Candice Breitz

Candice Breitz (1972, Johannesburg), born during the era of apartheid, has consistently sought to grapple with whiteness in her work. Whiteface represents her most direct stab at autoethnography yet. In recent years, solo exhibitions of her work have been presented at various art venues around the world. In 2017, Breitz represented South Africa at the 57th Venice Biennale.

Video, 2022

In recent years, Candice Breitz has collected and archived a wide range of found footage fragments that document “white people talking about race.” Her archive includes the voices of prominent political figures, news anchors, and talk show hosts, as well as those of lesser-known and anonymous YouTube bloggers, covering white perspectives that run the gamut from neo-Nazi ideology and far-right propaganda to everyday racism and the posturing of “good white people”. Specifically, Breitz says, “the archive observes the rising anxiety of white people as long-standing calls to dismantle white supremacy proliferate and intensify across the globe. As such, it offers insight into the ongoing backlash against anti-racist movements, as white people struggle to come to terms with a public discourse that highlights phenomena such as ‘white privilege,’ ‘white fragility,’ ‘white rage’ and ‘white guilt’.”
In Whiteface, Breitz appropriates and ventriloquizes dozens of voices drawn from this archive, channeling them through her own white body. Wearing nothing but a white dress shirt and zombie contact lenses, the artist conjures up whiteness in a variety of guises, rotating through a series of cheap blonde wigs as the work unfolds, among which her own head of platinum hair also features. Breitz’s unwigged appearance among the characters that populate the piece acknowledges how embedded in whiteness the artist herself is. Yet while Breitz and many of the disembodied voices that she lip-syncs in Whiteface may be recognizable, specific white folks are not the primary target of this stinging satire. Rather, Breitz seeks to prod the condition of whiteness into visibility. Dislocated from the white people who originally uttered them, the words that stream through Breitz accumulate to provide a scathing study of the vocabulary and grammar underlying this condition, offering a critical survey of the language via which whiteness frames, normalizes, and leverages its power.
Commissioned by the Museum Folkwang.
Courtesy of the Goodman Gallery, London.