In About to Forget, Berni Searle transforms family photographs into a unified image by tracing the silhouettes of the figures onto one sheet of red crepe paper. This action unites two generations of her kin, her grandmother and mother, who had been estranged for religious differences when her mother, a Muslim, converted to Catholicism for her marriage. As the paper is immersed in warm water, the ink bleeds, animating the images and providing a meditation on the transient nature of memory while calling into question the notion of connection through bloodlines.
Berni Searle was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1964, where she lives and works. Searle earned an MFA from the University of Cape Town after receiving a BFA from the same institution. Exploring South Africa’s complex history, Searle creates photos, films, and multimedia installations in which her own body and identity figure prominently. Though her works are aesthetically alluring in their quiet simplicity, they are politically strong in their address to a nation still coping with its past. Searle’s work has appeared in exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art; the Brooklyn Museum; the Kunsthalle Vienna; the Istanbul Modern; and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington DC. Her work was included in the 49th and the 51st Venice Biennale in 2001 and 2005; and the Dakar Biennale in 2000, where she won the DAK’ART 2000 Minister of Culture Prize.