It is the politics of nature representations and the limits of visualising the nonhuman that drives the work of artist and filmmaker Janet Solomon.
Solomon’s lifelong passion for the natural environment can be felt intensely in all her work that responds to our persistent role in its demise, or to the perilous state of various species.
Solomon came of age during the turmoil of political transformation in South Africa. Her interdisciplinary practice arises out of, and orbits around, ideas of alienation, reduction of relation and its destructive consequences, and the susceptibility of the subject to
Solomon is best known for her photographic and painting Green Screen series, comprising over 40 works, which travelled to museums around South Africa, between 2014 and 2016.
She uses the digital green screen as metaphor of the human species’ ability to affect changes on a contextual environment, of any subject, at will. Its source and subject was the natural history museum– an institution that orchestrates and curates the way we view animals and how they are meaningful to us. What these photographs attempt to expose is how very little the actual animal has to do with this transfer of knowledge. Solomon’s photographs highlight that whenever an animal is represented, it is an encapsulation of human-animal relations. This exhibition also offers a set of incitements for reflecting on the practices behind our current estrangement from the natural realm and opened up challenging dialogues about how natural history collections have shaped conceptions of nature and culture, and categories of knowledge.
More recently Solomon developed an interest in film and documentary form as a means to investigate the politics of offshore oil and gas as South Africa faces Jacob Zuma’s push for a ‘blue economy’. Solomon directed and produced Becoming Visible, in which she
foregrounds animal strandings as a way of thinking about the political impunity, the profit motive, and exaggerated scientific and quantitative approach in an age of ‘tough oil’ and heightened environmental risks. This 3 screen installation piece continues Solomon’s
aesthetic of the image interrupted, using it as a marker of an acute sense of existential unease as a cumulation of layers impede and intrude upon each other and the subject.
Solomon’s studio and production company Vanishing Present Productions is based in Durban, South Africa and she holds a MFA from University of the Witwatersrand, awarded with distinction.