A large-scale, newly commissioned work by Mokgosi created for the museum’s distinctive 30-foot double-height project gallery. The project centers on the 1962 film Unsere Afrikareise (Our Trip to Africa) by the seminal filmmaker Peter Kubelka. Kubelka is widely recognized as one of the progenitors of the Structural film movement, which attempts to distill the cinematic experience to its purest material form. The film came about when Kubelka was invited by a wealthy Austrian family to record their safari trip through Africa.
The disconcerting dimensions of Unsere Africareise have often been cited, together with Kubelka’s stated disgust with his bourgeois patrons, to support the argument that he meant the work to serve as a critique of European colonialism and tourism in Africa. Mokgosi takes a more critical perspective, however, citing Kubelka’s insistence that his true intention was to “try and tear the emotions loose from the people, so that they would gain distance to their emotions, their feelings.” Taking Kubelka at his word, Mokgosi infuses the film with a new emotional force, reversing the desensitized tone that often accompanies modernist aesthetic treatments of non-Western subjects. As he has often done before, Mokgosi drives this critique through the heart of the Western art historical canon.
Meleko Mokgosi completed the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and received a BA from Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 2007. He received an MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in 2011. Solo exhibitions of his work have been presented at the Fowler Museum at UCLA; Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown; Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; and Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles.