when creating the swing after fragonard yinka shonibare
Yinka Shonibare The Swing (after Fragonard) was not the first or last Rococo artwork Shonibare took a guillotine to.
Use Yinka Shonibare The Swing in your classroom with the following discussion questions.
The artist’s intention is that the piece should be viewed straight on, with the figure seen from the same angle Fragonard depicted it in the painting. However, because the installation is rendered in three dimensions, viewers can walk around the swinging woman in the gallery space, placing themselves in the position of either of the men in the painting. The audience becomes directly implicated in the erotic voyeurism of Fragonard’s image, and, like the reclining man in the painting, can also look up the woman’s skirt. The mannequin wears knickers made of the same fabric as her underskirt.
Christiana Perrella, Olu Oguibe, Benedetta Bini, Elena di Majo and Valentina Bruschi, Yinka Shonibare: Be-muse, exhibition catalogue, Museo Hendrik Christian Andersen, Rome 2002, reproduced p.17 in colour.
Suzanne Landau and Jean Fisher, Yinka Shonibare: Double Dress, exhibition catalogue, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem 2002, reproduced pp.64-5 in colour.
As such, Dutch wax fabrics as we know them today are the product of the complex economic and cultural entanglements that resulted from European imperialism. As curator Okwui Enwezor has explained, Shonibare uses the fabrics “as a tool to investigate the place of ethnicity and the stereotype in modernist representation. (…) The textile is neither Dutch nor African, therefore, the itinerary of ideas it circulates are never quite stable in their authority or meaning.”
Though tailored in the fashion of eighteenth-century French aristocratic style, the costume that is modeled by Shonibare’s protagonist has been sewn from colorful and abstractly patterned fabrics with quite different origins: the bright golds, reds and blues arranged in geometric motifs across her ruffled skirt are typical of the “African” Dutch wax fabrics that Shonibare has famously used to adorn his figural tableaux throughout his career.
KukamaвЂ™s is a third generation response. Its genealogy, similar to ShonibareвЂ™s, is suggested by its title and yet, though separated by centuries, not too far removed from its reference; even though it passes through a filter very much informed by the context in which it was created as a site specific intervention.
KukamaвЂ™s В»SwingВ«, thus translates a (personal) lived experience in the inner city of Johannesburg. Both previous В»SwingsВ«, FragonardвЂ™s and ShonibareвЂ™s, are products of art histories that, though worlds apart, also act as references in which women are represented by men. Kukama insets herself within these art histories strategically to question artвЂ™s powerlessness in changing the conditions of the world – which ultimately make obvious that questions of power (economic, political, sexual, etc) are a timeless subject. As Kukama observes:
FORM: life sized female mannequin, one shoe is flying thru the air after she kicks it off, no head, displayed in all white room, geometric shapes on fabric
CONTENT: people are naturally separated by the crack, you stand on one side or the other, while on the surface it seems as if the crack can be easily mended together, the inside is jagged and uneven, it is as “bottomless as humanity”