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LOST & FOUND (article first published : 2003-02-16)

An installation by Terry Kurgan titled Lost & Found runs in the Durban Art Gallery from February 5 to March 30.

This work won the prestigious Vita Art Prize in the year 2000 and is an installation of large-scale digital prints onto silk organza that break new ground in Kurgan’s search to give material form to subjective experiences of familial relationships, memory and desire, and the relationship between visual records and absence.

Family photographs, as much as they are visual reminders that secure the immortality and prominence of the subject in the mind of the viewer, are also an inventory of mortality. Such images behold the tension between the past and the present, between a past that exists in the present and a past that is forever gone. They represent the impossibility of the desire to hold, or contain, some concrete reminder of present experience, as they are tied so precisely to a particular moment that they are always simultaneously a record of something or someone no longer there.

The images in the exhibition are from the 1950s and 1960s - when cameras really entered the home as ordinary, everyday domestic objects that mostly fathers used. They are typical of those first colour photographs in that very particular Kodak colour of that era. “I wanted them to feel as though they could belong to anybody and close to the childhood of most people looking at them today. Also, to avoid the nostalgic and sentimental associations one might have with the older, more formal studio portraits. I wanted them to be achy images that resonated with the sense that for a split second the photographed subjects were the centre of somebody’s (the photographer’s) universe.

Some of the images shown were found among Kurgan’s parents’ collection of old family photographs, the ones that never made it into the albums. Others belong to extended family members and friend¹s families or are anonymous photographs found in second-hand shops.

Terry Kurgan, who is based in Johannesburg, will be giving a walkabout of the exhibition on February 6 at 09h30. This event is free and is a one-off opportunity to hear the views of this innovative artist.




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