NEWSLETTER Nos artistes à la Une
Week #1: Georgina Maxim
Propos recueillis auprès de Georgina Maxim le 19 Avril 2020
Gina, you were in residencie in Johannesburg at Bag factory and you came back to Zimbabwe just before the total close down. Let us know how things are going in Harare ? Life keeps going ? Or is everything stopped ?
I find myself being grateful each and everyday. Life for me continues, but differently from other days. I find myself thinking about those that have to survive from hand to mouth.
1 - You are one of the co founder of Village Unhu, one of the most important artists run space in Zimbabwe. How do you manage to keep the space or and the activity alive ?
No, unfortunately not. For the safety of the artists who have to travel everyday to come to Village Unhu to work, we had to ask them to stay home. Most managed to get enough materials so that they may continue to work and we do our best to keep in touch and to make sure everyone is managaing well.
2 - Where is your studio in Harare ? How do you manage to work ?
My studio is at home. I found it easier to make works form home and manouvre around the space that also demands other duties from me as well. Yes, I still work at the same steady pace as before.
3 - Do you think this global crisis is going to influence your work ? And connect your researches in a different way with our global issues ?
I guess the idea of memory and healing will never fade off. The global crisis has created many points in time when people do stop and remember what life was before the crisis, and those are the memories that I will still draw from. Death during this crisis has been so real that ever before, lives have been lost in hundreds per day and this is tragic – such events can not be described so easily. Therefore I hope that my use of memory and healing may continue to be viewed positively as I continue to do my work.
4 - Let’s talk more precisely about your work.
If you had 5 words and only 5 words to describe it, wich ones?
Lonely. Nostalgic. Handmade. Coloruful. Textured. (Reincarnated)
5 - Your media is the textile : You work with second hand clothes about thoses ideas of memory, textile memories, all these narratives carried and contains into it; your work go through all this personal stories, trying to preserve it, to create new narratives from them stitch by stitch. Your work is about how to build or understand a common memories through these old individual stories.
How did you start to work with textile ?
I needed to find my own language and statement and it is upon seeing the old clothes of my grandmother that the idea of keeping them longer but in a different state came to fruition, to keep them in mind and alive. It was a good feeling to see them and to remember how whe wore the clothes.
When did you start to be concerned about the memory preserved in the textile ?
The act of distributing of clothes after one passes shows the need to preserve the clothes more than the person. We all need to have good memories, and we need to survive on these memories, to rise above any of these mishaps that continue to crowd us. I just hope that when I make these works, that these works only portray good things.
6 - You have a close relationship with fabrics you use. When you sew there is something really mechanical and maybe something almost instinctive. Your body is really engaged during the process of creation. There is something close by performance in the way you involve your body.
Can you tell us more about that ?
At times the monotony takes over. It becomes the thread, needle and cloth that takes over the repetition of motion, sound and colour. I become unaware at times of what is happening and being demanded of the sewing process. There is no hypnosis but just a gentle unawareness of it all. And the unfortunate prick of the needle that is so sharp awake you up and painful returns you to find another colour, another cloth.
I have surely imagined the final work being used in part of a performance but not sur how. But if we are talking about the sewing process I have described above, it may becomes an alone but lonely time, a time of confidence and continued imagination. The process is extremely slow, the results take long just like the body takes long to recover from scars or to shape up in gym sessions, just like a pregnancy that takes its natural time to come to full term, just like the body taking years to show wrinkles and old age. This is about life with it’s upheaval and goodness.
7 - Sometime you compare textile to flesh. What does it means ?
I see the cloth and the person as one. Cloth, garments, dresses, shirts, ties and all those things are so close to the flesh to the extent that when one wears them they feel good. Something important and strong is transferred when one wears something of value to them.
8 – Recently your work is shifting from really colorful composition to more monochromic pieces. Can you tell us more about this evolution ?
It happens all the time after I have made a body of work , I start again with a monochromatic piece. I fail to see more colours after a body of work. It is more like a detox, if we can call it that. Or maybe a renewal of and a fresh start from a blank space.
9 – You were part of the zimbabwean pavilion in Venice. What does it means for you ?
It was absolutely scary to have the worlds eyes on me and my fellow participants. Remember the artists before us have created great conversations from their work and have taken the countries name further. I was not about to fail them. So I believe I did my best and created some works that I currently miss, but my works have been center of many discussions, critics, artistic interrogation; this I have heard.
10 - Thank you Gina, a last thing to say to our readers ?
There is not a person alive who looks in the mirror and sees some disformity. You are enough the way you are.
BAG FACTORY ART video about Georgina Maxim's residency in Johannesburg
La presse en parle
« (…) des pièces mêlant tissage, broderies et couture, où s’interpénètrent morceaux d’étoffe récupérés et fils patiemment tendus, tournés, noués comme comme autant de vois qui s’entrelacent en un récit rhizomatique, horizontal, partagé – par opposition à une vision verticale de l’Histoire. Chaque tenture développe ainsi dans une forme de délire gestuel une sorte d’épopée abstraite où la dynamique répétitive de l’artiste peut être assimilée à un flux de paroles inconscientes. »
Magalie Lesauvage – Le Quotidien de l’art – Numéro spécial, 8 novembre 2019.
« Au pavillon du Zimbabwe, à la Biennale de Venise cette année on ne voyait qu’elle ou presque. La jeune femme conçoit ses sculptures textiles comme un journal intime.Réalisées à partir de vêtement d’occasion, elles portent l’histoire et la mémoire des corps fantômes qui les ont un jour portés. »
Roxana Azimi – Le Monde Afrique, 8 novembre 2019
« Mais notre coup de cœur revient sans doute à la plasticienne zimbabwéenne représentée par 31 Project, Georgina Maxim dont les compositions textiles lyriquement agencées sont sans doute le signe de cette « renaissance sauvage » qui donne son titre au dernier essai de Guillaume Logé. Renaissance dont la caractéristique serait de travailler avec la nature et l’environnement, dans un souci permanent de rester raccord avec le monde. »
Olivier Rachet – Dyptik, 12 novembre 2019
About the work of Georgina Maxim
The preservation and restoration of memory are at the heart of Georgina Maxim's work. Weaving and embroidering, she assembles hundreds of fabrics, culled from shirts, dresses, and other secondhand feminine clothes. These garments evoke histories, suggesting testimonies of the people who wore them in the past. Georgina Maxim shreds textiles and then sews the tatters together again stitch by stitch, multiplying the stories they encode and inventing new ones.
The phrase “Your parents are soo old,” lyrics recalling the artist's childhood, acts as a starting point for Maxim's recent series, which outlines movements of successive generations, across deaths and births. It describes a singular family narrative in terms of its lineage and roots.
“Each time my Mbuya and my Sekuru would come to school, it was always for Parents' Day or an award ceremony. On those days, the class would be abuzz with rumors and stifled laughs, and my parents just seemed so old. ”
The exhibit's centerpiece, Shabby Agnes, is a large, thick mix of colors, lace, and wool thread. Its surface vibrates and tears under the weight of the stories it bears - it's an homage to a missing mother. It's made of several dresses that the artist has cut up and reassembled. The piece is a subtle critique of certain Zimbabwean traditions - such as a ritual decreeing that the entirety of a person's possessions should be scattered out in public immediately following their death.
Hands in the cookies jar, Mhingo / When you come back carry me II, and Letters I wasn't supposed to read are other evocative titles whose narratives echo and ricochet off each other. They conjure up the artist's personal history but also resonate with all of us as family lore or as phrases we might have heard in the course of conversation.
Georgina Maxim uses humor to play with what might otherwise seem familiar - her out-of-place embroideries offer pause and contrast with the discourses otherwise present in a given work.
The textile medium gives the works organic immediacy. The artist addresses the bodies that have inhabited these clothes - as well as their absence. Her repetitive, performative gestures of stitching with needle and thread almost act as a palliative. She reveals and repairs scars, sewing with utmost sensitivity. Her works are like an open book, a ship's log that transcribes stories from the past as well as the artist's own daily life.
Each colored cloth and patiently-stitched thread outlines a new cartography, proposing territories whose broken landscapes explode in formal abstraction through the seemingly-endless act of weaving.
Clémence Houdart - Paris, November 2019