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CATALOGUE DESIGN3 all

Gavin


Published on December 2, 2014

The South Arican Jewish Museum takes great pleasure in presenting Aliza Levi’s exhibition Books on a White Background. We are particularly pleased as this marks the rst showing o this work on South Arican soil. In Books on a White Background Levi explores issues o race, ‘science’ and morality. The books she has chosen to eature hark back to an era when noxious notions o racial superiority were dressed up in the verbosity o pseudo-science and treated as gospel. The books, with titles such as “Uncivilised Races o the World, (Volume II)”, are published in golden lettered, leather bound volumes that cloak their oensive philosophies in a veneer o respectability which trigger the subconscious authority that people ascribe to books. Books are the repositories o human knowledge. They have power to enhance belies and persuade thought. Levi explores this notion o the inherent authority invested in books. She chooses books that, at their time, presented respectable arguments or the superiority o one society over another. Arguments that today are, or should be, an anathema. But are they? The viewer’s rst response to the book titles is almost one o mirth. Guawing at our naive misguided orbears, yet as the viewer spends more time, moving rom book to book, the realisation dawns that perhaps we’re not so morally superior. Is our society that dierent? Do we not just couch these sel-same philosophies in other, more modern parameters and parlance? South Arica was one o the last countries in the world to cast o legislated notions in racial superiority, yet Levi’s work makes us question whether we’ve cast o these notions entirely, or just subconsciously redened them in more modern, ‘respectable’ terms? Levi slowly draws out this awareness rom the viewer, and leaves us questioning the veracity o our comortable, modern smugness. Levi’s work belongs in South Arica. South Arica, the country that represents more starkly than any other, the danger in choosing a açade o moral authority dressed up as truth, over the veracity o critical thought. The South Arican Jewish Museum invites you to immerse yoursel in Levi’s world view and refect on the mirror she holds to up to our modern world view. Gavin Morris Director, South Arican Jewish Museum PREFACE was born and raised in Johannesburg. Levi studied Psychology and Anthropology at UCT, and graduated cum laude in Fine Arts in Durban. She exhibited widely in South Arica beore spending thirteen years in Australia immersing hersel in art making as well as teaching sculpture and photography, she has also has been acilitating art therapy groups, with a particular ocus on reugees rom Sudan. Levi is currently living in Cape Town. Her work has been shown in Australia as well as in South Arica in numerous group and solo show’s rom Nirox Johannesburg, The Geelong Regional art gallery In Australia, the Center or Contemporary Photography in Melbourne, the Durban Art Gallery, The Market Gallery in Johannesburg, The Mark Coetzee Cabinet in Cape Town, to name a ew. Much o Aliza Levi’s practice presents a relationship to land and identity. The medium she uses usually ollows the process o enquiry, exploring a relationship to context either through the camera (stills and moving) or various materials that are evoked by the subject matter. The thread o Levi’s work continues in this photographic installation in which she explores a South Arican archive o books. The series, which looks at ethnographic representation, is encapsulated in it’s title : ‘Books on a White background’. This alludes to both the compositional presentation o the book spines foating on a white background, as well as the identity o the book authors and the artist hersel. “I began this series by choosing books that refected the assumptions and behavior o the nineteenth century colonists, the persistent notations o sel and other. I soon started to notice, that many o the titles were pertinent to today. A blurring o time and relevance, where views rom a hundred years ago were intersecting with current attitudes and events. In this series I hope to raise discussion on both the past and present circumstances o the ‘post-colonial’” I began this series by choosing books that refected the assumptions and behaviour o nineteenth-century colonists, the persistent notations o sel and other. I soon started to notice, that many o the titles were pertinent to today. A blurring o time and relevance, where views rom a hundred years ago were intersecting with current attitudes and events. In this series I hope to raise discussion on both the past and present circumstances o the ‘post-colonial’. ALIZA LEVI