University of Bayreuth, Press Release Nr. 070/2022 - 6 May 2022

Multimedia installation "To Be King" by Christine Dixie at Iwalewahaus – Exhibition opening on May 11, 2022

From May 11 to July 9, 2022, the Iwalewahaus of the University of Bayreuth will show the multimedia installation "To Be King" by South African artist Christine Dixie. The public is most welcome to attend the opening of the exhibition on May 11, 2022 at 6:30 pm. The Johannesburg-based artist will attend the opening. The Cluster of Excellence "Africa Multiple" at the University of Bayreuth has invited her to present her installation in Bayreuth.

Christine Dixie's installation To Be King was inspired by the 1656 painting Las Meninas by Spanish painter Diego Velázquez and by the essay of the same name by Michel Foucault, published in 1966. Following on from the baroque group portrait, which is characterized by eye contact and involves the viewer's point of view, the French philosopher argues that the "order of things" and the power structures built upon it are not objectively fixed. Rather, they change with the perspectives of those who gaze upon these structures. The one who rules through gaze is "king".

The sculpture Black Infanta, counterpoint to the central position of the king in the multimedia installation To Be King. Photo: © Christine Dixie.

Against this background, Christine Dixie tells a story of a loss of power in her installation To Be King: the king is "dethroned." In the process, the artist stages an interplay between different positions in the space that are networked by lines of sight: the place of the central observer, the king, is now taken by characters from the periphery. In this way, the positions are called into question, and the fragility of the established order becomes visible and tangible. "My shifting roles as mother, artist, and academic, as well as the reality of my life in post-colonial Makhanda, South Africa, were the lenses through which I viewed both Foucault's text Las Meninas and Velásquez's painting Las Meninas," the artist explains. "My fascination with this text and this painting was the beginning of a process that led me to create To Be King."

Renowned artist Christine Dixie has exhibited regularly in South Africa, the United States, and Europe. Thorough research, particularly her engagement with archival imagery, is characteristic of her approach to the subjects she works with artistically. Her work is represented in national and international collections, including the New York Public Library, Smithsonian National Museum, Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Durban Art Gallery, Iziko Museum of South Africa, and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Christine Dixie's artistic work questions historical influences on seemingly firmly established gender roles. The colonial history that informs her home in Makhanda in the Eastern Cape –formerly Grahamstown – continues to provide inspiration and impetus for her engagement with European heritage in Africa. To Be King was presented in 2014 at the National Arts Festival, Africa's largest arts festival.

Inken Bößert
Iwalewahaus, University of Bayreuth
Wölfelstraße 2, 95444 Bayreuth
Phone: +49 (0)921 55- 4515

Christian Wißler, Wissenschaftskommunikation

Christian Wißler

Deputy Press & PR Manager, Research Communication
University of Bayreuth

Phone: +49 (0)921 / 55-5356