Good Hope

Carla Liesching is an interdisciplinary artist working across photography, writing, collage, sculpture, installation, bookmaking and design. Grounded in early experiences growing up in apartheid South Africa, her work considers the intersections of representation, knowledge and power—with a focus on colonial histories and enduring constructions of race and geography. A central concern in her practice is photography’s impact in shaping what we believe to be true, as well as its role in the building of social, political and ideological systems, and she uses photographic archives and public image collections as sites of investigation and intervention.

Her current project, Good Hope, is a fragmented visual and textual assemblage that orbits around the gardens and grounds at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa—a historic location at the height of empire, now an epicenter for anti-colonial resistance movements, and also the place of her birth. Named by the Portuguese in their ‘Age of Discovery’, the Cape’s position at the mid-point along the ‘Spice Route’ was viewed with great optimism for its capacity to open up a valuable maritime passageway, and the ‘refreshment station’ later established there set into motion flows of capital from ‘east’ to ‘west’. Today, an iconic central statue commemorating imperialist Cecil Rhodes has been removed, and its pedestal is covered up in grey plywood. ‘The fall of Rhodes is symbolic for the inevitable fall of White supremacy’, declared representatives of the #rhodesmustfall movement.

Comprising a full-length book published by Mack in November 2021, and a series of accompanying collages and photo-sculptural installations, Good Hope brings together cumulative layers of documentary prose, personal essay and found photographic material, with sources ranging from apartheid-era trade journals, tourist pamphlets, National Geographic and Life Magazines, to current newspapers and family albums. It offers both an intimate and critical examination of White supremacist settler-colonialism in the present, and a questioning of the ethics and politics involved in the very acts of looking, discovering, collecting, codifying, preserving, historicizing, naming, and articulating what constitutes knowledge.

Carla is a 2021 Light Work Grant recipient, a 2021 winner of The British Journal of Photography Open-Walls-Arles competition, and was awarded the 2022 Silver Eye Fellowship with a current exhibition at the Silver Eye Center for Photography in Pittsburgh. Her ongoing project Good Hope was recently published by Foam Magazine and will be exhibited in 2022 as part of the Foam Talent Exhibition Program. She will also be included in Self Publish Be Happy's forthcoming book 'On Whiteness: The Racial Imaginary Institute'. Carla is based in New York, where she works as faculty for the International Center of Photography and coordinates the School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University.

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