You to Me, Me to You
Curated by Francisco Berzunza
August 12 – November 18, 2023
A love letter as exhibition.
You to Me, Me to You is a love letter in the form of an exhibition curated by Francisco Berzunza. “Love can be the desire – and the frustration – of becoming one with another,” says Berzunza, addressing the perils of unrequited love. The political and social barriers against loving are multiple, and multiply. Are practitioners averse to dealing in love as a subject of discursive study? Art, averse to sentimentality, may fear touching the word itself – that ‘love’, glibly used, is loosed from any meaning. What becomes of a society that is ill-equipped to speak of love? To heed bell hooks, this place is “a wilderness so intense we may never find our way home again.” To love, and to be loved, is to risk; love’s climb the highest and headiest we may know, with little prospect of accruing any perspective en route.
The exhibition marks a return for Berzunza from his home in Mexico, to South Africa. Having lived in Cape Town in 2014 and again in 2016, Berzunza became intimately connected to the city and its artistic practitioners. On his return to Mexico, he determined to begin a dialogue between artistic communities working from and around these two countries. His efforts produced the first iteration of Hacer Noche (Crossing Night) in Oaxaca, 2018, which asked after practices of death and commemoration. Artists Georgina Gratrix, Jo Ractliffe, Kemang Wa Lehulere, Moshekwa Langa, Pieter Hugo, and James Webb were among the artists present in Hacer Noche and Berzunza has invited them to participate in You to Me, Me to You. Gratrix has loaned the curator, at his request, what she calls “an attic painting,” a portrait by Gratrix of Berzunza that slightly unnerves the artist. She has yet to show it, and Berzunza has yet to see it in the real, despite appropriating it for his Whatsapp profile picture immediately upon receiving a photograph from Gratrix of the painting, in 2019. Wa Lehulere probes consent, vulnerability, collaboration, and intimacy in a work that offers visitors a service in return for a story. Participants can receive a massage in return for telling a love story that the writer will shape, with the participant’s consent, into a love letter. Hugo troubles our relationship to love, its endings, and authorship of love’s story, in a portrait of his father. The triptych consists of a photograph Hugo took of his father the moment before his death, at the moment of his death, and the very moment after. These artists are joined by James Ivory, Iñaki Bonillas, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Slavs and Tatars, Dexter Dalwood, Bas Jan Ader, Dayanita Singh, Sophie Calle, Tina Modotti, Thato Makatu, Thembinkosi Hlatshwayo, Graciela Iturbide, Miguel Cinta Robles, Pedro Slim, and Dineo Seshee Bopape. Within the exhibition, the latter’s is i am sky(2013) appears to wonder after an unrequited love for the self, should such a condition be possible, or desirable. For Berzunza’s long-time collaborator Dario Yazbek Bernal, the exhibition is a love letter to all of Berzunza’s friends and collaborators. Gratrix asked the curator if, rather than a letter, it is an exhibition as a portrait. In Berzunza’s telling:
In 2022, after a tour of the Ministry of Public Education in Mexico, I sat at the feet of Diego Rivera’s 1922 mural, The Assembly, and declared my love to a guy named Fernando.
- I get that we are not friends, nor are we lovers, so what are we?He asked.
- Well, I replied: I’m Fran to you, and you are Fer to me.
Love may well be the act of sharing our loneliness with each other.