Alessandré Petzer

Multidisciplinary Artist, South Africa

01.07.2018   - 31.07.2018

South African print- and performance artist Alessandré Petzer took part in SomoS’ Visiting Researchers Residency August 2018. As a multidisciplinary artist, her work spans media such as etching and photography, and also imbues performative elements to sculpture, painting and printmaking.

Her etching and photography work is largely influenced by architecture, particularly since her relocation to France. Synthesizing elements of history and contemporary street culture, her etches and photography act as astute and forward-thinking comments on notions of society and gender in public space. For example, her zinc etching Notre Dame, 2017, was developed from an illustrative study of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris completed during the same period in which Trump’s first ladies toured the city. Petzer approached the richly historical building as a site from which to imagine the perceptions of the cathedral by the first ladies in this geopolitical climate.

Furthermore, the performative elements of her work fuse with other mediums to present her own body and therewith express a critical view on the representation and role of women in contemporary society. Her performative artworks often focus on gendered contemporary phenomena, such as plastic surgery, beauty products and the media’s image of women. One notable example is her performative and interactive painting Touch Base, 2017. In this work, Petzer bought a large-scale canvas from a thrift store which reproduced a sexualized representation of women and painted over it with a mix of ‘Nude’ shaded paint and her own foundation. When exhibited, she allowed viewers to add even another layer to the painting with their own foundation.

Artist Alessandré Petzer preparing her photograhy presentation at SomoS, Summer 2018
Alessandré Petzer preparing her photograhy presentation at SomoS, Summer 2018

Of her own work, Petzer states:

In the manifestation of artworks: I find myself engaging in ways that make it very difficult to disconnect the artist from the artwork. By integrating performance as the material, through which other mediums exist. My intentions with my art practice is to show object-making as a form of objectification that artists engage in. For me, making, thinking even looking is using art as a reflection of my sense of self. This is a therapeutic process, whereas objectification I define as: a process or system that uses the negotiation of existence in space and time as currency. My research is broadly based on understanding object-making throughout history. This has become more necessary to me with the pervasiveness of aestheticism in technology affecting our daily experience.

Alessandré Petzer, Artist’s Statement

During her Visiting Researchers Residency at SomoS, Petzer conducted research into the artist and philosopher Adrian Piper through access and contact with her archives. A conceptual artist and philosopher, Piper worked as an academic critically debating attitudes within the institution. Petzer’s research project compares Piper’s activities and interventions to current decolonial and transformational student movements. Petzer interprets Piper’s work as particularly relevant to today’s global context through the presence of its uncanny similarities with contemporary issues. For example, Piper’s Calling Cards, 1986-1990, act as an analog form of typical conversations appearing in the media and, in Petzer’s opinion, are remarkably similar to discussions around ”call out culture” today and especially the Me Too movement. Beyond Piper’s relevance to women’s issues in today’s contemporary climate, Petzer is also fascinated by Piper’s role in the radicalization within educational institutes. She views this role as an important informer of student protests in South Africa and across the globe, particularly by reflecting on her personal experience in demonstrating during the Fees Must Fall movement. Ultimately, Petzer wishes to materialize her project through a set of questions that she imagines to pose to Piper, reflecting on the similarities and differences between the classicism within education in USA and South Africa.

During her Visiting Researchers Residency at SomoS in Berlin, Petzer collaborated on an exhibition/reading with fellow resident, writer and educator Angela Flury.