If you had to take a snapshot of South Africans’ statistically most-searched-for topics according to Google over a year, what would it look like? Visitors to the Absa Gallery this July will get the opportunity to find out when they browse through the acclaimed The Confessional group exhibition, curated by 2014 Absa L’Atelier winner, Liberty Battson.
The exhibition has just returned from its inaugural run at the KKNK arts and culture festival, which took place in April in Oudtshoorn. The concept was aligned to the festival’s overall curatorial theme for visual arts – ‘Greed gone mad and fear got bought’. This theme draws on the basic emotions of fear and greed as characteristics of western-constructed morals that are closely linked to the seven deadly sins. Greed is one of the sins, and fear a driving force behind it.
The premise of Absa’s The Confessional is built around the core idea of top Absa L’Atelier artists (previous entrants and finalists in the competition) ‘confessing’ the most-searched-for topics on Google in South Africa, and expressing these within the context of each artist’s own greed and fear.
This is Battson’s first curatorial exhibition. She is an abstract painter who is well known for using statistics – particularly figures from digital and new media channels – as her subject matter. Battson tracked and recorded Google searches for more than a year. Interestingly, her findings don’t only point to South Africans’ current areas of interest in terms of web-based research, but also to those subjects that, uncannily, are direct by-products of greed or fear.
Some of the most searched topics include social media, substance abuse, peer pressure, xenophobia, pollution, depression, The Bible, fear, love, South Africa, human rights violation, poverty, abortion, friendship, water pollution, quitting smoking and immigration.
“I believe it is important that artists use their voice to speak up about the subjects people often don’t want to talk about, like confession as a whole. In saying this, the participating artists were asked to be vulnerable or passionate in making their selection and to represent their truth in creating their work,” explains Battson.
The Confessional runs at the Absa Gallery in Johannesburg from 10 July to 4 August 2017.