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Magic Lantern: Exhibition Statement


The book, Magic Visions: Portraying and Inventing South Africa with Lantern Slides, inspired a collaborative project by Staff and Students at the Centre for Visual Art (CVA) and the Digital Arts department, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). The project was initiated by Rosa Deen, one of the editors of the book, who approached members of staff at UKZN’s School of Arts during her time as a researcher in South Africa. In addition, Deen, recommended the conceptual usage of the term, ‘absent referent’, which considers what is not seen in an image but is hinted at, kept out of sight, or obscured.

The project began with a series of workshops in 2021, conducted by Wayne Reddiar (Lecturer in Digital Arts). The workshops looked at the importance of the archive in practice based research; key aesthetic processes linked to appropriation and recontextualization; and the agency of images and archives. The workshop participants went on to engage with the archive and produced a series of artworks. These works drew on personal experiences, critical theory, questions around power, and the relationship with place. Earlier this year (2022), Dr. Louise Hall (Head of the Centre for Visual Art) in collaboration with CVA staff, developed a project for their undergraduate students, which also used the magic lantern slide archive for artistic intervention and exploration