Ilené Bothma Solo Exhibition: 'Tear' at Brutal Curation

Published 13 November 2023 in News

Ilené Bothma Solo Exhibition: 'Tear' at Brutal.

Brutal Curation

Side Street Studios, 48 Albert Rd Woodstock 7915, Cape Town, South Africa 

16 November - 04 December 2023

Vernissage: Thursday 16 November @ 18:00 (SAST) 

"Through my artmaking process I attempt to both unravel and knit together my personal experiences. In the past I have interrogated my relationships within the domestic space with the specific focus on domesticity and motherhood. Recently my interest has shifted towards looking more closely at the role of  the woman once her so-called role of reproduction has been fulfilled and the aging process becomes more  visible. This interest, together with the recent end of my marriage, hassled to a process of making that was  simultaneously performative, painful, therapeutic, and empowering. 

The entire body of work revolves around the notion of making ‘new skin’. A ‘new skin’ to find my sense of  identity as a soon-to-be divorced woman and a single mother. Yet also, making new skin for the one that is rapidly starting to age since I turned 40. In a society so clearly obsessed with youth I have noticed an  increasing sense of fading, even disappearing, within social settings. Anecdotal research has led me to  believe that many mothers feel less “seen” once they have fulfilled their duty of bearing children. This  body of work is an emotional processing and subversion of these roles that have been prescribed to  women, especially within my own Calvinistic Afrikaner upbringing. 

Through performative video, photography, and various sculptural works I mourn the past and the future, yet also attempt to find a new way forward. The armor worn in the performance is made from handmade  porcelain and stoneware discs, each painstakingly made and glazed in various tones of cream and pink,  suggesting the colour of biology. These pieces of ‘brittle flesh’ have been sewn together to create a ‘new  skin’, an armor that is both protective yet extremely fragile. The skin does not quite fit yet. It is not  malleable; it is breakable and vulnerable. It speaks of the ambivalence I experience not only in my personal  life, but also towards the process of aging and the way in which women are seen later in life. There is a  certain freedom in becoming invisible, yet it can also feel disempowering. It is within this awkward in between space of empowerment and vulnerability that I explore various ideas around bodily autonomy  and subjectivity. 

The performance documented in the video work involved moving through various barren settings where the terrain is both beautiful and treacherous. The process of walking barefoot over tiny rocks in freezing temperatures was physically painful, reflective of the emotionally painful process of mourning. Yet through  the journey there is a looking towards the horizon, a certain level of both acceptance and empowerment. 

Porcelain and stoneware are deliberately used for its delicacy and association with the domestic space. Ceramic discs that are something between mangled pastry dough and dinner plates display images of both  drooping breasts and provocatively posed bodies. Visceral sculptural works that look like wombs or possibly other organs are displayed in various states of disintegration. Fleshy clay and pink tones suggestive  of traditional femininity are all used to indicate both female sexuality as well as decay and bodily entropy. 

'Tear' serves as an ode to the old self, shapeshifting out of protective need. A shedding of a blistered skin  and the putting together of shattered pieces of a new whole, knowing full well that the original shards may never quite fit together again."

For more information please navigate to the Brutal Curation website here