with the everyday conditions of racial, gendered and sexual violence. However, as she makes clear, her work is not about violence. Rather, it traces and celebrates the multiplicity of ways in which black, brown, indigenous, femme, queer, non-binary and trans individuals survive and cultivate conditions in which to thrive.

For the Edinburgh cycle of Personal Accounts, Goliath has worked closely with the team at Talbot Rice Gallery, as well as collaborators from Edinburgh and its surrounds – a community of women and gender-diverse individuals who bravely share their personal accounts of survival and repair. The accounts offered at times revisit traumatic experiences of physical, sexual, emotional and/or material harm. In other instances, they unpack the more incremental, everyday structures, norms, expectations and encounters that uphold patriarchy and recycle the precarity of femme and non-gender-normative lives. Animating each are the fugitive ways in which survivors assert life and possibility within and despite these conditions of negation.

In a decision taken by the artist, with the prior consent of her collaborators, the spoken words of each filmed account are withheld. What remains is a paralinguistic sonic stream of in- between moments: breaths, swallows, sighs, cries, humming, even laughter – inducing the nearby, adjacent and beyond of what is said, not said, or if said, not heard. This is a gesture of care and recognition, disarming the preconditions of ‘legibility’ and ‘believability’ that regularly undermine the testimonies (and so experiences) of survivors. Asserted instead is the shared breath and presence of the collaborators themselves, collectively entangled within the space of the gallery.

In creating this transnational dialogue of accounts, Goliath is calling for a different kind of relation – a politics of love and avowal that doesn’t disregard intersectional difference, contextual specificities, or the incommensurability of suffering, but asks for more collective, embodied, survivor-centric ways of coming to know, hear and recognise each other.

Biography:

Gabrielle Goliath’s (b. 1983, Kimberley, South Africa) immersive, often durational installations have shown across South Africa and internationally. Recent exhibitions include Sharjah Biennal 15, 2023; Chorus, Dallas Contemporary (2022), Dallas; This song is for..., Kunsthaus Baselland, Basel (2022); This song is for..., Konsthall C, Stockholm (2021); Our Red Sky, Göteborgs Konsthall, Gothenburg (2020); and The Power of my Hands, Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris (2020). She has won a number of awards including a Future Generation Art Prize – Special Prize (2019), the Standard Bank Young Artist Award (2019), and the Institut Français, Afrique en Créations Prize at the Bamako Biennale (2017). Her work features in numerous public and private collections, including Kunsthalle Zürich, TATE Modern, Frac Bretagne, Iziko South African National Gallery, Johannesburg Art Gallery, and Wits Art Museum.

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Exhibition Guide

Forthcoming, will be available when the exhibition opens. 

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