October - November 2023 — Visual Arts
South African writer and artist Chloë Reid and Swiss artist Rhona Mühlebach have been collaborating remotely on projects for several years. Most recently, Chloë wrote the text-based component of Rhona’s Cahier d’Artistes 2023 publication with Pro Helvetia and Jungle Books.
The two artists share an interest in using fictional and narrative forms to reflect on moments of disconnection or dissonance between people, objects and non-human living things. Chloë explains that “Rhona’s moving-image work explores the limitations of language, where the failure of words to accurately describe human emotion (regardless or even in spite of fluency) complicates the aspirations and desires of her characters. This ‘failure’ of words is a generative space for the artist, who treats language as a malleable, tactile medium to be shaped and reshaped. My own work in fragmentary written fiction dwells in the space between knowledge and doubt. Through the recounting of minor conflicts, observations and interactions, my writing questions whether it is possible to know anything for certain. The resulting stories register as a series of footnotes to the ways in which politics, symbolism and subjectivity inflect everyday experience.”
From 25 October – 26 November 2023, Chloë will travel to Thurgau in Switzerland for a research trip with Rhona to develop an ongoing creative exchange. The artists will be based at Kunstraum Kreuzlingen and work together in person to extend an existing project that responds to the term ‘Little Brown Jobs’ (LBJ’s) – used by South African birders to describe small, unremarkable female birds that are apparently hard to tell apart. Rhona first encountered this term on a self-organised research trip to Johannesburg in early 2022.
The artists’ discussions around this term informed their installation at Adolf Dietrich Haus in Berlingen, Switzerland in 2022 with digital bird-like moving-images by Rhona and the accompanying fictional text “Susan” by Chloë. Following this first iteration, the artists now wish to develop the project further. The research trip will provide a concentrated work period to imagine together the shape and form that this larger collaborative project will take.
Chloë Reid is an artist, writer and curator based in Johannesburg who sees her work as a series of footnotes to the ways in which politics, symbolism and subjectivity inflect everyday experience. She has exhibited and curated locally and internationally, and her critical and creative writing has been published by the Mail & Guardian, Wanted Online, Daily Maverick, Botsotso, BookWorks (UK), Jungle Books (CH), Portside Review (AUS) and several gallery imprints. In 2020, she co-founded ‘wherewithall’ (WWA) alongside Kundai Moyo and Amy Watson with a view to supporting and encouraging experimental and DIY exhibition practices in Johannesburg.
Rhona Mühlebach holds a Bachelor of Arts in Film from the École cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL) and earned a Master of Fine Arts from the Glasgow School of Art in 2017. Her work includes video, audio, text and installations. Rhona’s work is informed by her interest in relationships between humans, animals, plants and landscapes. She creates fantasies that expand our incomplete understanding of the world we live in through fiction and narratives. Emotional interpretation takes the place of rational evaluation. Her working method assumes that social and historical narratives are subject to constant and diverse (re)interpretations over time.
[Cover image: Chloë and Rhona and a rock carving in the Drakensberg in South Africa called ‘The Silent Woman’ in 2021. The carving served as a starting point for their current project.]