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FADA Home Preface About Artists

Ruth Sacks



Type of book work: Editioned / printed work
Dimensions: 200 x 100
Media: Printed book

Artist's / designer's statements

This artist's book takes early translations of Jules Verne's 'Vingt mille lieues sous les mers' (1870) as a starting point and treats the process of translation as one of personal interpretation. Each book is a series of textual and visual interventions into Jules Verne's classic tale of underwater travel in a fantastical submarine. The story has been rewritten to embed Art Nouveau forms into the narrative. At the same time, colonial attitudes in the original novel are drawn out. The initial illustrations have been replaced by word drawings made from long lists of fish, plants and locations that were initially removed from English translations of Verne's book. When placed alongside each other, the covers of the artist books link together to form a sculptural installation.

This artist's book is a response to the Medieval bestiary Der Naturen Bloeme by Jacob Van Maerlant (circa 1350). While the bestiary categorizes and describes the known natural world from that time, An Extended Alphabet, lists a variety of elements from the contemporary built environment of the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands.

My work looks at historical situations and fictional narratives that speak to the construction of colonial and postcolonial identities. At present, my research is around the moment of African independence in the late 20th century. I am working with different representations of architecture and design from different instances of independence, as a way of trying to understand the political urgencies of the time. In approaching enduring symbols and sites of independence as an aesthetic resource, the complete entanglement of local and foreign, as well as natural and synthetic, within growing environments, is a key concern.

Previous work has made use of literature and popular mythology as a possible entry point into complex situations. The resulting exhibitions were a process of creating new fictions, revising, translating and adapting existing texts and images, as well as constructing new ones. The result of these investigations took different forms; not only artists' books and text pieces, but also installations and sculptures. Throughout my practice, I place emphasis on the use of typography, design and language as important interfaces.



2013 - 2016 PhD Candidate, Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER), University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, SA (currently under examination)
2009 Laureate, Higher Institute for Fine Art (HISK), Gent, Belgium
2007 Master of Fine Art, Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town (UCT), SA
1999 Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art, Michaelis School of Fine Art, UCT, SA

Awards / Fellowships

2013-16 WiSER Doctoral Fellowship
2013-15 Oppenheimer Memorial Trust Grant
2015 Ivan Karp Doctoral Research Fellowship
2013 French Season in South Africa Project Grant
2006 1st prize in Absa LAtelier 2006 Competition

Selected Exhibitions

2015 Open Endings, TTTT, Gent, Belgium (solo)
2015 A New Spirit in Booking, Museum Cultuur Strombeek, Brussels, Belgium (curator: Luc Derycke) (group)
2012 2,000 Meters Above the Sea, Center for Historical Reenactments, Johannesburg, SA (solo)
2010 Double-Sided Accumulated, Extraspazio, Rome, Italy (solo)
2011 The Global Contemporary: Art Worlds After 1989, ZKM Center for Art & Media, Karlsruhe, Germany (curator Andrea Buddensieg & Peter Weibel) (cat) (group)

Public Collections

Bibliotèques d'Amiens de Métropole (Amiens, France)
Johannesburg Art Gallery (Johannesburg, SA)
Sindiko Dokolo Collection (Luanda, Angola)
SMS Contemporanea (Sienna, Italy)
Stedelijk Museum Voor Schone Kunsten (SMAK) (Gent, BE)

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