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Play-White: Racial Passing and Embodied Images

Symposium Bianca Baldi

4th June 2021, 13:00-18:00

Cause I’ll never change all my colours for you.

— Whitney Houston, I Have Nothing. 1993

Play-White: Racial Passing and Embodied Images, gathers experts, artists, activists and researchers around the theme of image-making in racial passing to ask the following questions: What are the conditions of racial passing when looking at topics such as colonial trade routes, embodiment, shame, class betrayal, code-switching and performativity? What does historical and zoomorphic research bring to our current understanding of racial identity, ethnicity, social class or gender?? 
The concept of passing highlights the constructed nature of race and how images are complicit in producing aesthetic thresholds of identity. Knowingly or unknowingly the passer transgresses these identity boundaries. Through personal, historical and zoomorphic research new perspectives on loaded concepts such as image-making and racial passing are proposed in breaking with concepts such as taxonomy and categorisation. 

Contributions by Bianca Baldi, POOL (Amy Watson and Mika Conradie), Shoniqua Roach, Sinethemba Twalo, Zayaan Khan, Kate Strain and Pieternel Vermoortel.

This symposium is a one-day online event hosted by Bianca Baldi with Sint Lucas School of Arts Antwerp, ARIA (Antwerp University)Grazer Kunstverein and Netwerk Aalst. This symposium coincides with a solo exhibition of Bianca Baldi’s work at the Grazer Kunstverein, Austria and the launch of an accompanying artist’s book published by K. Verlag, Berlin. The conference takes place within the framework of Netwerk Aalst’s programme The Astronaut Metaphor


Friday 4 June, from 1pm till 6pm

Online on Zoom

Register here


13:00 -13:30 Bianca Baldi. Keynote: Play-White

13:30-14:45 Amy Watson & Mika Conradie Lecture: Remote Ocean: Staging Encounters

14:45 -15:30 Zayaan Khan. Presentation: Cuttlefish Bone

15:30-15:45 Break

15:45-16:30 Sinethemba Twalo Sonic lecture: An Accumulation of Uncertainties

16:30-17:15 Shoniqua Roach Feel Free: Or, An Ode to Black Mothers in Three Parts

17:15-18:00 Panel discussion. Questions

Bianca Baldi

Bianca Baldi is an artist born in Johannesburg, South Africa and based in Brussels. In her work she deals with the role of narrative as a means of knowledge production in both fictional and historical contexts. She is interested in the staging of identity and history and explores these themes in photography, film, writing and publishing, which she often combines in the exhibition format as installations. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts in 2007 from the Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town, South Africa and completed her studies at the Städelschule in Frankfurt. She is currently a PhD researcher at Sint Lucas School of Arts Antwerp / ARIA (UA).


POOL is a Johannesburg based not-for-profit art organisation that supports artists, curators and musicians through collaboration, commissioning, and the production and presentation of new work.

Mika Conradie is a writer and curator. She has produced curatorial, editorial and research projects for and with the Market Photo Workshop, Lagos Photo Festival, Jakarta Biennale, Re-Directing East at CCA Ujazdowski Castle, the Johannesburg Contemporary Art Foundation and the GALA Queer Archive. She is a founding director of POOL.

Amy Watson is an independant curator and a founding director of POOL, a Johannesburg based not-for-profit art organisation supporting artists, curators and musicians through collaboration, commissioning, and the production and presentation of new work. Most recently she curated How To Disappear (2020) and Soft Architectures (2019) at Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg and Cape Town. In 2017 she curated the exhibition and edited the publication Ângela Ferreira: South Facing at the Johannesburg Art Gallery. She is a 2016 fellow of the Gwangju Biennale Curator Course, and a 2015 fellow of the Glasgow International Curatorial Exchange. She curated Sightings at KZNSA Gallery, Durban that same year. Watson has worked in public and private collections including: V22 Collection, London; Saatchi Gallery, London; and Johannesburg Art Gallery. Watson holds an MFA in Curatorial Practice, Goldsmiths College, University of London and an MAFA from The University of the Witwatersrand.

Shoniqua Roach

Shoniqua Roach (PhD Northwestern) is a Black Queer Feminist Writer and assistant professor of African and African American Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University. Her peer-reviewed work appears or is forthcoming in Feminist Theory, The Black Scholar, Signs: journal of women in culture and society, differences: a journal of feminist cultural studies, Feminist Formations, Journal of American Culture, antipode: a radical journal of geography, and Feminist Studies. She is currently at work on her book manuscript, Black Dwelling: Home-Making and Erotic Freedom, an intellectual and cultural history of the ways in which Black homes have been tragic sites of state invasion, as well as paradigmatic entry-points for Black women artists, activists, and intellectuals to imagine, rehearse, and enact Black erotic freedom. Her research has been supported by an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) fellowship and the Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship. She sits on the editorial board of Signs: a journal of Women in Culture and Society.

Sinethemba Twalo

In their ongoing research on sonic cultures, Sinethemba Twalo uses recorded interviews, archival recordings, soundscapes and fictional accounts to reflect on an emergent poetics of the end. (un)necessary Instructions for an emotional insurgency is the title of a series of performative gestures, Twalo has been presenting which interrogate the affective present. The works are interested in the performative nature of language, the politics of noise, and that which has been marked by time and affect. They are a founding member of NGO- NOTHING GETS ORGANISED. Sinethemba was a 2014 Humanities fellow of the Akademie Schloss Solitude. Twalo has contributed and/ or presented work in various platforms including the 10th Berlin Biennale (2018), The 2018 Taktlos Free Jazz festival in Zurich, the 3rd Black History Month Florence (2018), the 32nd Sao Paulo Bienal Public Programme (2016) and the 8th Jerusalem Show (2016) amongst others. Twalo is a graduate of the MAPS programme at the Ecole Cantonale d’art du Valais in Sierre, Switzerland. They are a PhD candidate in Art History at the SARCHI Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture at the University of Johannesburg. Sinethemba is Curator of Public Engagement at the Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria.

Zayaan Khan

Zayaan Khan works as an artist using the local urban and ecological relationship/s to understand the elements that build ecosystems. Through curiosity, research, experimentation and engagement, her work finds a resting place through food as a means of understanding the world, particularly seed, land (and sea) and our collective heritage. Influenced by tradition, both inherited and the creation of new ones, reclaiming culture and reviving tradition through progressive interpretation in order to enact a listening of the future and a steady present survivalism. She is currently completing her PhD on our relationship with seeds through the Environmental Humanities South at UCT.

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