Jo Ractliffe



Landscaping comprises black and white images taken during long-distance drives along the west coast of Southern Africa.
In Landscape and Power (2002), WJT Mitchell argues that ‘landscape’ should be considered a verb rather than a noun, something that shapes and is shaped by social and political practices. She has always struggled with that term, how it speaks to a view rather than actual space, conflating it with the actual place itself. But ‘landscape’ is not geography or space out there; it’s already a contrivance.
In her work, she still finds herself disclaiming the term in an attempt to wrestle her photographs away from stereotypical conventions. To speak of landscape in terms of beauty, or even unsightliness for that matter, is to observe rather than participate, to reduce place to a concept rather than lived experience.
In the first draft of this statement, she described the Atlantic coastline as arid and windswept. Then she realised that her portrayal unwittingly reiterated those of colonial settler narratives that propagated an ‘empty land’ – with the frontiersman the intrepid explorer bent on conquest and discovery. Many towns in Namaqualand came about with the ‘discovery’ of copper in Okiep in 1685. In using the word Landscaping she has tried to activate the idea of landscape, to make of it a ‘doing thing’ that asks us to consider where we look from and what is it that we think we are looking at.
The series was realised with the support of the Lewis Baltz Research Fund 2022.

Since the 1980s Ractliffe’s photographs reflect her ongoing preoccupation with the South African landscape and how it figures in the country’s imaginary, particularly the violent legacies of apartheid.
Solo exhibitions include Landscaping, Stevenson, Cape Town (2023); Being There, Stevenson, Cape Town (2021); Jo Ractliffe: Drives, Art Institute of Chicago (2020/21); Signs of Life, Stevenson, Cape Town (2019); Hay Tiempo, No Hay Tiempo, Centro Fotográfico Álvarez Bravo, Oaxaca (2018); The Aftermath of Conflict: Jo Ractliffe’s Photographs of Angola and South Africa, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2015).
Group exhibitions include Currency, the 8th Triennial of Photography Hamburg (2022); Conflict, Time, Photography, Tate Modern, London (2015).
Her photo-books include Being There (2022), Photographs: 1980s – Now (2020), Signs of Life (2019), Everything is Everything (2017), The Borderlands (2015), As Terras do Fim do Mundo (2010) and Terreno Ocupado (2008).


H 11

Chiostri di San Pietro | laboratorio aperto






Exhibition Venue

Chiostri di San Pietro
via Emilia San Pietro, 44/c
Reggio Emilia


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opening days
26th of April › 19-23
27th of April › 10-23
28th of April › 10-20

from 1st of May to 9th of June
Wednesday, Thursday › 10 - 13 / 15-19
Friday, Saturday, Sunday and public holidays › 10 - 20

Chiostri di San Pietro