This catalogue accompanies Steven Cohen's first exhibition at Stevenson Johannesburg - an intense meditation on loss, grief and absence, following the death of his partner and artistic collaborator, the dancer Elu. The work first came into being as a performance piece, which debuted at the Montpellier Danse festival, and photographs from this production are included in this publication, along with images of the sculptural and video works that comprised the exhibition, interwoven with short texts by the artist.
The sculptural pieces are formed from pointe shoes, among them Elu’s, collaged together with found objects. Cohen is an inveterate collector of resonant objects; it is perhaps no coincidence that he has settled in Lille, where the annual 'Braderie' turns the city into a giant flea market. It was during these festivities in 2013 that Cohen was subjected to a violent homophobic attack, and immediately afterwards, traumatised, turned to making artworks using the objects he had bought – ranging from a flagpole finial to Hitler paper puppets, icons and crucifixes, purses, sex toys, medical instruments, porcelain ornaments, feathers and hair; many of them, like the arms of chandeliers, taxidermied animal parts and model trees, recurrent images in Cohen’s artistic lexicon.
The catalogue concludes with stills from the two-channel video of Cohen’s performative intervention at an abattoir. The first video is dominated by the whiteness of fat and bloodless carcasses, protective rubber boots and aprons; the second is red with blood, life violently taken and unceremoniously drained into a tub along with other bodily fluids. Precariously navigating this hellish scene, and ritually immersing himself in the blood of innocents, Cohen’s performance embodies a deeply felt pain and empathy for all living, suffering beings.
Published by Stevenson | Catalogue 90, November 2017
Softcover, 144 pages | Price: R300