Roles and Roles and Roles. Monique Pelser at Bell-Roberts Contemporary

monique pelser, south african art, south african artistImage captured off Bell-Roberts Home Page
I missed the opening this week, being in a bad mood, so I dropped by the Bell-Roberts this morning for a quick look at Monique Pelser’s Roles. A good friend and well-known layabout told me last night, “I was left waiting so long for my appointment with the Bell-Roberts that I actually had to spend more than a cursory minute with the photos, which made me realize they are very good.” So I endeavored to do the same. I realised two things: 1. There could have been some serious editing, and 2. many of the prints’ Fujicrystal Archival Paper had buckled in the frame. Other than that, the work was very engaging. The concept was that the artist would wear the clothes of people in various industries, and they in turn would wear hers, and take her photograph (Only thing that worried me was the truth of this: if you look closely most of the clothes look huge on her, how did the massive fireman/mechanic/etc fit into her clothes?). She plays the roles to perfection, keeping a similar expression throughout, but still managing to express a range of emotions, often seeming to fit the particular career she has chosen to play.
Only thing I’d wished for was maybe a deeper negotiation with what identity means, something more in line with Marina Abramovic’s Role-Exchange (1975), in which she swapped places with an Amsterdam prostitute for a four hour period. The prostitute (who’s only stipulation was to remain anonymous) attended the exhibition at De Appel opening while Abramovic sat in her Red Light display-window.

I think Pelser’s photo’s were very intriguing, but maybe it could have been a bit braver: in all the photos she never loses the identity of artist.