Frieze Magazine Reviews An Infinity of Traces
4 May 2021
Greeting visitors from the back wall of Lisson Gallery’s current group show, ‘An Infinity of Traces’, is Liz Johnson Artur’s Spring ... Times (2020), which feels like an exercise in mythmaking. The Ghanaian-Russian photographer presents three photoprint banners, with a single figure the focus of each: in the first, a young woman raises her fist in solidarity; in the middle, a man dances, dressed like a pirate; and, on the right, a glamorous woman in PVC boots and a dress printed with a full-frontal nude holds an arm aloft. Any initial incongruity between the three images is diminished not just by their equal size and greyscale colouring but by their suspension from the ceiling, compelling our gaze upwards and conferring on each a dignified grandeur of the kind that turns ordinary people into heroic figures.
Curated by Ekow Eshun, the show exhibits work by 11 Black artists exploring history, Blackness and belonging across a range of forms, from photography to audio-visual installation. Taking its title from a passage in Antoni Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks (1929–35) – in which the Italian philosopher discusses knowing oneself as ‘a product of the historical processes to date, which has deposited in you an infinity of traces’ – the exhibition looks, in part, at the traces that emerge before and after colonialism. This idea of ‘infinity’ permits an exploration of myriad kinds of Blackness in a culture that often rushes to pin down and box in subjects it erroneously feels it fully grasps. In this context, the concept of ‘traces’ holds a fascinating tension. The word denotes the persistent presence of something mostly removed; here, that persistence is double-edged, exhibiting itself simultaneously as the defiant survival of things almost obliterated by systemic oppression, and also as a reminder of the far-reaching consequences of history for those that would rather forget.
Read the full review by Aida Amoako in Frieze Magazine here.
Image: Liz Johnson Artur, Spring…Times (2020) © the artist