Event 1. In Conversation with Penny Siopis and Sarah Nuttall

Penny Siopis is one of the most important and challenging South African and global contemporary artists working today. From her rise to prominence as a painter in the early 1980s to her installation work and her extraordinary series of short films, Siopis has focused on displacement and migration, including her own family’s journey from Greece to South Africa, and on personal and public histories of colonialism and apartheid. Always, she has drawn forwards the lives of women, in formally complex iterations, embedded in raced and placed and generational histories. Always, too, she has drawn on an autobiographical impetus in her work. Reflecting on her body of short films recently, the South African artist William Kentridge said: ‘It will always be you’. What he meant was that the films, in fact all the work, arrives cumulatively at the depth and complexity of the artist’s self.

Combining family home movies and amateur or documentary found footage with complex soundtracks and a written text presented through subtitles, Siopis’ films recount untold or censored histories from a first-person perspective. They speak at once to private concerns and to widely shared experiences of colonialism, war, violence, oppression, migration, globalisation, climate change and the pandemic, in the process mixing up questions of authorship, narration, and the auto/biographical subject. Formally audacious and probing, they stand out as strong aesthetic and affective experiences beyond the simply historical, and as art objects in invigorating dialogue with a number of traditions – including the objet trouvé, collage, and the experimental found-footage film.

In this event, Penny Siopis and Sarah Nuttall, Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand and Director of WiSER (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research) in Johannesburg, will share a dialogue on Siopis’s work, focusing especially on her films: how they reach for lives, in their pain, shame, violence, hauntings, loves and endings, their plasticities and  re-makings, their pathways to self-destruction and reinvention, their hopes and historical echoes. Siopis’ promiscuous material imagination and aesthetics of chance, fragments and formlessness lie right at the heart of her filmic work and from it emerges a body of work memorable for its intensity, brilliance and boundary breaking.

Microsoft Teams Link for Event - Saturday 27 November 2021, 5–6.30 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), UTC +0.


Department of Film and Screen Media

Scannánaíocht agus Meáin Scáileán

O'Rahilly Building, University College Cork, Ireland