The work produced by Divine Southgate-Smith for the Thirdbase residency is a reaction to the play ‘The Blacks, a Clown Show’ by Jean Genet. By deconstructing the play she wishes to stage a commentary on the visual representation of the performing black body. Inescapably, Southgate-Smith toys with the idea of cultural erasure and invites us to question the relationship between silenced bodies and the paradoxical silence that might occur even in the context of being given a voice.
Who is allowed to speak and who is silenced? Who gives permission to speak and who is speaking? Her work has always been very much influenced by architecture and the idea of choreographing or delineating specific gestures in space. The work is predominantly a reaction to an ongoing investigation into the formal and structural representation of the speaking subject.
Southgate-Smith employs the use of sculpture, spoken word (recorded) and moving image (performance), as an attempt to re-construct non-linear narratives that stage the performance of the objects presented in the space. By adopting a heavily theatrical structure, she seek to frame the works as part of a holistic portrayal of performing selfness/otherness.
Her conceptually distilled and sensitive negotiations of complex social concerns, particularly in relation to her indifferent approach to difference and categorical identity politics enable her to adopt narratives that place sensorial representation as superior to the visual representation of body in space. The playful use of personification allows her to consider the sculptures as characters shifting between direct and indirect speech and so each phase/each sculpture plays a role in constructing a space in duration.